In the 1990s, there as a renewed attention on city centres – a welcome development after decades in which attention had been concentrated on designing urban expansion areas and rehabilitating nineteenth-century urban districts. B+B began the trend with the ‘De Kern Gezond’ project for The Hague. The firm was then approached by several cities with high expectations for the added value of an attractive public space. Cities suffered from a worn-out appearance and a lack of identity: the concrete paving stone from the 1970s, for example, no longer fulfilled aesthetic requirements. B+B, now armed with substantial experience with city centres, wrote in 1995: ‘There is always one central question: What are the city’s qualities and how can these be strengthened? And at the same time it must be bore in mind that it is not the task of the city to respond well to whatever treatment one applies to it, but rather, that the designer must be willing to do something that the city is up to.’
The designer’s starting point was taken from the ambiance of a historic town as the convivial and hospitable character typical of the Netherlands’ southern provinces. In Breda the atmosphere was underscored through a consistent use of robust granite and bluestone in muted grey hues to reduce the visual agitation of the street scene. The city’s Great Square was relieved of its parking functions and paved with natural stone. Tuesdays and Fridays, the square is filled with market stalls; the rest of the week, it is characterized by a splendid emptiness, with the square’s smooth surface giving support to the visual impact of the surrounding historic buildings. Following the renovation, the shopping public remained in the city centre for longer periods than before.
- Location: Grote Markt, Breda, Netherlands
- constructed: 1996
- Client: municipality of Breda
- Area: 30 ha