The Fish Market Square is part of the historical center of Leuven, and covers the Dijle river. It is part of the zone to be transformed into a car-free, pedestrianized area. Till now, the layout of the square was defined by a sequence of dominant uses: a harbor along the Dijle used for transportation, a market hall covering the river as a trading place, and finally a parking lot for cars.
With the transformation of the area into a pedestrianized zone, this sequence has come to an end. There is no new dominant use. Experience learns that this freedom often results in boring refurbishments of historical realms. We take this chance to rethink and reimagine the organization of public realm. In the past the Vismarkt was a working space and a circulation area. We turn it into a living room for residents and visitors. It becomes the domain of the ‘Homo Ludens’. Instead of a dictating space, we design a provocative and seductive environment, and replace monotonous design by an abundancy of atmospheres and characters. Moreover the new realm generates healthy living conditions, integrating mechanisms to make Leuven more sustainable, smarter, cleaner and healthier. They contribute to the water management, and the improvement of urban ecology and biodiversity of the city. Technical innovations are linked to spatial quality, creating a new type of public realms.
To achieve this, the historical structure of the river is not restored, but functionally activated as a diverse collection of acupuncture installations. New urban oases are daylighting the covered canal underneath the square. They are turned into compact, powerful landscape sculptures and efficient environmental installations. A large variety of these sculptures is developed, and subject for an intensive participation process with inhabitants and stakeholders.