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THE GAZE UPON THE CITY
The projects that are brought together here can be considered as gazes upon the
city. We aren't tai king about 'hands on the city' from the Francesco Rosi film. We
aren't dealing with the top-notch designers of Harvard's Urban Design from the 70s
either, or the 90s French 'projet urbain.' 1 want this summary of my work to reflect,
above ali, the effort made to understand and to serve the interests of cities by an
insistent and eager gaze, and of the difficulty of carrying this out.
Underlying ali my work is an attentive and cautious approach to the richness of
urban sites- both their existing richness and, above ali, potential richness. This
assiduous gaze becomes the start point for resolutions, which though distinct in
every case are always bou nd up with the city th at lies beyond.
Narrative, a li nked sequence of themes, defi nes how these projects come together
and is also a basic indication of how, ideally, they should be both used and observed.
lt is therefore far from strange, as 1 have often said, that the cross section emerges
as the essential too! in conceiving the project; it brings very different aspects into a
precise relationship with one another: the long horizontal distance set against the
tiny vertical variation. Levels and uses. lnterior and exterior. There is nothing li ke
the broad urban cross section for exploring the entrails of the city.
To establish the continuity of differences, wh ile taking dimensions into account; to
move within the simultaneity of scales. viewing the kilometre and the centimetre at
the same ti me; to understand intersections as vital points and longitudes as adjecti-
val attribut es: ali these practices are essential to the urban project.
Acupuncture or prosthesis? Perhaps both. A systemic understanding is required, of
course, which expects the most interesting eft:ects of any intervention to stem pre-
cisely from those bundles of nerves and arteries that relate each point in the city
with neighbours and strangers. The selection of a point of view he re, as in photog-
raphy or cinema, goes a. long way to determining the result. Gaze as interpretation,
project as idea.
The projects presented here are not ephemeral in themselves, they are not con-
cerned with the design of objects, ensembles, or spaces as such; neither are they
landscapes, in the synthetic, combinatory sense of the word. Rather, in every case,
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DISTORTED OROER
Buses, taxis, pedestrians, cars, bicycles, trains, the disabled. Ali have to fit into a
space of a thousand square metres, with peaks of traffic intensity at particular times
of day. Leuven (Louvain, Lovania, Lovai na) is not a large city, but every day thou-
sands of students and professionals pass through its station on their way to other
parts of Belgium. A circulation system that connects commuter trai ns with ali-day
parking lots and bus services, with pedestrian access that integrates the square in
t he historie centre with the heavy underground t raffic, can perhaps be handled
wi thout mu ch bei ng visi ble from the outside. The envi ronmentalists are nottoo happy
about the tunnel, the finance committee nurses doubts about the modern square,
t he bus company wou id have li ked a larger station, the engineers from the ministry
wou id have ·preferred a bigger tunnel and the railroad might have chosen to study
its own development separately, but the search for a compromise between the
different requirements is sufficient j ustification for the planning of the city, as a chal-
lenging effort to improvise a culture where no trace of one is to be fou nd, something
absolutely necessary if the city is not to be torn to pieces.
Leuven is a city characterized by its medieval and Renaissance institutions (the uni-
thef ity the cathedral and the ab beys), wh ose splendid power has faded
into a conservative and suburban outlook, which fi nds expression in monuments
undergoing restoratiof1 and detached ho uses with gardens. Stone and wood are the
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materials used to convey nobility and the only touch of modernity, perhaps, is
Braem's high-rise apartment block (c. 1940), forgotten amidst streets that are al most
devoid of traffic thanks to strict planning measures.
The station is about half an hour by train from Brussels. lt is true that the conven-
ience of such proximity has been negated by t he advanced state of neglect into
which t he rail infrastructure of Europe's capital has been aliowed to fall. The stations
are uncomfortable and dirty, and wh ile Brussels Centralisa fine example of art deco
architecture (Victor Horta), Brussels North is a horrible and inappropriate 'grand
project ' left incomplete in the sixties, and both are now sad, textbook examples of
the effects of great changes th at have be en made to the railway system, changes
in which once aga in they were in the forefront.
Belgium was the first country, along with Great Britain, to build railway li nes, around
t he middle of the nineteenth century. lts abundant coal and steel allowed it to book
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1 Before the intervention
2 The ftows of pedest ri ans, t axi s , buses
and bicycles articulated on the stat ion
environment
3 Square's pavements with marked
e nt rances to t he unde rground level
4 Square' s monument. Ent ra nee to parki ng
detail
5 View of the Former and present_
state
and a sense of weil being to situations that would otherwi se only cause inconven-
ience. The easy flow of traffic, whet her pedestrian or vehicular, and its simple and
immediate introduction into the city is intended to be t he project's central t heme;
the form of the city and of its use, not the form of t he buildings t hemselves. is what
is important.
