"I stood still for some little time, examining it on all sides. I questioned it without stopping at an answer... I could not determine whether this singular object were the work of life, or of art, or rather of time - and so a freak nature... then suddenly I flung it back into the sea." (Eupalinos or the Architect, Paul Valery)
Brussels’ global perception is very different from its local reality. As the European capital, it is a junction of endless flows. At the same time, it is the abode of a million people. Its central position in Europe’s most densely developed area and its imprisonment within its own ring road demands the presence of a certain mass and density. Exchanging old harbor areas for residential or commercial zones and moving the harbor further away from the city - common practice in old cities during the last decade - is not an option for Brussels. The harbor of Brussels needs every square meter inside the ring. Generating more qualitative living space can only happen by reinterpreting the same surface of existing malfunctioning fabric.
The existing masterplan for the Port of Brussels by 2015 deals with one part of the problem by aiming at an efficient organization of the harbor activities by densification. However it does not provide an answer to its biggest challenge, as stipulated in the European directives, the passage of three layers of containers. This severely limits the inland shipping to Brussels and its hinterland. Enabling this traffic has important implications on the existing urban tissue through the necessity of higher bridges.
Our attention is drawn to a one kilometer gap that slashes right through the urban tissue and tears the city in two: the Brussels central canal area. This backbone of the harbor and its numerous industries are bordered by inefficient infrastructure rendering its banks to an intensely grey and cheerless place. A place the city has turned its back to, meaning it has also turned its back to the other side. But a higher bridge density along the pentagon already holds the promise of a real connection. The relative narrowness of the canal zone, its vicinity to the city and its overload of cars could actually make it become one of the most intense and surprising areas of Brussels. It is borderline and central area at the same time.
A Platform, two and a half meters above the canal, is raised as a place of exceptional possibilities. An endless sequence of connecting bridges melted into one, close the gap. It is connected to the ground level by a loose collection of stairs, ramps, elevators and escalators, reminiscent of an old Europe, which make it accessible to all users. The existing car traffic is led underground, to the level of the canal, rendering it into a layer of pure infrastructure. The Platform disguises the canal, making it ever more present. Like a pier, its infinite setup connects the city and the canal as a whole.
As an addition to the Platform and to create a continuous sufficient air draught, we propose a series of new bridges, based on a known typology. The Buda bridge has proven most effective for the canal over the last decades. As a drawbridge it can adapt very fast to the needs of both the city and the canal. A series of Buda bridges provides a flexible air draught and marks the canal with a series of identical shapes, rendering it more visible than it has ever been. Two of these Buda-bridges intersect with the Platform. The shifting positions of the bridges alternately create passages and podiums. Their enigmatic shapes serve as frames, to be filled in by the users.
The platform reinforces the emptiness in its ultimate potentiality. In a growing city like Brussels, with a lack of open space, it gives a podium to the people, but also a grandstand to the city. It becomes a place for the largest of events, as well as the most trivial. Having lunch or taking a dip but also large music events or protest actions. Platform is a local intervention on a European scale: an Acropolis for Brussels.
TEMP is an experimental collaboration between architects, engineers and artists with experience in the domains of philosophy, photography, graphic art and economy. As a young and ambitious team they aim to combine these multiple experiences in a practice of different scale levels, from various points of view and within changing cooperation. Hereby they continue the inevitable combination of theoretical studying and working on a practical level.