Merwede Utrecht: District of the future

The urban development plan for the most modern district of Utrecht has been completed: Merwede. In the future, 12,000 people will live, work and stay in this green, car-free city district. It will be a neighborhood as we do not yet know it on this scale in the Netherlands. The urban development plan (Dutch) was drawn up by the municipality and Bura Urbanism together with ten other owners. As a result of this collaboration, the 24-hectare site between the Merwedekanaal and Park Transwijk will be developed as a whole. Merwede is divided into seventeen building blocks with a high diversity of housing types and functions per building block. Marc Koehler Architects is involved in two building blocks, together with VenhoevenCS and our clients Lingotto, 3T Vastgoed and Janssen de Jong.

Merwede and the Open Courtyard

The Merwede project is part of a large-scale, sustainable and car free urban transformation of a former industrial area in the city Utrecht, the Netherlands. The project consists of two mixed-use city blocks giving space to housing, shops, offices, creative flexwork, bike- and car parking, an activity center, a sportschool, a theater, cafe’s and two big gardens. The 282 housing units, which range from expensive penthouses to social rent housing, from rowhouses to duplex lofts, come together around two lush green landscaped court gardens which are a testament to the social inclusivity of the project. The gardens recreate the Utrecht forest and heath landscapes, using local vegetation and a small brook. The green spills out onto the surrounding building’s facades and roofs which also host a large number of nesting opportunities and create a home for many local insect-, bird-, and animal species. The courtyards also act as a large-scale water buffer for the city by storing rain water and creating a healthy living environment by reducing heat gain, filtering the air, giving green views to the apartments and incorporating meeting and playing areas.

The two city blocks consist of many, vertically oriented buildings, that break down the scale of the blocks.

The buildings have a wide range of different sizes, materials and architectures while conforming to a limited palette of colors and thereby maintaining one continuous urban fabric. In the plinth all buildings are connected, the lower levels are designed for maximal openness to the outside and maximal flexibility on the inside. The containing public program can change over time, made possible by a flexible columned construction.

The high standards for sustainability, together with the comfortable environment created by the roof gardens and the open buildings around them create a resilient neighborhood that is ready for climate change and societal evolution.