Union open design contest for planned venue


Competition launched for Union Saint-Gilloise stadium Image: Joseph Marien Stadium, Paul Hermans, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Belgian Pro League club Royale Union Saint-Gilloise (Belgium) and the independent Government official Brussels Bouwmeester/Maître Architecte (Chief Architect) jointly launched an open architectural competition recently for Union’s planned venue.

‘rusg.brussels’ stated that the objective behind holding the competition is to appoint a co-designer for the integration of Union’s future football stadium into its surroundings at the Bempt site in Forest (sports and recreation area).

The Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, abbreviated to Union SG, USG or Union, is a Belgian professional football club originally located in the Municipality of Saint-Gilles in Brussels (Belgium), although since the 1920s it has been based at the Joseph Marien Stadium in the neighboring Municipality of Forest (a municipality in the Brussels-Capital Region of Belgium). It plays in the Belgian Pro League, the top league competition for association football clubs in Belgium.

The Joseph Marien Stadium is a multiuse stadium located within Duden Park in the Municipality of Forest in Brussels, Belgium. It is currently used mostly for football matches and is the home ground of the Royale Union Saint-Gilloise. The stadium holds 9,400 spectators since 2018 and was opened in the year 1919.

The Brussels Bouwmeester is an independent Government official who monitors the quality of urban development projects in the Brussels-Capital Region in Central Belgium. The current Bouwmeester is Kristiaan Borret, who has held the position since 2015.

The Bempt site in Forest, Brussels (Belgium) is a sports and recreation area. It’s currently used as a warehouse for the municipal services of Forest.

The Royale Union Saint-Gilloise is building a new stadium on an abandoned industrial site. The site is located about 2.3 km Southwest of the club’s current home – the Joseph Marien Stadium.

The final design for the new stadium is expected in June 2024. The permit application can be submitted after the final design is completed. The current Joseph Marien Stadium was built in 1919 and renovated in the 1920s. It cannot be expanded due to its listed premises and the surrounding parkland. The stadium has an art deco façade and is located in the middle of the City. It lacks modern infrastructure, so Union is forced to play its European matches elsewhere.

‘rusg.brussels’ further stated that it is for the first time that a public design competition related to the development of a football stadium has been launched in Belgium. Interested design firms can present their design ideas until November 6th, 2023.

Averred Ans Persoons, State Secretary for Urbanism and Heritage, “With the launch of the architecture competition for a football stadium, we have proved that quality holds topmost priority for us. And a top-tier club like Union deserves nothing but the best. When the stakeholders involved are on the same page, we can definitely meet major targets and give development a leg-up in Brussels. My predecessor Pascal Smet initiated the stadium project and I am continuing his work as a facilitator between the club and the municipality. We want that the venue should provide the best-of-breed facilities for the fans the club should work in the interests of the community on which the facility will sit.”

Put in Philippe Bormans, head honcho of Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, “We want that the new home of Union provide added value and help in bringing a 360 degree change to the neighborhood. By launching the above-mentioned design competition to integrate the stadium into its urban environment, we are taking an important step. It shows that the Brussels Region and its Chief Architect are fully contributing to the Union’s stadium project. Together with the Municipality of Forest, we will strive to build the best venue for the Union.”

For every Union match, the Joseph Marien Stadium at Chaussée de Bruxelles in Forest still exudes a lot of warmth and the typical stadium environment complete with fans’ chants. Unfortunately, the stands and the venue infrastructure no longer meets the criteria required to host big-ticket soccer matches.

The Union definitely deserve a new football stadium and to this end, the next step has been initiated.

Design Timeline:

  • The deadline for submitting applications closes at 11am on November 6th, 2023;
  • On November 14th, four selected design teams will be invited to submit bids. A site visit and dialog will follow;
  • The deadline for submitting bids closes on December 22nd, 2023 at 11 am;
  • The advisory committee will look into the bids and the design contract will be awarded to the best design team in January 2024; and
  • The planned new stadium’s final design is expected to be unveiled in June 2024 and the permit application will be submitted subsequently.

The Union have been planning a new home venue for several years now. In the year 2020, the Union joined forces with the design firms ESA and KSS. The winning team will work with ESA and KSS, who have already created initial concepts for the new facility.

The design firms studied the sites, including the general configuration of the stadium with its various stands and their interior areas. They also explored the options in terms of the layout of the stands and the effect on sightlines, gradient and space layout. Therefore, the design work of the venue project has already made headway.

London (UK)-based ESA Architecture has a long and distinguished history and has been established for over 100 years with offices in London and Manchester (UK). It focuses on providing an excellent design and delivery architectural service to its clients and a creative interactive working environment for all its staff and collaborators.

The KSS Design Group is an award-winning AJ100 chartered architecture, interior and graphic design practice based in Central London and Sevenoaks, Kent (UK). It specializes in the design of major #sports venues and training facilities, #educational projects and #residential developments, and has a reputation for providing high-quality design backed by sound commercial judgment and a client-focused professional service.

Once the third design team is finalized, the task of the three design firms will be to smoothly integrate the future stadium into its urban environment. The Union as well as the Municipality of Forest have made it clear that the pristine sheen of the Bempt Park will have to be retained and the stadium will have to benefit the community on which it will sit.

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