As the oldest urban core, the Markt of Oudenaarde is a market square situated in the heart of the Belgian city. Despite its intrinsic historic and social value, it has suffered from the impact of the urban and social transformation. Most recently, the central city square has served as one large traffic node around a parking lot. The original function - a market and meeting point for the citizens of the town – was thus completely lost. The nature of the intervention arises from the necessity of restoring the lost urban space, bringing it back to the city and its citizens.
The City of Oudenaarde wanted to make its city centre a pleasant meeting place. Following that intention, the residents were called to participate in meetings and debates. Involving the whole community was an intended approach for this intervention.
From inquiries with the residents, it turned out that less traffic and a pleasant place to stay were the high on the wish list for most people. The masterplan provides an answer to these preconditions without losing sight of the overall picture.
The city hall (UNESCO World Heritage) is placed centrally on the Markt, on a 'carpet' of natural stone organized in a formal pattern. This new floor is a beautiful French limestone puzzle that consists of 27 kinds of tiles in 9 different sizes and three different textures (bush hammered, flamed, finned), coming from the quarries of Comblanchien, France. The relatively close origin of these tiles contributes to the sustainability of the new square finishing. As the centrepiece of the square, the colour of the limestone harmonises with the city hall, and the variation of textures reinterprets the high level of ornamentation on its gothic facade. The carpet with a mosaic of limestone refers to the rich history of Oudenaarde, known for its tapestry industry in the 16th century.
Surrounding the restored fountain and emphasizing its importance, a dynamic water ‘mirror’ with fountains and artificial misting was created, extending the meaning of water and transforming it into an urban and social element. Besides being a playful area or a place for contemplation, the water surface suddenly appears as a changeable mirror, reflecting the light and drawing interesting images of the old buildings bordering the square.
Both the reflection of natural light and the contact with water have a strong effect on the perception of the different textures of the tiles, changing the mosaic time and again.
The central piece of the master plan, the Markt, contains five main architectural elements: the stone floor, the water feature, the urban furniture, some greenery and the lighting elements.
A lighting plan was drawn up in collaboration with Atelier Roland Jéol (Lyon, France), which lights up the monuments, the St-Walburga church and the town hall, as well as the buildings surrounding the square. The historic fountain was also subjected to a unique lighting concept. The lighting plan turns the newly-built ‘Markt’ into a pleasant place at night, the same way it is during the day.
Oudenaarde Markt at night.
The Kleine Markt has a more intimate atmosphere with several seating areas. The furniture follows a functional and minimal architectural approach, using merely two elements, steel and wood. With very subtle design gestures, these urban elements fit into the overall composition. The reposing places with trees, benches and raised platforms would transform these zones, offering a pleasant stay on the square but also a more representative meeting area, surrounded by terraces of bars and restaurants.