The renewal project of Leuven's Stationsplein is intended to reshape the spaces
near the railway station to host the necessary exchanges between commuters, bus
and taxi services, private vehicles - parked or waiting, and t he dist ribution of peo-
ple - walking or cycling, t o the city streets.
·2 As does any railway station square, t he Stat ionsplein in Leuven represents an
'avant la lettre' intermodal f uncti on of vestibule and hal l of city arrivais and depar-
tures. The planimet rie of Leuven suggests t he deep order dominant in al most every
aspect of life in t his city: t he centrality of institutional powers, the high level of intel-
lectual and architectonical culture in its centric spaces, t he arborescent arrangement
:o-f and passages, the ambient quality of its cal m t raffic, t he absence of
noise of its streets, it s civili sed residential areas.
3 And this is al i t rapped by a circular ronda that marks the shape of the int erior
body anq establishes the tangency with t he rai lway. lt is precisely t he re that a one-
radius establishes t he geomet rical order t hat links t he cathedral
and the cüy hall with the station, which is f ramed by a 100-square met re square.
The circle, the straight li ne and the square are the geometrical design lin es of t he
place where circulati ons and symbolisms are brought together.
4 Indecision as how to complete t he unfinished square, together with a growth in
traffic, have made its surface a continuous conflict , bringing only damage and t he
invas,ion of the space by the most coarse uses against the most delicate ones.
Pedest ri ans and cycli sts and taxis had to dodge buses and cars parked in disorder.
Vehicles appropriated the space of pedestr ians and provisional bar rack blocks t hat
of permanent buildi ngs. The memorial to t he war martyrs, un abl e to hold out agai nst
so much erosion, was rui ned.
5 The difficulty lies in fi nding a new law of space implantati on adapted to the
present density of t raffi c and movements. First of ali, t he alignment of the nortn-
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:."e geometry of t he square defined by the cardinal axes, everything should enhance
:- s north-south alignment, as the front of the square and as the main orientation of
:-e project.
6 On this premise, the project doubles the historical square, saved from the fast
:·aAc and reserved for pedestrians as a st atic and representative place, and adds
z..,other, with a dynamic movement of vehicles centred on t he new bus station, t he
arrivai and departure of trains, t he underground connections and the tunnel for fast
c rcul ation.
7 The static square is configured to t he north by the new administrative buildings
c= the LIJ N (buses) and sN cs (railways). A pavil ion with and services, to
::-e south, closes the built se al. The surface is stone paving, marking the large access
c:::>enings and lightening the look of the parking lots.
8 The new bus station with its high sheltered platforms movements of
n.:mlic transport in a dynamic and mechanistic square. Being in contact wit h the
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arriving trainS and parking for buses, it becomes_the CeQtre,.?f exchange of a wide
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.crety of movements. The visual image of such movements (vehicles and people)
5 main characteri stic of this spa ce.
9 -o confer priority onto this street, of lower functional importance rather than
co:"'lposi tive, it was necessary to change its slope and to unify it in a constant gradi-
e-:. This detail of the project, apparently of second order, becomes extremely
-::xmant wh en the space of the two squares is recognized as unitary.
10 The orthogonal character at t he corner of the Martelarenplein and the Di este-
s the proj ect's decisive key, the origin of the rest of the lts materializa-
nas to stand out as an urban fact of great scale and meani ng for the new formai
:·::er of t his sector of Lovania, the capital and centre of Bravante.
1 Model. Static s quare and dynami c square
2 Model of ove rail intervent ion
3 Model. Relat ion between levels, entrances
and infrastructures
4 Stat ion square with the new bus building
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3 Axonometric view of the proposai. lnterre-
lat ion of spaces, levels and entrances
4 View of the historie train station and the
new bus station
5 Tunnel's longitudinal section
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6 Station square view
7 View of the new station and contact with
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8 The dynamic square
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10 View from the station's corner towards
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11 Corner of De Lij n buil ding in the station
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14 Tunnels beneath the square
15 Parking surface treatment as transition
between levels and s paces and as place of
social encounters
16 Entrance ramp to the t unnels with a
lateral view of the station
17 Facade of the station towards the square
18 Acces s to t he parking from the dynamic
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