Hellend Vlak van Ronquières
By Susie & Heather
Background of the project
Hellend vlak van Ronquières is an inclined plane working like a boat lift on the Charleroi-Brussels Canal near the village of Ronquières. Completed in April 1968, it bridges the height difference of 68m in the Hainaut Plateau. The ships are lifted by two gigantic moving tanks with water and pulled up over a distance of 1,400 meters which they could continue their journey in another section of the canal. The total length of this construction is about 1,400 meters, and the water level difference between the canals on both sides of the construction is about 67 meters. It takes about 22 minutes for the ship to be transported by caisson by rail, and it takes about 50 minutes to pass through the whole structure.
How related to landscape
This project is to facilitate ships to transport goods across terrain barriers, but through this installation, the huge height difference and water level difference of the terrain is emphasized. The watchtower becomes a landmark at the highest point, and people also have a bird’s-eye view of the landscape changes in this area, making the experience climax.
Politically prodigal landscape
As the largest boat lift in the world when it was built, Hellend vlak van Ronquières was a spectacular infrastructure, demonstrating the power of nations 50 years ago. However, this inclined plane is sometimes said to be one of the “great useless works” and the symbols of the Belgian “waffle iron policy”, whereby money for investments flowed to Wallonia in exchange for investments in Flanders. After the completion of the project, the use of the canal gradually decreased due to the closure of the Walloon coal mines and today it only transports a dozen ships a day. This 100 million euro building is a political infrastructure rather than an economically valuable landscape.
In the evening, we visited the famous Grand-Place in Brussels. It has a pleasant scale, with a length of about 100m, suitable for every tourist to walk through, and also suitable for holding various activities. The plaza is surrounded by buildings of various styles, telling the long and rich history of the city. The orange-yellow lights at night make the building and plaza space more charming. Crossing the plaza to the surrounding streets, there are various shops, such as souvenir shops, waffle shops, and chocolate shops on both sides of the street, all of which attract tourists to stop.