WBI / Belle-Île


The project in Belle-Ile (Liège, Belgium) is an extension and renovation of a shopping center located between 2 waterways, the river Ourthe and the ‘Canal de l’Ourthe’. The place is popular for shopping, but is also located on the famous ravel that runs along the Ourthe. So it is also an important destination for leisure activities such as cycling, hiking and simply enjoying nature. The Canal de l’Ourthe is now a Natura 2000 site.
The actual shopping center is from the 1990s. It consists of a late post-modern, introverted volume that stands above an enormous parking lot. The footprint of the existing building is approximately 35,000 m² and can be seen as 3 different, unmixed layers: 35,000 m2 of parking on the ground floor, 35,000 m2 of shopping center on level +1 and finally 35,000 m2 of unused roof.
The dichotomy between the shopping center itself and its environment is obvious. This very strange state represented a challenge we wanted to tackle from the start: How do you create a new typology of urbanity and how do you break open such an introverted ensemble?
The extension we propose turns the shopping center inside out. Rather than introversion, we suggest opening the mall completely to its surroundings, making the public space around the complex the heart of the project. The project cascades towards the Canal de l’Ourthe in a succession of landscaped and programmed open terraces. The program of the extension breaks with the monofunctional commercial space to offer a series of mixed functions such as co-working, catering and sports.
The new terraces are a succession of plateaus that create a movement to every level of the existing building, including the reprogrammed roof. They are planted with native flowers and plants, as well as fruit-bearing trees that are part of an “edible city” concept.
The suspended basketball court is positioned to serve as a cover for the main entrance square, where recreation, nature and city all connect and work together.
This project should be seen as the first phase of a much larger scenario in which the existing programming is further expanded to transform the shopping center into an active part of the city of Liège.