By Summer & Fudai
Background of the project
A tour along the River Leie in the city center of Kortrijk, with nicely designed parks, infrastructures, and facilities. The place was originally called the Leiepark created in 1905 and restored in 2005 by Michel Desvigne Paysagiste, which presents a new face, with an enlarged Leie, new bridges, and a reestablished contact with the water (link). The Koning Albert Park is designed by SUM (link), occupies a one-hectare area along the river Leie, with the Leie Monument (restored in 2007) inside the park.
How we perceive it?
The entrance of the park integrated with the surrounding communities, the Leie Monument standing in a central place, facing the river Leie. To walk through the park on a sunny day in April was a lovely experience. The undulating and winding path with soft pavement embedded in the neat lawn, and showing the way to walk close to the bank of Leie. Small white and yellow flowers flourish on the grass. The bridges link the fragments of the land on both banks of the river together, forming a decoration of the riverside landscape. Under the column of a bridge, the wingnut tree with a dynamic canopy swaying in the wind, if your view follows the branch on top of the tree, is a deep blue sky. Many trees are already turning light or dark green at the moment, while the oak tree still wearing empty branches, waiting for the call of summer. The lawn is so close to the water level, you walk in the openness, with a wide sightline to both sides of the river. A sculpture named mother earth II (translation) lying on the lawn peacefully, the curved shape and smooth textures reflect the sunlight. Along the tour, there are many surprises such as a snake shape cycling & pedestrian bridge, ducks and other water birds perched by the canal, stone stages on the bank with a great view of an old canal bridge & city defense, and new floating islands. There are also entertainment & sports facilities that add more fun and vitality to the space. People walking, cycling, enjoying the sunshine and birdsong.
What we learned from it?
The dynamic of the linear structure is based on the form of the canal, with the composition centered by the waterway. Containing neat details, landscape facilities are embedded well into the linear structure of the Koning Albert Park. It’s wise to take water as the backbone and the most important element to design in this site, activating the originally narrow and gray corner of the urban metropolis. There’s not much height difference between the waterfront and the water surface, keeping spaces for a resilient waterway, at the same time guiding people to interact with water, which brings the spatial quality, functional diversity, and ecological effect. In terms of materials, landscape facilities on both sides, including the bridge across the sky, are made of silver steel, which adds a vibrant urban element to the green-blue based landscape.
We also saw some small-scale floating islands in the canal nearby, which are loosely anchored and seemed naturally moving. They offer a visual focal point in the middle of water, softening the concrete waterbank. However, it’s a shame that they’re slight on ecological value, with fences to prohibit birds and ducks, only offering habitats for insects.