A green sports park in a new city district

In the north of the Belgian capital Brussels, in between the famous Atomium in the Ossegempark and the Koning Boudewijn Stadium one finds a diverse array of attractions, sports fields and other public buildings that are to be transformed into the SportPark Heizelplateau. The area is located among busy highways in a sloping city landscape.

The key figure in the design by architects ZJA in collaboration with Omgeving Landschapsarchitecten is a new building with organically curved features and a sloping green roof. The lay out of the area surrounding the building is a clear indicator of the idea behind SportPark Heizelplateau: its objective is to integrate the sporting facilities in an attractive and harmonious way into a public park where residents and visitors come to find coolness, relaxation and space among the trees, by the water and along the sporting fields. The buildings are built from steel, glass and green surfaces, they look light and their shapes echo the sloping green landscape of the park.

The big multifunctional building houses not only the offices of the Belgian Olympic Committee but is also the home to the Royal Archers and the dressing rooms for players in the new stadium next door. There is also a large indoor sports court on the first floor and a Grand Café with outside terrace facing south. The building is located at a square where the undergound parking garage exits in a green zone, and has a panoramic view in all directions. The main public function is obviously the terrace of the Grand Café, looking out onto a wide lawn for resting and playing and a shallow pond, right in the centre of the park.

On the east side, facing the green copper dome of the Planetarium, a separate entrance for the archers is located. The north side houses the dressing rooms, a ticket and fan shop and the offices and hospitality hall of the Belgian Olympic Committee, easily recognizable by the Olympic rings on the facade.

Water storage in the city landscape

Like all cities Brussels faces a problem with its water storage and the new sports park provides part of a solution. Through the centre, in a north-south axis, a waterfall is designed which thanks to a twenty meter drop guides rainwater to an underground basin where it can be stored. The cascade is actually a scaled green wadi built in stone and with soft banks adding natural quality to the park.

The sporting facilities

To the south and east of the central building one finds a wide public zone in the park with a playing field, the planetarium and the pond. To the northwest the rugby pitch is located, with partly covered concrete stands to house 5.000 spectators. The athletics complex is found to the south east, comprising a 400 meter track. There is room for 500 spectators. At the most southern tip of the park a new public skate ramp has been designed. East of the pond we find the clubhouse of the field hockey club, built in a design that follows that of the large central building. It caters for players and spectators at a full-size field and a smaller trainings pitch. It can house 1.000 people.

This design has a main objective to keep the clustering of the sporting facilities as compact as possible and leave the public park as large as possible. The idea is to optimize a sense of clarity and direct access to the sports facilities by the placement of the paths and the layout of lines of sight. Visitors walking along the curved paths always have a view of both zones and experience a visual link between public space and the club grounds.

Leaving behind the world of concrete high-rises and bustling city traffic, as one steps out of the playful and egg-shaped parking garage exit building, one finds oneself in spacious and all-round urban sports park, close to the large Koning Boudewijn Stadium. You can go there to fly a kite, play some football, relax and play on the big lawn, or potter around the pond with the kids. But there are also tickets for sale for field hockey, rugby matches and athletic meets. Or you grab a beer with the archers on the big terrace looking out onto the silver spheres of the Atomium that hover over the city. The Heizelplateau is an elegant city garden, for active and relaxing urbanites, worthy of the metropole that Brussels is.

Principal: NEO cvba Brussel
Team: ZJA (architect), Omgeving (landscape architect), Atelier Ruimtelijk Advies (preparation of technical file) en Witteveen+Bos (stability and engineering)
In collaboration with: OSK-AR architecten
Year: 2016 - present

Project: #946