Park Laagraven Utrecht

The area between Nieuwegein, Houten and Utrecht threatens to be designated as a housing location in the future. Flux has come up with an alternative plan, in which the potential of this area as a landscape park and green area for the Utrecht metropolitan region is fully utilized. Park Laagraven offers a new approach to landscapes in a context of the increasing urbanization in the Province of Utrecht. Landscapes with a strong identity are desperately needed as a counterbalance to the increasing urban pressure. The idea for Park Laagraven arose as an own initiative, from the need for a radically new vision of our rural areas and thus an alternative future perspective for this area.

Population numbers and associated housing ambitions in the province of Utrecht continue to rise. The urban area will therefore continue to expand.Although the emphasis is on inner-city densification, compact cities and villages in an open landscape are no longer possible. Together with surrounding centers such as Nieuwegein, Houten and Bilthoven, the city of Utrecht will also increasingly develop into a true metropolitan region, in which the relationship between city and landscape will change completely. This requires a new approach with a stronger interpretation of Utrecht's outlying areas and their qualities. Instead of a simple urban development exercise, Flux proposes to develop the area as a landscape park. We call this new landscape park for the Utrecht metropolitan region Park Laagraven. The strategy consists of the following components:

1. From shredded green to a whole

The landscapes in the province of Utrecht are striking and varied, with the culturally-historically valuable Green Heart, the lake area, the river landscapes and the Utrechtse Heuvelrug with its estates and extensive forests. The area between Nieuwegein, Houten and Utrecht forms an important link between these different landscapes. It could develop into a gateway for city dwellers to reach these areas by bicycle or on foot. However, due to the growth of large-scale infrastructure, arbitrary allocation of functions, cluttering of the landscape and new urban developments, the area threatens to fragment further and eventually disappear. The area now mainly manifests itself as a residual space and rear. Flux advocates an approach in which the area is not regarded as a residual space, but as an actual destination and an area with a strong identity of its own. By means of this approach, the area can be saved from further housing development and a green area is created that can function as a lung for surrounding urban areas.

2. A productive and purifying park

Park Laagraven is an attractive landscape park in which various functions and tasks are given a place. There are recreational routes for different uses, swimming areas at swimming pools, canals and all kinds of sports facilities. An important cultural-historical carrier of the park is the Dutch water line. The park also plays an important role in purifying household waste water, retaining rainwater, providing clean drinking water, producing fruit and vegetables and generating energy. There is room for about 190 hectares of food production, 12 wind turbines and 150 hectares of forest for the storage of CO2 and the production of circular building materials. Peak showers of 50mm are no problem thanks to the 65-hectare retention area. During peak rainfall the park keeps surrounding urban areas dry and provides water for a livable city in drier times. The park is created in a circular manner. Excavated soil is reused for the partial covering of the A12. By concentrating all these functions and programs in the landscape park, sensitive landscapes in the region can be spared from these space claims.

3. Housing as an engine for development

The housing assignment is an integral part of the development of the landscape park. Part of the proceeds from the approximately 15,000 homes that can be built here will be included in a park fund. The new Utrecht landscape park can be financed from this fund. Housing will be located on the edges of the park and form an attractive façade towards the park. Houten, Nieuwegein and Utrecht all can expand in this way with an attractive address adjacent to new landscape park. In addition to these densely built-up city fringes, the park offers the possibility of an extensive residential environment in the form of small-scale self-sufficient clusters of nature-inclusive housing. New roofs establish the relationship with the landscape park and also provide a new ground level for housing. Neighborhoods behind the motorway will also get a better connection with the countryside.

4. Front sides and new connections

The design pays a lot of attention to optimal connections between city and park. There are bridges over infrastructure and striking entrances provide access to the park. For residents of urban areas around the area and also the larger landscapes are suddenly accessible by bicycle, walking or skating through a variation of routes. There are play areas and swimming pools.

Utrecht, commissioned by provinciaal adviseur ruimtelijke kwaliteit Provincie Utrecht Paul Roncken i.c.w. TU Delft, Flux landscape architecture, 2021