Nederlands English

Site model
Site model

Design for the courtyard garden by J.D. Zocher Jr. in the second half of the 19th century.
Design for the courtyard garden by J.D. Zocher Jr. in the second half of the 19th century.

Exploded view showing the layers of the plan. From below: the site today, key existing buildings with a new duty, new development to complete the block and provide routeing, new urban park generated between the garden walls on the site of the old courtyard.
Exploded view showing the layers of the plan. From below: the site today, key existing buildings with a new duty, new development to complete the block and provide routeing, new urban park generated between the garden walls on the site of the old courtyard.

Overall plan city block
Overall plan city block

Canal houses on Plompetorengracht.
Canal houses on Plompetorengracht.

courtyard dwellings on Wijde Begijnestraat and courtyard dwellings and hotel on Nieuwe Begijnestraat
courtyard dwellings on Wijde Begijnestraat and courtyard dwellings and hotel on Nieuwe Begijnestraat

Impression of new urban park immediately upon entry via the existing gatehouse.
Impression of new urban park immediately upon entry via the existing gatehouse.

Elevation detail of a house on Wijde Begijnhof, a familiar architecture but clearly of these times.
Elevation detail of a house on Wijde Begijnhof, a familiar architecture but clearly of these times.




PROJECTINDEX
 
ROOM FOR THE HISTORIC CITY
Rotterdamse Academie van Bouwkunst
ARCHITECTURE

A design to revitalize a city block in the historic centre of Utrecht by transforming a neglected garden into an urban park and patching the built development with new dwellings
Room for the historic city is about reusing urban space and opening it up to the public. In the medieval centre of Utrecht, there is a lot of unused and unallocated outdoor space shut away from the public urban fabric. One example is the courtyard of the overdeveloped city block on Plompetorengracht in the old northern part of the city. A space overgrown with greenery constitutes an empty plot in a block that has itself steadily seized up. It is a space of enormous potential and therefore under intense pressure from developers. Space is a scarce commodity in the city and is often used for compaction purposes.
Historical research shows that the plot was designed as a private garden for the house at Plompetorengracht 18. The garden was designed by J.D. Zocher Jr. in the latter half of the 19th century as part of his design for the 'singel' or tree-lined canal surrounding the old town centre. The lush garden became detached from the buildings over time and the plot fell into disuse. In Room for the historic city I have chosen to make the area part of the public urban fabric by adding a housing programme to it. This programme is not to be sited in the garden but used to supplement the city block.
A familiar restoration technique for wood products involves removing unusable parts and replacing them with new parts of identical shape and size, giving the product renewed significance and purpose. In this project I have applied this technique at the scale of the city and of individual dwellings. It transforms the garden into a public urban park, a place of repose in which you can escape the bustling city, a place when the city noise is silenced and you find yourself in another world. The city block has been added to with great precision, with three new openings serving as entrances to the park.
Each of the park's three entrances has its own scale, and all lock into the ambience of the neighbouring area. On the side facing the city centre, the existing square has been extended inwards. This creates a natural urban transition in the gradation from public to private. Townhouses stand along the new square, together with a hotel, their design a continuation of the present urban elevations.
The canal side gets a forecourt made by adding a new volume at right angles to the frontage. The forecourt causes the pavement to widen, focusing attention on the entrance to the park.
On the side of the 'singel', the existing 19th-century gatehouse has been reinstated as a gateway. The street is completed by adding 'wall-houses' that call the visitor's attention to the gateway. These are set back with regard to the wall so that the elevation is unbroken but the gatehouse is emphasized.
The architecture of the new-build conforms to the existing in material, scale and presence. The detailing by contrast is recognizably contemporary. The dwellings span a variety of types. Shallow multiple-storey townhouses stand along the square, their negligible depth generating serious interaction between square and inhabitation. The deep dwellings on the canal faces onto the forecourt. On the side to the tree-lined singel the dwellings are set back from the street so that these are more private, with a shared forecourt separating them from the public street.
The park is framed again, from the inside outwards, by adding to existing garden walls and having the three key buildings set foot in the park. This closes off the park from the private developments alongside and makes it part of the public urban fabric. This additional programmatic form adds a new layer to the fabric, one in which the riches of the historic city can be experienced. It is a compaction whose focus is the received cultural historical values of the city of Utrecht.