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Architecture Workroom
Brussels

Atelier Kortrijk 2025— Innovative urban development strategy

The City of Kortrijk appointed AWB, together with Tractebel, Wim Rasschaert Advocaten, Michiel Dehaene and 51N4E, to devise an innovative urban development strategy. How can Kortrijk, taking its position in South-west Flanders as well as in Flanders into account, cope in a positive way with the mismatch between demographic evolutions and the supply and development of housing? This requires a clear and supported strategy, which continues to build on the dynamic that characterises Kortrijk, as well as the City's spatial qualities. It is necessary to rethink and reposition these qualities in an unambiguous framework, to provide the abundance of options with direction, and develop an overarching vision. One thing that's certain is that Kortrijk will look different in the future; it’s now time to decide how.

It is obvious that existing planning and legal practices at the level of Flanders and Kortrijk will not respond to the needs of the future. The falling demand for housing requires a serious revamp of the existing approach. This means that redevelopment issues related to large sites such as hospitals, schools, empty businesses, as well as villas, offer major opportunities for the city on the one hand, but evoke programmatic issues on the other. Stagnating population figures also produce stagnating programmatic needs. First and foremost, the City has to make choices: what sites do we still want to develop? Where do we want to restore open space? Which sites do we deliberately keep open? What do we do with business sites that are becoming vacant? Is there a sufficient need for functions to justify developing appropriate interpretations?

If the current dynamic and confetti of options continue, this will increase the mismatch between supply and demand. It entails rising social costs and further hampers the City's competitive position in the Region and the Province. Moreover, supply in accordance with the ‘business as usual’ approach is not entirely consistent with the projects that are being implemented or developed. In other words: the 'confetti model' focused on further parcelling is not an overtly convincing project.

Should Kortrijk compare itself instead with cities like Antwerp and Ghent? With urban development that focuses on intense densification? Is this the intensity for which Kortrijk should strive? It is evident that neither the parcelling option nor the intensity of cities will offer a solution for the issues facing Kortrijk. Lastly, it is not about offering a home and work quality that exists everywhere, which is generic. It does not concern combining functions using as little surface area as possible to be a 'city' in as many respects as possible. So what does it involve?

Kortrijk has different qualities that are not found in other cities or developments. The banks of the River Leie, both relaxation area and natural infrastructure, are a prime example of this. It is a space where new developments can emerge, without enforcing certain typologies. It generates a hybrid between existing 19th century districts, residential districts and new high-rise buildings. This hybrid is precisely what affords it quality. A new dynamic is being created and on the economic level there is also room for initiative, catering establishments and commercial functions. In recent years, not only has it proven to be a resilient project, but also that it offers considerable room for initiative and produces quality. It is an illustration of what Kortrijk could be, if it continues to focus on its unique characteristics. This is achieved using three concepts of the city:

a) The city as an atelier

b) Kortrijk landscapes

c) Connected and caring neighbourhoods

Each concept is based on the local embedded qualities, to develop a vision tailor-made for Kortrijk. The historic interwovenness with businesses, landscapes that stretch far into the centre, and the options for residential and living areas are existing aspects that distinguish Kortrijk from other cities and form the basis for these concepts. This means that existing qualities and not external projections constitute the foundation.

The City established the participative process Kortrijk 2025 in relation to this study. Urban debates are being organised as part of it. The first debates will be held on 9 March and 19 April. For more info:  www.kortrijk2025.be

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Atelier Kortrijk 2025— Innovative urban development strategy
With structural support from the Flemish government and regular support from the Brussels capital region and other regional and local governments.