The future Central Square district, the vibrant heart of the Square Mile

A link between the Terrasse des Hauts-Fourneaux, the university district, and the residential quarters of Belval Nord and Belval Sud, Central Square will be both a shopping quarter, a business quarter and a stimulating residential space: where you can experience the quintessential Belval lifestyle.

9 Min Read

Let’s jump forward three years on the calendar: here we are in 2023. You are a proud new resident of Central Square. The sun caresses the picture windows of your apartment, immersing the kitchen in a warm light in the early morning. Through the window the blast furnaces are thrown into relief to the east. Their imposing silhouette always gives you a little thrill, even from a few hundred metres.

Straight ahead, the new Place des Bassins shines in golden light. Dozens of sinter plant workers used to work around these old basins. Last night, there was a spontaneous concert, applauded by a small crowd comfortably seated in the tiers of the south basin.

Just time to get a croissant from the bakery on the ground floor, and the day begins. It’s great, your new neighbourhood. Central Square is the mixed neighbourhood par excellence: a sort of second centre in Belval, nested in the Square Mile mixed neighbourhood. To think that a few years ago, all you could find here was a huge car park.

Keeping at it

To arrive at this design, AGORA’s architects and urban planners have had to revise their copy several times. Central Square was not envisioned like this in the original masterplan of the Square Mile in 2002. This complex merged with the other blocks of buildings in the business quarter, separated by a highly symmetrical street grid and a rigid pedestrian axis. “The crisis of 2008 forced us to return to the drawing board,” explains Beate Heigel, project manager architect at AGORA.

beate higel

“Experts were invited by AGORA. At the end of much hard thinking, the concept of a new centre of gravity in the quarter prevailed. ”

It was the KCAP office in Rotterdam, that developed this new configuration and gave birth to Central Square: “a configuration enabling it to be divided into smaller plots to be allotted to multiple developers and giving a more differentiated range of volumes and heights,” says Beate Heigel. The pedestrian area, previously designed as a continuous axis, is now more fragmented.

A square like no other

The result: a quarter where the idea of the street almost disappears, to form a gigantic urban pavement on which mixed-use buildings will be set up, housing shops on the ground floor and offices or apartments on the upper floors, never exceeding nine floors. “The further west we go the more residential space will increase,” points out Jean-Xavier Foidart, Development Manager.

jean-xavier foidart

“Eventually, it is expected that there will be 3,000 residents, the majority living at the end of the Square towards the park. Occupancy around the Place des Bassins will be much more mixed. It will provide 14,000 square metres of retail space. In this section, offices will accommodate up to 3,500 employees during the day. ”

Unprecedented in Luxembourg

This is completely unprecedented in the Grand Duchy. Never before has such a district existed in the south of Luxembourg, a region where industrial activities have always shaped the landscape with the imposing volumes of factories. The buildings of the Square Mile reproduce these volumes. This contrasts sharply with the linear urbanism of its direct environment. “The reference to large scales remains, the allocation of uses change,” says Beate Heigel.

The KCAP project has also been selected for its “strong identity”, adds the project lead architect. “In particular, KCAP goes a long way in developing the desired visual appearance of the buildings. For example, they submitted a vision on a human scale, on the one hand by creating a rhythm through the succession of vertical lines of the buildings, and on the other hand by emphasising the harmony of colours and materials, from the bottom to the top, from the façade of the ground floor shops to the upper floors.”

beate higel

Did you say sharing?

In Central Square, harmony and collaboration reign. Rarely have developers been invited to work together, with the municipalities and under the coordination of AGORA. The objective is to define the overall architectural and urban planning, the business concept and the shared management of parking spaces.

“It’s rare to see this kind of collaboration for car parks,” observes Jean-Xavier Foidart. But it is obvious to us that, for example, parking spaces used by office staff during the day can then be used by Rockhal concertgoers in the evening. Creating several car parks for these uses would be a waste of space; we prefer to only build one and use it better. It requires a good spirit of collaboration between the different parties. ”

jean-xavier foidart

These united developers, having bought plots in the quarter and around Place des Bassins, form what AGORA has called the “Club of 5”. They adhered to a common business plan in which they promise not to compete too directly with each other: such agreements are quite rare.

Diversity, coherence and collaboration are the watchwords for Atenor, owner of an area of 22,500 m2 mainly used as offices, for Perrard-Eiffage and its housing project, for the Corcelli-Technoconsult Group with housing and hotel project. The mixed-use buildings of the developers Tralux and Luxembourg Capital Holding are also part of the club.

The Place des Bassins, in all its splendour

Place des Bassins, the focal point of the quarter, is a reminder of its thriving industrial past. In the 70s, ArcelorMittal had erected a complete sintering plant there.

Of all this, only two superbly refurbished basins will soon remain: the smaller one, to the south, will be transformed into a public square in the form of an open-air amphitheatre; the larger one, to the north, will preserve the traces of the past with a square and a restaurant, as well as a glass structure around the water. To connect the two spaces and make them accessible, a ramp will form a sort of “loop” delicately following the contours of the basins.

The architects of METAFORM (L), in collaboration with the landscape designers of Latz+Partner (D) and the structural engineers HLG (LU), have developed this concept, which combines the need for a pleasant public space for pedestrians with the need for a vibrant event venue right in the heart of Central Square and Square Mile.

Stimulating challenges

The difficulty was to create basins with the different depth levels over a relatively limited area, and to create a link from these activities with the reference level of the square,” explains Beate Heigel. The north basin is nevertheless 12 metres deep. In its project, METAFORM also envisioned a layout integrating the old concrete wall; we were charmed. ”

jean-xavier foidart – beate higel

For residents and visitors alike, the north basin will also be the site of vibrant experiences: a lounge bar and a restaurant will be set up there. Guests will be able to enjoy an atypical atmosphere and view on each side of the basin.

With Central Square, AGORA’s know-how is more than ever on display as it plays a pioneering role in urban development. Nothing less.

What are the most significant urban planning principles? How do residential districts embody modern urban life? How do squares shape public space?
The ” Libre accès ” series shares with you the keys of AGORA’s products.

Discover all the articles of this series by clicking on the tag below.

Share This Article