Belgian architecture practice AR-TE brought SeARCH into the project to create an urban connection and design a new public realm between the center of Leuven, Leuven station and the adjacent village Kessel-Lo which had been desperately lacking.
The Village of Kessel-Lo was cut off from the urban fabric downtown Leuven, and has been reconnected to create a pedestrian bridge and bicycle viaduct links. By lowering the public square 8 meters below street level, the development gains two floors of commercial space without any increase in building height (double ground use). This extra commercial space compensates for the expenditure in appropriating existing housing on the site and the construction of the new viaduct.
Daily, over 20,000 pedestrians and cyclists had to travel via a tunnel underneath the train tracks and then negotiate an 8 meters ascent before crossing the busy Martelarenlaan and then descending 3m on the other side. This Gordian knot was solved by the simple introduction of a gradually sloping public square connecting the tunnel to Kessel-Lo under the Martelarenlaan. The design advantage was twofold: the existing tunnel becomes experienced less as a subterranean burrow and more a part of the outdoor space as it flows out into a new, vibrant public square. The crossing underneath the Martelarenlaan has become not only easier, but also much safer.
SeARCH is also responsible for the architecture within the 75,000m2 development including parking for 900 cars and 2000 bicycles, two hotels with conference facilities, a 2000 capacity nine-screen multiplex, 18,000m2 of offices, shops, apartments and other commercial space. This project involves highly coordinated structure and services within a phased development project.