The electricity tower, industrial boxes, mobility infrastructure, are just some of the several different elements that make Cat Site particular.
Cat Site is located in the proximity of Brussels Airport, between the railway and the highway E19. It is also near the Canal, in between Vilvoorde and Machelen. Nowadays the site is used as a parking, where lies some of the industrial heritage that Brussels have, such as the boxes which were used for Renault company. Because of its industrial past and its use as a landfill, Cat site is deeply contaminated.
The industrial morphology, unlike the morphology of housing, which has a smaller scale, is about large open spaces intended for use primarily cars and trucks, and large bins and boxes production.
Nowadays, housing and industry are currently operating separately. Cat Site is not the exception, it is not integrated to the dynamics that the city and its citizens offers. Nevertheless, being in between Vilvoorde and Machelen should be a possibility of development and growth where citizens from both villages can take advantages of its new facilities.
- Accessibility: One of the main problems in this area is the important traffic of cars and trucks running around due to the highway; the site is centrally located between Luchthavenlaan, the railway, the R22 and Vilvoordelaan, and has excellent road and public transport links. Nevertheless pedestrian access is complicated, there is no good treatment of sidewalks in the neighboring streets, making the site difficult to access for the pedestrian. We could compare it to an island because it is surrounded by the railway on the west side and the highway on the east side which makes the whole site be detached from residential areas of Vilvoorde and Machelen. Therefore it is difficult to cross the territory of Cat Site to move from one point to another.
- Site features: Cat Site is a large open space made in concrete, now use as a parking plot. The concrete does not allow permeability in the soil, which increases the probability of flooding. In addition, it is necessary to understand that this site, currently covered with asphalt, is a landfill that has not been treated and that over the time has generated a lot of soil pollution.
Courtyards new General Hospital Jan Portaels
The new General Hospital Jan Portaels covers 45,000 square meters and houses more than 400 hospital beds. It will be constructed behind the station area of Vilvoorde, ensuring good connectivity by car as well as public transport. The hospital is intended to catalyze one of the most important and strategically located areas in Vilvoorde.
‘High tech hub’ Strategies
There is already a first master plan, and the goal is to continue and to develop it further. This place is close to villages, and the industries that are there, are probably going to be more urban and modern. Modern industries in general are focused towards the technological, are more efficient in the use of time and space as well. The majority allows to have mixed uses, considered as green industries. What is intended is to create a high tech hub knowing that the whole area is like an island. Next to the hospital we may have industries of technology in medicine or laboratories, besides other type of technological industries that attract young people and we could have spaces of coworking, mixed use since many will want to live close to its place of employment.
As known, a team formed by several studios of architecture, had designed the new hospital of Vilvoorde behind the station zone on the ‘CAT site’, the hospital will be the driving force to develop the whole site.
- New accessibility: The accessibility to the site is given by the soft mobility street which goes through the area from north to south and acts as a backbone that distributes the different pathways that connect the different spaces, in order to connect the site and hospital with the train station, the idea is to maintain the pedestrian path conceived in the hospital project. All the traffic that is directed towards the new development must be organized from inside of it. This system is directed to provide accessibility to this particular development, and not just to connect from one point to another, it is intended to go through the new urban facility on the site.
- Organic areas: Cut-and-fill strategy to create buffer zones with a “new topography” that will transform the site. Earth is excavated and used to build up a necklace of ponds and mounds around the perimeter of the landfill. This ring acts as a stormwater filtrating and cleansing buffer zone for the landfill and a transition between railway, highway and different spaces.
- Plots: The idea is to maintain this industrial character, so to keep some of the existent boxes, as a landmark of the past and in the area where there is more open space, try to lower it to an urban scale and make it more a city type mixed use with a friendly scale.
- Circular economy: The gases extraction from landfill may give energy to industries (laboratory) or public spaces such as street lights. The rain water will be collected to provide housing and offices.
The project itself, will be a contribution to the hospital facility, both technological and educational focused on medicine. The building will combine a mixture of uses which will be developed in a vertical way.
On the ground floor, there will be an industrial part with larger spaces, where we could find laboratories, repairing spaces for the machines and a smaller scale of production.
On the second and third floor, the spaces in a smaller scale than industry will allow to create collective spaces such as research centre, coworking spaces, auditories, etc.
On the upper floors, it would be interesting to develop temporary housing. The hospitals are demanding or asking more and more to have some apartments where they can arrange their visitors, knowing that Vilvoorde Hospital is not a local one; they intend to attract people from the periphery area. They want to develop some specialisations. Is interesting to think of this housing facilities: terminal sick people, visitors, elderly, post hospital care and those who are studying and working at the hospital or the research center.