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Molenbeek: the first ‘shared space’ in Brussels

 - ©Beliris

2014-06-20 – Molenbeek’s central square, the Place Communale, was reopened on Friday after less than 8 months of work. The redevelopment work started on 4 November last year. The sum of 2,000,000 euros was allocated to the work, which was carried out and financed by Beliris*, in partnership with the Region of Brussels-Capital and the municipal authorities under the Cinema – Belle-Vue district contract.

The principle underlying thesquare’s redevelopment, as devised by thefirm of architects A-Practice, is shared space. The space has not been reserved for any specific use, to enable it to be genuinely shared as a public space. The area has thus become a meeting place for residents and traders and for the organisation of public events such as the MolenZik festival this weekend.

The speed limit in the area is 20 kph. Signage and markings are almost absent, to encourage all users to pay attention and thus enhance safety. Forcing users to slow down should reduce the number of accidents.

Specifically, 205,000 natural paving stones of European origin have been used to create aspace that will be used by pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. There are no longer any changes of level in the square, facilitating access for people in wheelchairs and for pushchairs. The square will once again be able to host the Thursday and Sunday market, because everything is designed tomake life easier for market traders: trees and benches have been positioned to take account of the size of the stands, electrical power points have been buried, there is no kerb and market pitches are to be marked out. Finally, lighting points, modern, multi-purpose benches and new trees (hornbeam and oak) have been introduced.

In order to completesome minor work, the municipal authorities have decided to close the areato traffic during the summer. In September, the square will be reopened to traffic on the meeting place principle (two-way traffic allowed, 20 kph speed limit, no parking except for loading and unloading). The municipal authorities are also looking into the possibility of introducing a removable device that can be used close the area to traffic at certain times of day or night or during specific events.

(*) Cooperation Agreement between the Federal State and the Brussels-Capital Region, containing initiatives to promote the international role and function of Brussels as a capital.