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Posted by on Feb 5, 2017 in ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design, Landscape architecture Posts, Luxembourg

Europe’s Longest Sustainable Water Retention Boulevard Completed in Luxembourg

Article by Tahío Avila – Water Retention Boulevard landscape urban design, by ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design, in Belval, Luxembourg, Europe.

Belval is the first major city in Luxemburg to integrate rainwater management with a proper landscape design, providing a higher quality of life and an improved ecological environment for its inhabitants.

The city of Belval is an industrial territory, and the contrast between natural and man-made is undeniable. For this project, the designers decided to mend the urban landscape through the integration of a natural and “active” environment into the edifications and a water-retention management solution that serves the residential “Belval North” area and its surroundings. This will guide the city to grow in a new ecological and sustainable way.

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo credit: Di Santo and Agora

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo credit: Di Santo and Agora

Water Retention Boulevard at Belval

The Initial Plan

Belval’s landscape is dominated by industrial activities such as steelworks and fabrics, so the city’s divergence from the natural landscape is obvious. The new plan for this neighborhood was to transform it into an attractive, formal,yet functional residential area. The neighborhood is approachable, with 500 block houses carefully placed and developed within public green areas and promenades.

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

The housing project is placed in a non-reticulated floor plan that allows the green areas to penetrate into the constructed areas. The neighborhood is divided into quarters. Each quarter (with residential, commercial, and office buildings) is integrated into the leading green zone, which operates as the water-retention promenade.

The rainwater collected from the quarters and its surroundings is redirected into the retention plan: the longest sustainable water retention promenade in Europe.

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

Belval’s Urban Landscape

The damage caused by industrial development can be seen in Belval’s inner city: The underground pipes no longer support storm water., The inhabitants needed new, sustainable water management and the city needed it to be an “eco-friendly” project. ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design was the firm called in to solve these problems.

The designers included promenades for public recreation, as well as bridges that connect to the living, working, and shopping areas. Pedestrian and cycle promenades also play an important role in the project, making the “formal and industrial” city more livable.

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

The bike paths flow into the National Cycle-path routing, connecting the residential area of Belval North, the Um Belval park, and the Terasse des Hauts-Forneaux, an old blast furnace terrace that is now home to a university, the National Library, the Rock Hall, and the head office of Dexia Bank.

Sustainable Urban Furniture

For the most part, the designers used local and sustainable materials. European oak, rocks, and steel were transformed into quality and durable urban furniture. Bridges and platforms were made with European certified oak, and the pavement and gabions stones came from Grès de Luxembourg, a local quarry. The steel recalls the history of the industrial scenery.

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

The public areas’ design is very clean, relaxed, and functional. It’s almost a “concrete park” with:

  • A boulevard with separated paths for pedestrians and cyclists;
  • Vegetation such as the 86 multi-trunk alder trees (Alnus glutinosa) planted because of their free and “playful” shape. This is a nice, tall tree that creates a contrast with the formal lines of the boulevard design;
  • Bridges that highlight the wetlands and by night are lit with LED lighting, for more visibility and a warm atmosphere;
  • Promenades 1.6 meters above ground level to protect users from the water during heavy rainfalls;
  • Gabions made with local quarry stones;
  • Benches and platforms designed to give the users (pedestrians or cyclists) a place to rest and enjoy the scenery;
  • 33 visible spillways to transport storm water from the promenades into the retention stairways.
Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

A Functional Wetland

The project was designed based on the characteristics the area had before the city’s industrial transformation began. This includes part of the Wuenschelbach creek, which has been restored (where possible) in order to recover the functional wetland ecosystem. The designers believe the project is going to significantly help the ecosystem and change people’s habits in regard to water resources and habitat conservation.

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

The water retnation boulevard  has already had a good response, with the inhabitants embracing the new ecological environment. The constructions join this wide green area, which forms meadows as public spaces and reduces the number of private gardens.

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

The designers explain how the water system was designed differently: “In Belval North, the ditches are combined with a sharp concrete rim to increase visibility, and inspection places for water-quality control are designed as open, visible elements. In Park Um Belval, there are open ditches, retaining ponds, and a natural water delta.

On the Terrasse de Haunts-Fornaux, water elements were combined with the remnants of the blast furnace. On the Square Mile, we’re still studying on reusing the old cool basins for retaining water and further recreational functions.”

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

The Water Retention System

Water was the essence of the project, so it was important to make it visible. It returns the natural environment to the city, without negatively affecting the steel industry, which still needs to use the water for industrial cooling purposes.

The idea was to collect rainwater from the buildings and roads, transfer it to open ponds, then split the distribution of it — one part to be used to cool industrial plants and the other to be transported with the existing water systems downstream.

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

The design of the water retention boulevard includes 26 oak water barriers, or poles, to slow water drainage during periods of heavy rainfall, transforming different levels into “green water-retention stairways,” according to the designers. This prevents water overload. Grass along the stairways (and the rest of the project) also helps to slow down the speed of the water during the rainy seasons.

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

The whole water retention boulevard has a gold GBKN (German Certification System for Sustainability) pre-certification for sustainability in building and planning.

This project was designed to combine ecological and urban development to offer inhabitants, workers, and tourists a better quality of life in an industrial area. The next step might be for designers to look for the hidden messages that the landscape, culture, and history tell. The new water retention gives the inhabitants the possibility to grow and be conscious about nature, as we all should be.

Industrial activities don’t have to be separated from natural spaces. Do you think landscape architects can unify them in the future? Tell us what you think.

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Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

Water Retention Boulevard. Photo courtesy of ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design

Full Project Credits For The Water Retention Boulevard:

Project: Water Retention Boulevard
Location: Belval, Luxembourg, Europe
Designer: ELYPS Landscape + Urban Design
Team: Johan Buwalda, Yvonne de la Gardia, Gijs Flink, Sonja Mihaljevic
Commissioned By: Société de développement AGORA s.à.r.l. et Cie, Avenue de Rock ‘n Roll Belval, Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg
Size: 120 ha
Execution: Stage 1 — 2010-2012; Stage 2 — 2012-2015

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Tahío Avila

Tahío Avila

Tahío Avila is from Venezuela and moved to Italy in 2012. Tahío has a Bachelor degree in Architecture. She studied at the U.L.A. “Universidad de Los Andes” (Mérida – Venezuela) and graduated in 2011. She also has a Master’s degree in Landscape architecture and Garden Design. Studying at the “Politecnico di Milano” (Como – Italy) and graduating in 2013.
Tahío Avila