The Schaerbeek Forming site, a 60-hectares-big, 150-year-old railway platform, is the last large wasteland in Brussels. It harbors a rich biodiversity that has found shelter in the seams of a hybrid landscape that combines features of the Holocene floodplain of the Senne river with those resulting from the Anthropocene disruptions in the form of arid, rocky talus and calcarean meadows.
The construction of the metro line 3, close-by, will produce over 1 million tons of inert excavated earth. The city is thinking of ways to reuse this massive amount locally; given that most of it is sold to be exported. Further, the city keeps on importing topsoil from agricultural areas, to be used as substrate for our beloved parks and green areas. Such soil takes centuries to be created: once it’s peeled off-site, not only the quality of the available agricultural soil is compromised but also the web of life that depends on it is disrupted.
We propose to create a productive site where “technosoil” could be formed with the leftovers of the excavation works, by combining it with construction waste material and organic city waste to achieve a healthy, fertile soil. Spatially, it reconverts the outdated railway platform in a new form of productive landscape that stays true to the economic vocation of this part of the city. A productive landscape that generates an economic value while also empowering existing and new ecosystems.
Using the existing rail infrastructures, the soil is transported and mixed on site, forming piles of soil and recreating hills. Some hills are intended as permanent, and periodically see their peak rise to sink again under the weight. Others move and disappear as the soil is used outside the plot. In between the hills, new forests are planted to cool down the temperatures on site. That way, the warm air transported from the canal to the city, helping to exacerbate the heat island effect during the warmest days, could be reverted onto a cool breeze bringing solace. This positive impact can be magnified by the Senne river day-lighted on the site’s edge.
Ancillary to the soil treatment, a lodging facility for workers and visitors, and an information center is proposed. Eventually, a market for soil derivatives could be installed on-site, attracting visitors through the promenade linked to the green trail that encircles the city today, creating a landscape that would revive the former valley scenery.