Designing the future while protecting the past

26 May 2020 - Published by Sophie Rabasch


Preliminary study in the city of Mechelen

As part of the ACCESS project, a testing ground for a local energy community is being set up in the Eandistip parking building in the city of Mechelen, Belgium. A mobility hub with state-of-the-art electrical charging infrastructure, will be built in the new Keerdok car park building outside the city. It will be powered by green energy, locally generated using solar panels. The aim is to develop the Keerdok pilot as an example for other European cities concerned about the energy transition. 

ACCESS falls within the city's administrative agreement, which endorses innovative techniques to support the energy transition through urban renewal projects. 

At the beginning of this year, the city of Mechelen issued a tender for a preliminary study contract, to assess the local energy centre at the building level. 

Seven enthusiastic companies submitted their applications. Based on price, plan of action and expertise, the consortium of Think-ei.LECO and Sureal were ultimately appointed to work out the preliminary contract.

They are currently investigating how local energy production can be optimised. To map out the charging infrastructure requirements, they are using mobility data and the geographical location of Keerdok. Part of the contract also involves assessing the method of energy storage as well as the energy management system falls. An economic and technical analysis will also be included in the final report to ensure a comprehensive understanding of how to best set up the pilot.

Beyond this preliminary study, the city of Mechelen's project team is working closely with all the involved stakeholders to build a new, ecological landmark.


Archaeological research on the site

One of the tourist attractions in the historic centre of Mechelen is the UNESCO-protected site of the Large Beguinage. A beguinage was an enclosed community, established by the Beguines, women who dedicated their lives to God without withdrawing from the world as entirely as nuns. They emerged in the 13th century and were architectural structures, enclosed by walls or surrounded by ditches, with gates opening to the outside world during the day. 

This particular beguinage was built in the second half of the 13th century on the river Dijle, covering approximately 20 hectares and enclosed by walls and canals. At its peak in the middle of the 16th century, the beguinage would have counted almost 100 convents and 1,500 beguines. 

Sixteenth-century martial violence brought an abrupt end to the region's prosperous development. In 1578, Mechelen's city council burned down the original beguinage to prevent Spanish troops from using it as a base of operations in the event of a siege. Difficult years followed for the beguines and they fled to the city centre. The beautiful Large and Small Beguinages they built within the city walls can still be visited today in Mechelen but, unfortunately, you won't find any beguines left!

The site of the Eandistip building is located within the zone where the original beguinage existed. This much has been confirmed by the archaeological preliminary research that was carried out recently. During this limited investigation, wall remains and potholes were already uncovered. 

Before starting the construction of the basement of the Eandistip building, an archaeological excavation will be carried out over an area of almost 4,000 m².

The excavation can not only provide more insight into the history of the beguinage, but also uncover new information to confirm and disprove existing theories. This pilot site will look to the future by developing innovative energy solutions while learning from the city's rich historical legacy. Something to look forward to!

The archaeological excavation will start in August and/or September 2020 and will take approximately 4 to 6 weeks.


by Ann Vandeurzen en Wim Vandevorst