The Waterschei area, in the town of Genk, has a strong garden-city concept which represented a very clear urban idea, able to resist to the dramatic change of its role in the city and to local population substitution. Designed and realized on philanthropic purpose for the families of mine workers of nearby plants, Waterschei had since its establishment a center composed by, like other coeval examples, a school, two colleges, the church and port fields. From the beginning the center was planned, by Verwilghen and after by Vautquenne, where the both major axes of the city cross. The place was designed as a campus where the most important public equipment were to be placed. The mines shut-down and the dispersion of equipment in the city of Genk, leaves Waterschei today without a role and a precise significance: the campus is an empty space searching for a new identity. What we proposed was the reinforcement of the role, almost evident, of the site as a central place and reference in the urban structure of Waterschei: a sort of podium.
The term podium has a double meaning: in a physical sense, as in our case, it refers to a terrain raised compared to the context, a sunk base with small level differences emerging as a low relief; in a functional sense, it refers to a terrain where the major collective equipment are placed : symbolically visible for its difference from the context, a place that marks a discontinuity in the homogeneous landscape of the garden-city. The podium is the support of different types of buildings: public equipment and housing.
As in a low relief it takes advantage from the level differences to give order to public and private spaces: garden, places, pedestrian ways, parking and roads. The design of the spaces gives a structure to the podium. To the interior of this structure, the different objects, the old school transformed into housings, the new school with its the day-care center, the commercial spaces, the club and the café of the parish and the new patio houses are disposed as in a campus, easily accessible and not disturbing mutually. The typological variety is very high and each is in relation with the different kind of open spaces it refers to. Around the old school courtyard, protecting its old brick and wooden structures, group houses with small private gardens, but also small apartments for the elderly; on the main road side the apartments have interior courtyard and commerce at the ground level. Along the interior axis of public spaces the patio houses and a higher building, which indicates the cultural center.