Hasselt's historic town hall with its Groenplein square is currently flanked by a strikingly closed urban block. The linear arrangement of apartments and school buildings constitutes a massive volume that completely absorbs the historic Ursuline Convent. In the new situation, the urban block is transformed and an attempt is made to create a public and semi-public link with the existing urban routing.
The urban renewal project is characterised by a separation of the convent and its garden by means of the incision of a central passageway. As a public gesture, the incision links the Groenplein with the convent. In due course, an opening can be made to the currently inaccessible landscape garden of the Gouverneurswoning.
This incision cuts up the massive urban block into a new, smaller block and a detached volume alongside the Walputsteeg. The existing school buildings will be replaced by a combination of living units, wellness facilities, a commercial space and a grand café.
Within the new urban block, a semi-public enclosed garden is created, with lush green, accessible from and visually linked with the passageway. Around the garden, a framework of architectural concrete will be erected that links the rear parts of the existing and new buildings into a coherent whole. The space between the framework and the rears of the buildings will be filled with terraces, while the framework itself can be used to support plants.
The design shows the new urban block in a restrained brick architecture, which seeks to achieve a harmony between roofing, decorative masonry and landscaping. Because of its solitary nature, the detached volume at the Walputstraat allows a different selection of materials. A sculptural monolith of copper shingles, with an almost fully glazed ground floor that lifts it from the ground level.
Because of its unique position within the Hasselt city centre and the large scale, the project requires careful placing within the existing urban context. The project will have a distinctive look because of the introduction of slanting roofs and multi-sided building volumes. Various volumes have ends that are cut open, allowing their silhouettes to be highlighted.