Brussels-West Station is a competition masterplan for the area surrounding the station in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek. The masterplan includes a 3 ha park, 45000 sq.m of housing, 27000 sq.m of offices, 18000 sq.m of equipments, shops and activities. The project is based on the idea that the West Station area is a potential Metropolitan Landscape, underlining three existing metropolitan criteria: accessibility, systemic value and vicinity of programmes. The project is built around the new Maelbeek park. The park crosses the site from South-West to North Est, on either side of the railway line, and forms the heart of the future neighbourhood.
The Brussels-West Station masterplan is composed of two layers : (1) the invariables and (2) the masterplan. The first layer, is fix and persistant and consists of the project’s fundamentals. The masterplan on the other hand is flexible and adaptable, the plan being the starting point of a long and difficult process. The West Station is a complex area with numerous constraints within and surrounding the site. The urban form developed in the project optimises the synergies between open and built space. The entire project is thought around the new central park. The park is meant as both a static and dynamic space. It is a place for resting and contemplating but also a major urban link, connected to public transport. The new buildings are not organised around this void in order to leave it open towards the city and in contact with the surroundings. The park infiltrates the residential neighbourhood, so that as many inhabitants possible can profit by the landscape and open space. This continuity of the park is less public and more residential, offering nonetheless a mainly porous ground and dense and qualitatif plantations that follow a 6 by 4 meter grid.
The 6 by 4 meter grid is also used to organise the buildings in the masterplan. This grid is inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s plan for the IIT university campus in Chicago, that was built at the end of the 1930s. The buildings in the campus are very different in volume but are organised according to a simple geometric grid. The soberness and temperance of the facades contribute to overall atmosphere, underlining the living environment of the park. The park is not a residual space but the main uniting element of the built space.
The buildings’ heights vary between 3 floors (for the equipments) and 6 floors (for most of the housing buildings). From this velum, three higher points emerge, accompanying the three transport hubs: two small office towers (13 floors), one next to West-Station and the other next to Osseghem Station and two other small mixed use towers (16 floors and 11 floors) to the north of the park, on either side of the railway tracks.
As a Metropolitan Landscape, the Brussels-West Station site is extremely well connected to Brussels’ public transport system. Today this potential is unexploited and the three stations (West, Osseghem and Beekkant) do not profite by the site, turning their backs to it. The stations are situated on the west of the site whilst the new programmes will be concentrated towards the East. The lack of East-West connections increases the site’s disconnection with the metropolitan transport network. One of the project’s main challenges is therefore to turn these three transport hubs towards the site, to connect them to the new neighbourhood and give the Maalbeek park an undeniable metropolitan quality. Thus, the project gives each station a new front towards the site, via simple interventions : Osseghem Station has a new exit connected to the new office buildings, West-Station has a direct access from the park and Vandenpeereboom Road to the L28 platform and a direct exit towards the Infrabel Academy. These interventions are the opportunity to create new East-West connections. Beekkant Station has a strategic position, at the centre of the site. Rather than spreading the East-West connections along the site, they are grouped around Beekkant station, to create a true pedestrian junction, connected to the subway. This interchange is materialised by a large footbridge, an elevated platform, which, like the triple Plecnik bridge in Ljubljana, creates an intense metropolitan sequence within the park, following the diagonal of the Maelbeek stream.The platform is connected to Beekkant station by a small building in which a 4% circular ramp joins directly the footbridge with the metro platforms.