Place Fontainasplein (Fontainas square) is a site of intersection between different neighbourhoods, cultures and social groups. It is situated between the Anspach and Lemonnier Boulevards, the major boulevards that succeed each other to connect the North with the South, and the adjacent Fontainas Park, which forms the only public green space in this North-South axis.
Due to its location, the Fontainas square is used by a population of great diversity. Previously known as Eilandje (Small Island) because the river Senne/Zenne used to split here and came together a mere 65 meters further, forming thus a small island, the Fontainas square denotes nowadays a transition from the more central areas, such as the Bourse/Beurs, the commercial Dansaert street and the lively quarter of Saint-Gery/ Sint-Goriks, to the gay friendly cafés of the Marché au charbon/Kolenmarkt and the low-income, prominently Muslim residential parts of the Anneesseens quarter towards the south.
LINK creates a temporary physical connection between the Fontainas square and the Fontainas park. Physically, the two are separated by a small street, while an imposing building almost hides the park from the passersby on the Anspach. However, the low interaction between them is not so much due to those physical boundaries. Despite their proximity, square and park seem to have distinct and almost distant characters.
Clearly belonging in the realm of the Anspach boulevard, the Fontainas square is more of a broad sidewalk, a busy passage, rather than a proper square. A “reluctant” square, built with concrete, with rows of plants and a few merely inviting sitting benches, it is not a public space keenly appropriated by the strollers. If urban identity can be formed through the meaning attached by the users of the city, then Fontainas still seems to be hesitating.
The park is a well gated green oasis with playground facilities, used mainly by the residents and the children of the neighbourhood that behind Anspach. The park’s multiple entrances allow people to come in from all sides. The only exception seems to be the entrance at the Anspach side, which remains quite hidden for passersby as a narrow corridor under the shadow of the high building (the headquarters of the public servants’ Union). Unfortunately, the park is not spared from other activities, like mugging or drug dealing, which find fertile ground at its most remote parts.
Despite recent transformations as well as the ongoing efforts of authorities and various non profits active in the neighbourhood, the park and the area still hold a reputation for being unsafe.
LINK departs from all the above observations and wishes to bring change in this disconnection. It opens up the normally gated side of the park that faces the Anspach Boulevard, it continues over the small street that separates them and arrives at the square.
By extending the limits of both the park and the square, LINK aims to launch a debate on a potential redefinition of this urban site. It shows that a connection between square and park, those neighbouring but nevertheless distant worlds, is possible. However, LINK does not claim to be a definite proposal for the site. It rather wishes to encourage residents and authorities to reflect upon this potential and envision a different, long-term approach for the site. LINK is therefore a starting point of a placemaking process, a proposition towards something else; why not, towards the possibility of Fontainas Island growing into a unique and green interlude in the central North-South axis of Brussels.
LINK demonstrates the continuous fluidity of a city like Brussels and through its physical presence proclaims that “There’s work being done here”. The use of scaffolding for its material refers to public works, and aims to trigger all sorts of associations to anyone crossing the site: change, evolution, restoration, starting of larger works, and the beginning of something new … Locals and passersby are in this way involved and mobilized for the possible change that LINK aims to bring in.
LINK is a test case. It will remain on site for a period of two months, from August to October 2011. These two months will be a period of constant reflection and investigation on the potential for a different urban approach and the possibilities of improvement that LINK aims to set forward in this site.
LINK is the Brussels/Belgian contribution to the European project Green Days which takes place this summer in four European cities and focuses on the relationship between urban and natural environment.
Green Days in Belgium is organised by the non-profit association AAA
LINK is designed by Wouter De Raeve, partner of Dees & Lepage Garden and Landscape Architecture Bureau, and is supported by the European Cultural Foundation (ECF).
LINK runs from August 12 to October 14, 2011
LINK, place Fontainasplein, 1000 Bruxelles/ Brussel
Tram 3 & 4, stop Anneessens, exit Fontainas
Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=115753715187853