This week, François Leclercq was in Brussels for a conference entitled: “de passage en ville” (literally: coming in/going through town), organised by the ADT-ATO (the Agency for Territorial Development). This was an opportunity for us to hear the town planner, urban developer, entrepreneur and teacher on his vision of cities, their evolutions, and the future of Reyers.
François Leclercq and his team worked on many ventures in various regional projects, mainly in France (but on occasion internationally), ranging from small buildings and swimming pools to entire neighbourhoods and metropolitan areas. He and his team like to play with scales, and recycle infrastructures. This lover of cities presented some of the themes covered in his last book “pour la ville quel que soit l’état du monde” (for cities, whatever the state of the world). He is a defender of ground floors, – important spaces to him -, because they open towards the street and the city. There are no closed doors or walls on the ground floors of his projects.
A floodable park & a walking boulevard on a highway on the sea for Marseilles
Marseilles’ Euromediterannée project is the biggest European project of urban renovation. It is divided in two parts; Leclercq and his team take care of what is called the area II, extension. The project, -estimated at € 3.5 billions (yes billions not millions)-, has already been accepted. François Leclercq does not care as much for buildings and architecture as for neighbourhoods and areas, as he is an urban planner. He stated that he would rather “take a good architect and let him do his job than give him precise directions”.
In Marseilles, he mainly wants to open the coast and its view (currently blocked by bridges, buildings, and walls) to everyone. The spread of the project on over 9 years will enable the city to change part of the highway system, which will end up hidden and partly incorporated under a walking boulevard.
The plan in Marseilles also incorporates a giant park, where an actual train station is located. After noticing a covered river under the station, he decided to render the park floodable, using particular types of vegetation. This would help solving some of Marseilles problems, noting that “in Marseilles, it doesn’t rain often, but when it does, it rains a lot”.
What about Reyers ?
Well, not much yet. Before Mr. Leclercq gave us a small peek at the project at Reyers, after he explained another project in Lille, and went back to Paris and its neighbourhood: “La Défense”.
He only talked a little about the project at Reyers. What he (and we) know for sure is that new facilities for the VRT and the RTBF will be constructed. Of course there has been many talks about the re-arrangement of the Boulevard Reyers, the creation of a park behind it, the construction of apartments and buildings, but nothing yet is set in stone, it is all “under negotiation”.
What Mr. Leclerq wanted to show us are “possibilities”. And he did. This is where we could really notice his vision of urban planning, with two main elements.
- Infrastructures do not need to be destroyed, they can be renovated or re-attributed: he gave us many examples during his presentation, and stated that Reyers’ famous Tower could become a studio, and the actual buildings of the VRT and the RTBF could become infrastructure for other purposes.
- Things do not need to be done at once: weather it is tomorrow or in ten years, things do not need to appear out of thin air, transition periods are important, and space can be re-purposed over time.
As for visuals, he showed images of banks (small hills) in the park that used to be employed for shooting. Indeed, historically there used to be a shooting range at Reyers. He also showed pictures of a cemetery with 300 plus graves of soldiers from WWI and II. When asked about the possibility of making Reyers a park, even temporarily, Leclercq responded “it could be good, but the problem is to not give the citizens the impression that we are taking something back when something is builded on it”. However, he said that he would be really happy to be able to open Reyers from time to time and show the people of Brussels what it is, and what it is becoming. The matter is legal, and questions of legal access, pollution, … have yet to be looked at. He stated that the objective is to be able to put Reyers and the area in a “transitory state”, not a “temporary state”.
He and his team went to the Media city in Barcelona (a media neighbourhood) to study the possibility to integrate some components into the Reyers project. This is where he first mentioned the concept and the term “cluster”. He only mentioned the word cluster once, but that is the idea he might have behind is head. The project however is developed in cooperation with the ADT-ATO, the municipality of Schaerbeek, the RTBF, and the VRT.
During his presentation and for each project, he mentioned highways and cars, and the final question was about it. Someone wanted to know what he wanted to do with cars, since Brussels’ government is taking position in favour of clean mobility. What Leclercq thinks is that highways and roads are extremely useful. “The problems are the cars, not the highways”. If there is a need for subways, train, or other clean means of transport, there will be highways to putt them on.
For more information on the Reyers project, you can go to the website of the ADT-ATO.