Municipality Knokke-Heist, Dr. Ir. Philippe Samyn and Partners, Goethals Promotor, PSR and Jan De Nul Group partnered up in 2017 to realise this high-value new build and urban renewal project, with a very impressive result today: the glass dome at the centre of the plaza.
The plaza itself will be completed after the summer holidays. At the same time, the hospitality business will start fitting out the interior of the dome, followed by the grand opening.
The renovated Albertplein will bring added value for Knokke-Heist at different levels. The underground space is optimised with the building of a private car park offering 150 parking spaces for local residents, holiday makers and residents of neighbouring streets who struggle with a real shortage of parking spaces. Aboveground, the Albertplein is an ode to light that invites to see and be seen – with at its centre the prestigious glass hospitality pavilion and water feature. Space has been created all around including space for benches.
The refurbishment of the Albertplein is not only visual. Utilities too, such as sewers and ducts, have been completely replaced.
Piet De Groote, Mayor of Knokke-Heist: “The Albertplein is a square with a rich history that has become famous far beyond the city limits, including the national borders, over the past century. The plaza was built in 1908 and 1909 and underwent several metamorphoses. After 3 years of activity, Albertplein 3.0 is almost completed. It is a modern design to which everyone literally contributed a few coins. Indeed, we collected 11,000 old coins, which were integrated in the gigantic black & white board. This turns the new Place m’as tu vu into a real plaza for everyone.”
Johan Geeroms, Managing Director PSR (project developer at Jan De Nul Group): “During the construction period, we not only achieved a valuable architectural revamping of the plaza aboveground, but below ground level too, we created added value, for local residents and neighbouring streets, who had been struggling for years with a shortage of parking spaces. Today, we are therefore very proud to inaugurate the plaza officially with our partners. The Albertplein can once again become the beating heart of Knokke-Heist.”
Luc Goethals, Managing Director at Goethals Promotor: “This high-value urban renewal project is very dear to us. It offered us the opportunity to contribute to the revival of the plaza in this coastal town, where we have been active for more than 30 years. Our local experience enables us to understand the needs and wants of buyers on this coastal area particularly well. The offer of about 150 private closed car parks at the Zoute is very much appreciated by existing and new owners.”
The glass pavilion is the eyecatcher on the plaza
The glass dome at the centre of the square, just like the plaza itself, was designed by Dr. Ir. Philippe Samyn and Partners. It is a technical prowess; indeed, there are no supporting structures inside the dome. An ingenious system of bars and connectors provides the necessary stability. This technique was named ‘ISONODE structure’.
Dirk Van Rompaey, Manager Civil Division at Jan De Nul Group: “The construction of this dome reminds us of the well-known Meccano sets, but then top-level. The shape is simple, but the structure is complex. Each element of the dome is unique and fits perfectly in the jigsaw puzzle. To build the dome, we used two cranes holding the stainless-steel supporting structure suspended in the air. Hanging from it, we constructed the dome top-down and sideways.”
11,000 old coins brighten up the plaza
In 2022, residents, holidaymakers and visitors were asked to donate coins that were taken out of circulation to the Matuvu project. Everyone had the opportunity to help build their new ‘Place m’as-tu-vu’.
This initiative was highly successful; the developers collected more than 11,000 coins. Together with replica coins, they were integrated in the black concrete tiles on the plaza. Alternating with white tiles, a giant chessboard comes to life.
The most famous square in Knokke-Heist is back
In the fifties, the square became the meeting place par excellence for the rich and famous. This is where Charles Aznavour, Edith Piaf, Frank Sinatra, Jacques Brel and Josephine Baker often enjoyed a drink. However, over the past few years, the square had lost its charisma. The hospitality industry disappeared and so did the beau monde.
In 2017, the municipality of Knokke-Heist changed this with its urban renewal project Matuvu. The Albertplein would once again have its high-quality appearance. The municipal council started the renovation works at the Albertplein with the ambition to turn the beating heart of the town once again into the ‘place to be’ it once was.