Development strategy— Ostend Eastern Shore
Together with 51N4E (and support from Technum and Rebel), Architecture Workroom was engaged by means of the Open Call procedure (at the request of Ostend Town Council’s ‘Autonoom Gemeentebedrijf’ and ‘Directie Openbaar Domein’) to draw up and supervise a development strategy for the Eastern Shore area in Ostend. The competition task involved an examination of how the Lighthouse district, which has always been isolated from the rest of the town, and the Harbour district, which is in the midst of development, both of which are on the Eastern Shore, can be linked together better.
One possible solution – putting Moreauxlaan in a tunnel – was put forward in the specifications. This more infrastructural approach eliminates the barrier between the two urban districts by means of a single major investment and thus by means of a technical intervention removes the hindrance caused by the tram and through traffic. By turning the space thus created into a park, the focus is on a model that recoups the investment by means of property on the adjoining sites. However, a tunnel would serve only these developments and the buildings in the Lighthouse district that immediately adjoin the present Moreauxlaan. The largest part of the Eastern Shore that lies behind this new front, with its present and future inhabitants and enterprises, thereby remain untouched. In this approach, current and future projects and the available new high-quality public space such as Visserij Dock and the Spuikom would not be activated to the full.
For this reason, the design team proposes not staking everything on one single serious and expensive infrastructural change whereby the Lighthouse district and the Harbour district are only physically better connected, but not functionally. The suggestion is to set up a range of manageable strategic changes that combine and achieve several aims. By focusing not only on the physical division, but also on the activation of the fabric itself and of the use and the activities that will become possible there, the Easter Shore could be transformed into a lively and complete part of the town with a new physical, functional and mental relationship with the town centre.
The proposal consists of a more organic, step-by-step process. It is founded on four powerful aims which together form a collective objective and assessment framework for a series of concrete actions in the short and long term. The four aims are as follows:
1. The Eastern Shore as a water-based part of the town
2. The Eastern Shore as a destination within the town
3. The Eastern Shore as a green network
4. The Eastern Shore as a productive fabric
On the basis of several cases, a number of these aims are linked together in an integrated project. An evaluation is made of the possible course the various developments might follow and what the most interesting partners and links might be. This design-based research is not a matter of take it or leave it. We consider the individual cases as a beginning: a starting point for setting up a broad discussion and the formation of a vision that is well supported.