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Date

2019-2020

Client

Gemeente Helmond

Location

Helmond

Status

Completed

Metamorphosis from factory site to green city park

When walking on the promenade in the Burgemeester Geukerspark, you would hardly guess that this park used to be a factory site. Thanks to 26,000 plants and more than twenty different types of trees, greenery rather than concrete now prevails. Children play on and around the water of the Stads Aa and on a sunny day it is fantastic to sit on one of the benches or wooden cubes in the park. This metamorphosis in Helmond city centre, which was accompanied by a number of technical challenges, took us just over a year to complete.

Concrete, drainage engineering, pipes and cables

The Stads Aa, a stream that used to flow freely through these parts, once again meanders through this park. However, the stream did need some help rising back up from where it had previously been underground. To facilitate its reemergence, we constructed various concrete structures and overflow pits near the retaining walls on both sides. These were critical points, involving complicated drainage engineering, not to mention having to deal with an enormous tangle of underground pipes and cables.

A single mistake here would mean that a large part of the city would be without power and water. Less critical, but still important, is the finish on both sides, with lovely brick walls and chic railings. Along the stream we made a structure of sheet piling sides and a concrete apron, topped with a masonry wall of basalt blocks and China granite, which we custom designed per block and pieced together like a puzzle. The result is a smooth structure that is fully integrated with the natural stone promenade, benches and bridges in the park.

Smart engineering and complex civil works

We optimized several aspects of the original plan. For example, we came up with the idea of replacing the planned concrete floor underneath the bottom of the pond with a floating pond bed that would move along as the sheet piling settled over time. We made the foundation much lighter by replacing the concrete with expanded polystyrene (EPS), resulting in the foundation piles being no longer needed. We installed water play equipment along the elongated steps, providing plenty of fun for children on hot summer days. For this we laid foundations, made pipe openings and a water connection in the concrete foundation of the steps. At Helmond Castle, 400 meters from the project site, we installed an underground rainwater drainage system with an inlet system from the canal to the underground part of the Stads Aa. This new connection to the canal ensures that the Stads Aa is filled with water at low tide as well. We also constructed a pump well at Waardstraat road with rainwater drainage to the canal, for the temporary drainage of the water in the Stads Aa. 

When we started there was already a good basic design; however, it is something we have encountered previously and we know that there is almost always room for improvement. Take the engineering of a pedestrian bridge in the park, for example: the original design had not taken into account that the bridge should also be accessible to the fire brigade. We always look critically at the plans we receive from our clients, asking ourselves, “Has everything been carefully thought through?” “Are the assumptions still correct?” And “Can it be done smarter, more economically, better?” In Helmond the result is clear: the city has gained a beautiful new park. 

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