A large abandoned school site in the center and an adjacent large social housing neighborhood, to be renovated and expanded, offer a unique opportunity to fundamentally rethink and strengthen the town structure. On the one hand, we aim to extend the town center on the Belgian side of the town by adding a new town square. On the other hand, the plan uses a string of green public spaces, stretching from the center and the surrounding landscape, to connect the existing and the new part of the neighborhood and improve the legibility of the town structure across borders.
Baarle-Hertog is a Belgian enclave in the Netherlands and forms one town with Baarle-Nassau, its Dutch counterpart. This peculiar historic and geographic situation has had profound consequences on the structure of the town. The Belgian enclave misses clear structure and a good connection to the town center. This is why the collaboration between the municipality, who owns the abandoned school site in the center, and the social housing company, who is responsible for the renovation and expansion of the social housing neighborhood that takes up a huge part of the urban fabric of the town, is so strategic.
The master plan creates a framework for the expansion of the town center towards the Belgian side, by adding a new central public space to the existing squares in the center. The ‘village garden’ is a green and car-free public space, in contrast to the rest of the squares in the center. A new loop between two struggling shopping streets is created, with the ‘village garden’ as a new lively destination, which should create new activity. The village garden is also the start of a string of green public spaces, running all the way to the surrounding landscape. This green backbone connects the existing neighborhood to the new extension and it anchors the social neighborhood in the rest of the town.
The design aims to maximize the amount of green permeable surface to improve the quality of living and the water management. It creates maximal accessibility for active means of transportation, while keeping car-related infrastructure as compact as possible. A diversity of housing typologies are clustered in a compact way around residential spaces with limited access for cars.