1 juni 2021
2820 Rijmenam : Infrastructure works as impetus for renewal
Twenty years in the planning
Marleen Verdoodt (Aquafin): "Until recently, all Rijmenam's domestic wastewater disappeared untreated into the Dijle. Drainage plans to connect the village to the Boortmeerbeek wastewater treatment plant have been in place since 1996, but it took more than twenty years before these plans were implemented. Aquafin and Pidpa were the prime contractor of the sewerage works and the Bonheiden municipal council commissioned the renovation of public spaces.”
As early as 2006, TV Jozef Legrand, an engineering firm in France, charted the outlines for the redevelopment of the Rijmenam village centre, in the image quality plan entitled 'Herinrichting doprskern Rijmenam. Parel aan de Dijle' [Renovation of the village centre of Rijmenam – a Pearl on the Dijle]. The then Flemish property developer Marcel Smets supervised the process. The design aspired to revamp the village as part of the Dijle landscape. This clear vision weighed heavily in the choice of the design team.
Resistance to renewal
The entire planning process took four legislatures. In anticipation of the new sewerage system, Rijmenam hardly invested in public spaces for more than twenty years.
Marianne France (Ingenieursbureau France): "Rijmenam was a transit village: a grey, flat road with hardly any shops or restaurants, unpleasant to walk around, but it had an inner value nonetheless. Fortunately, the municipal council had an eye for it and decided to take advantage of the sewerage works to give the village a thorough makeover.”
"This is not easy to do in a rural village. There was a lot of opposition from the population because the planned redesign was drastic. People have a conservative attitude. Real renewal is possible if a strong design team and an energetic policy go hand in hand with vision. The achievements that have lasted the longest in history have come about because someone put their shoulders to the wheel."
Marleen Verdoodt: “There was a lot of resistance to change. The municipality informed residents continuously about the works and accessibility through the website and a communication campaign. Shopkeepers and traders organized a breakfast for the construction site workers. In the end, everyone is delighted with the new, far greener village centre.”
The plans were not limited to the construction of the sewerage network. Above ground, the municipality also had to decide about traffic circulation and the number of parking spaces. The Sint-Maartensberg central square was turned into an roundabout because four approach roads converge on it. As a result, lorries can leave the village only along one road. Pedestrians thus gain more space and there is room for outdoor cafés and restaurants.
Circular building with local cobblestones
Drainage works and rainwater management were the reason for the redevelopment of the village centre. The superstructure of the public space taps into this programme. This sometimes called for the plans to be phased and for the interests of the clients to be aligned. Marleen Verdoodt: "We rerouted pipes in order to preserve the trees above them. Instead of constructing a moat, the pavement drains into green zones. The car park is asphalted, and drains to the planting areas. Only in the event of a downpour does the excess rainwater run to a planted catchment basin near the Dijle via the separate sewerage system; and at the Stationsplein [station square] the rainwater is collected in a wadi so that it can infiltrate on-site."
The Stationsplein [station square], Sint-Maartensberg and Kloosterplein [cloister square] were paved with cobblestones with open joints on a water-permeable foundation to lets rainwater infiltrate into the soil. Marianne France: "A jointed cobblestone pavement reacts like a concrete slab. Sawn cobblestones with an open joint react like natural soil: water-permeable, sound-absorbing and temperature-regulating. We found old cobblestones in Belgian porphyry under the old asphalt layer. We sawed them down so as to be able to use the original paving. The footpaths were also laid with sawn cobblestones, which were raised to prevent weed growth.”
Contractor Stadsbader-Deckx was responsible for the sewerage works and supervised the detailed finishing of the superstructure.
Sober wooden benches from Urbidermis by Santa & Cole fit beautifully in with the village character and enhance the meeting function of the village centre. ‘Urbidermis' means 'the skin of the city' and is also suitable for a rural village. Marleen Verdoodt: "Rijmenam opted for beautiful materials that give the village a natural, pleasant look. Flower boxes were built with old copings in blue stone, just like the cobblestones recovered from the former street construction."
New green structures flow subtly into the village centre from the Dijle. The public greenery consists largely of perennials that provide variation in the streetscape every season. Marianne France: "The municipal council wanted ecological, indigenous and bee-friendly planting. In order to realise high-quality public greenery, the planting was put out to tender separately. Green contractor Christophe Serneels planted everything and is also responsible for the further maintenance of the greenery."
For their part, the villagers are happy with the result. Since the redevelopment, the residents of the rest home on the Lange Dreef have been walking to the inviting benches on the square. New catering establishments have also found a place in the refurbished village centre. Rijmenam is a pearl on the Dijle once again.