Charleroi Bouwmeester Georgios Maillis (who we featured in our February-March edition) tells all about his favourite urban construction in the country: Antwerp’s Park Spoor Noord. A green lung that connects different neighbourhoods architecturally as well as socially, Maillis spills the beans on why exactly places like these are crucial in today’s urban landscapes.
All photography (c) Thomas Ost
If you had to choose, which is your favourite construction in Belgium?
Antwerp’s Park Spoor Noord.
Can you describe the construction’s distinctive features?
The park stretches over 18 hectares, and is located on a repurposed railway area in Antwerp’s north-east, bordered by the city’s harbour on one side, the other side flanked by densely populated residential neighbourhoods of Antwerp’s city centre.
When did you first fall in love with it, and why? What appeals to you in it?
I first visited the park in 2013. Ever since, I’ve wanted to head back every time I visited Antwerp. For me it’s a perfect example of a metropolitan project that’s capable of creating new urban conditions in neighbourhoods that are facing a whole series of social challenges (precariousness, multiculturalism, heavy infrastructure barriers). This park has proved to be a project capable of regenerating neighbourhoods, while simultaneously linking them to each other in order to recreate the urban fabric.
What do you about the architects that built it? What were their intentions?
The Secchi and Vigano studio is an urban planning and architecture agency that conceives ambitious metropolitan projects that take into account the opinions of the population and the building master, while exceeding every possible expectation. At first, they studied the city of Antwerp in-depth for a masterplan, and charted the specific issues of the city and its neighbourhoods, such as a lack of porosity and its mono-functional areas. The Park Spoor Noord was consequently created, and replies to exactly the issues identified in the earlier study. It’s always like this that Secchi and Vigano approach their endeavours, and it’s what makes the park into a space that becomes manifest for the city – and moreover a starting point for the regeneration of a neighbourhood.
This park has proved to be a project capable of regenerating neighbourhoods, while simultaneously linking them to each other in order to recreate the urban fabric.
In what way do you think it is an important addition to the country’s architectural landscape?
Because it’s about the creation of a new landscape, that has allowed a whole part of Antwerp to reorganise its northern territory, attracting private and public high-quality investors, all while paying close attention to green spaces, culture, sports and leisure.
Other than the chosen one, which other three Belgian building / house / construction would you rank?
The Val-Benoit in Liège by Baumans-Deffet Urban Architecture, the future public spaces of Charleroi District Créatif by urban planning agency Bureau Bas Smets and the Aquatic Centre of Charleroi by architect Jacques Depelsenaire and RESERVOIR A.charleroi-bouwmeester.be