EngineeringMarcel Lavreysen, Leuven
Lead ArchitectMichel Pauwels
Text description provided by the architects. During the converting of a number of buildings owned by the University of Louvain (KULeuven), part of the covering of the river Vunt collapsed. Until then, the Vunt was a hidden river flowing under the garden and the buildings. Ontwerpbureau Pauwels was called upon to examine the possible restoration of the damage and a solution for the trees standing right above the covered river.
In fact, their roots were at the origin of the problem : searching for water, they caused the concrete of the covering to crack and, eventually, after years to completely collapse. Rather than restoring the collapsed covering, the landscape architects proposed a thorough transformation: “unveil” the hidden water and go for a concept with a strong water related experience. KULeuven, the owners of the terrain and VMM, the administrator of the river, were excited and fully supported this approach.
The riverbed was opened up over the entire length of the terrain and finished with masonry walls. In the garden area, the quay walls “fold open” and the riverbed is formed by playful positioned, descending terrace plateaus in prefab concrete slabs. As a result, the students can enjoy an attractive, sun-oriented, recessed relaxation area along the water.
Stepping-stones offer the opportunity to cross the river “through” the water. The colour of the concrete slabs gradually darkens in the descend. The seating area is bordered on three sides by quay walls.
A concrete bridge with handrail, situated against the building, crosses the Vunt and leads cyclists to three covered bike stands with vegetative roofs, scattered over the garden and connected with each other by pedestrian/bicycle paths in concrete stone.
The garden is conceived as an open courtyard with a variety of –predominantly multi-stemmed- trees, with different leaf colour and flowering times. Hanging plants adorn the quay walls. Shallow wadis in the grassy plateaus serve as water storage and infiltration on site of the rainwater.