Big news for football aficionados in Brussels: Royale Union Saint-Gilloise and the Brussels Bouwmeester Maître Architecte (chief architect) jointly launched an open architecture competition. Its aim is to appoint a co-designer for the integration of Union’s future football stadium into its surroundings at the Bempt site in Forest. This is the first time that a public design competition related to the development of a football stadium has been launched in Belgium. Candidates can present their design until 6 November 2023.
“With this architecture competition for a football stadium, we show that quality is our main concern. That is also what a top-tier club like Union deserves. When everyone is on the same page, we can definitely achieve major things in Brussels. We want the stadium to become not only a new warm home for supporters, but also a good neighbour in the district,” explained Ans Persoons, State Secretary for Urbanism and Heritage.
Every Union match, the Joseph Marien Stadium at Chaussée de Bruxelles in Forest still exudes atmosphere, conviviality and history. Unfortunately, the stands and infrastructure no longer meet the standards of a modern football club at the highest level in Belgium, as well as in Europe. The stadium and part of the surrounding Duden Park are listed, which means that much-needed adjustments cannot be implemented. But one thing is clear – Brussels and the supporters of USG deserve a new football temple. The chief architect is supporting the club in its search for a co-designer and in this way guarantees quality architecture.
Philippe Bormans, CEO of Royale Union Saint-Gilloise was also happy with the competition launch: “We want our stadium to provide added value and be a catalyst in embellishing the neighbourhood. By launching this design competition to integrate the stadium into its urban environment, we take an important step. It shows that the Brussels Region and its chief architect are fully contributing to Union’s stadium project. Together with the municipality of Forest, we are continuing our constructive dialogue in the home straight of negotiations.”
The project to develop a new stadium has been ongoing for several years. In 2020, Union already joined forces with the firms ESA and KSS, two references in terms of building football stadiums. Together they have already carried out a lot of architectural work. They determined the site’s possibilities, including the general configuration of the stadium, with its various stands and their interior areas. They also explored the options in terms of the layout of the stands and the effect on sightlines, gradient and space layout. The project will therefore not start from zero.
Indeed, with this call, Union and the chief architect will be looking for a complementary profile. The laureate is expected to be able to join the project immediately. The idea is to turn the stadium into a coherent and flowing visual unit, based on the existing plans and together with the two other architectural firms. The visual identity of the stadium will have to take into account the already designed stadium concept and the reasonably limited perimeter. In the context of a tight timing, the three architects will have to cooperate efficiently.
Besides the aesthetic aspect, the main task of the chosen co-designer is to smoothly integrate the future stadium into its urban environment. It is the express wish of the club and the municipality of Forest to preserve the landscape quality of Bempt park and not to deteriorate it, even with up to 16,000 visitors during peak times. The stadium should also be an asset for locals and its wider surroundings beyond match days.
Headline photo: USG Facebook