CONNECTIVITY UP AND DOWN
The Palace of Justice and its surroundings represent a strong and valuable landmark for the city. Nevertheless, the old hill has always been a physical and visual obstacle for the urban interaction between high and low Brussels. The intervention site is situated on this edge condition and any project has to deal with the blockage and discontinuity between the urban tissue and flow.
A clear example of this dysfunctionality is manifested in the presence of a tower lift, which has to be removed. WALKSCAPE excavates part of the available public realm revealing a potential void for future developments within the City of Justice’s quarter.
Our proposal consists of a gentle public slope that prolongs the activity and boutique-frontage of the Avenue Louise towards the Marolles. This slope accentuates the perspective of the Palace of Justice through a zigzag pathway within a unique landscape.
THE GRAND ARCHITECTURE
The icon of the Palace of Justice has proven to be important for Brussels albeit a controversial one. However it has always been treated a monument of public use and a strategic piece of legal apparatus, capable of supporting different programmatic transformations and physical alterations.
The potential lies not yet in the building or its complementary judicial infrastructure itself but in its surrounding and vacant spaces between them, which can incorporate the current pressure for modern security and storage, both in terms of parking and documentation and archives. We are aware that the body of the Palace of Justice demands constant programmatic adaptations, maintenance and renovation due to its monumental scale. Nowadays any transformation in this building is merely either short-term repair or amendments to new building codes. We propose not to intervene in this process.
THE GRAND URBANISM : ACTIVATING THE VOID
As generic European relic of the nineteenth century’s monumental architecture and manifestation of new political establishment, the Palace of Justice is in itself a piece of taxidermy. What do we need to repair instead? Two main components:
1. The urban void: All the vacant public spaces in-between the judicial buildings.
2. The pedestrian up-and-down urban connectivity.
As a result, the activation of this new void allows to enhance not just the massiveness of the main building but, above all, the urban panorama of Brussels by framing the city, the tram system, the boulevard and the new triangular square: a needed piece of ‘Grand Urbanism’ for Brussels, without repeating the destructive paths of the past.
THE TRIANGULAR SQUARE
Walkscape operates systemically by activating the Palace of Justice and surrounding building with a tilted public square with a diverse storage program beneath. What is the new urban image of this courthouse with its Salle de pas Perdus? This landscape formation performs as a grand ramp, an urban articulation between the upper and lower part of the city. Within the triangular square the surface is treated with hard textures whilst the band parallel to the tram lane is fully covered with grass.
The public function is strengthened by simply making the longitudinal connection within its context. It means connecting the main level of the Palace of Justice with the Minimes street and with the place Louise. The newly available parking spaces liberate its base and ramps from cars and thus reintegrates it into the neighborhood.
The result is a triangular square interconnecting all urban and transport levels: Over ground streets, boulevards, metro and the expressways. Its slope links high Brussels with low Brussels; the entrance of the courthouse; the Salle de Pas Perdus’ axis and the slab.
THE BAND FRAME
By inserting bands underneath the square based on an 8m by 8m grid, they facilitate polyvalent spaces for different programmatic and functional configurations. Within this grid a car park zone is organized at the lowest levels whilst in the upper levels the bands contain the storage of legal documents and archives related to the justice service. Towards the lower side of the city this storage space becomes visible and turns into an exhibition space with a visitors center.
The program related to the justice apparatus is connected with the different justice buildings around it. One key issue occurs when the grid touches the edge of the square. Along its perimeter, the usage mutates into urban amenities, becoming community meeting points, cafes, boutiques, cultural facilities and so on.