Design innovation on the Vennestraat in Genk


Photo: Lofi Studios

What was the problem?

The shops and restaurants of the Vennestraat in Genk are remarkably multicultural: Bistro ‘t Vennehuys, the Greek chip shop, La Posta, Casa Paglia, ‘t Konijntje, Dudemsa, and others. Together they form the ‘Street of the Senses’, as the city and the merchants promote the Vennestraat since 2007. Since the recent closure of the Ford automobile factory in the neighborhood, the street took on the opportunity to strengthen its coherence and image, and to connect more closely to the C-mine development area. C-mine is a transformed mining site – now functioning as a cultural centre, cinema and art school – and is one of the central pivots of the new developments in Genk.

What did they do?

The city of Genk and IDE commissioned Thomas Lommée, Christiane Högner and Veerle Verbakel, together with Lhoas&Lhoas Architects, to develop makeover concepts for six selected shops. For doing so, first workshops were held with the stakeholders. The designers used the macro vision these stakeholders held of the street to develop a micro vision for each selected shop. Attention was given to facades, lettering, graphic design, terraces, the tactile presence of the goods and the stimulation of visitors by showing crafts. Also, the context of the street was addressed. They considered the lighting, festive decoration, interventions on blind walls, ‘greening’, transport, perhaps even an access portal or gangway from C-mine to the Vennestraat. All those ideas contributed to strengthening the identity and attraction of the street.


Photo: Lofi Studios

What was the result?

The method, which is created for this trajectory and is transferable to other shopping streets, attempts to connect the various parties with each other and to create synergies. Service design is applied by the design team as a tool to achieve certain ideas of the merchants, residents and customers and to create a dialogue.

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