In a while, there will be apple trees blooming and ornamental grass waving. Now it's nothing more than a huge pile of sand. Excavating machines are parked criss-cross on top of it. It’s this pile that is keeping neighbours from the opposite farm and art studio De Vrijstaat from catching a glimpse of residential project Greenville. They are curious about it though: who is going to be living there?
“People who love being surrounded by nature and liveliness”, is what Heijmans’ commercial regional manager Michiel Jongmans believes. In roughly one year, the farm will overlook a green oasis: An East facing stepped building with 123 homes, covered with trees and plants, with a park right out front. “The green areas of both places will gradually blend together.”
And it’s all happening right beside a shopping centre and nearby a train station: Greenville is arising in one of the last open spots in the South of Leidsche Rijn Centre. This new part of Utrecht is the largest new-build location in the Netherlands: up to 2025, 33,000 homes will be built here to house approximately 100,000 people.
Heijmans’ contribution consists of two projects. Besides Greenville, Michiel and his colleagues also won the contract to develop the plot across from Greenville: Vestibule. This complex of 48 city lofts, apartments and penthouses will welcome its residents in two years’ time. Heijmans won the contract as its plan shows ‘architectural quality and a high level of sustainability’.
Heijmans wins tender in Leidsche Rijn Centrum district125 urban homes and apartments in a semi-enclosed building block.
Meeting in the green
In the Greenville site cabin, Michiel meets the head designers: Bert Dirrix and Arie van der Neut. They worked on the plans in various settings. Dirrix is creating the common thread in the Greenville design, a collaboration between Bedaux de Brouwer Architects, Hilberink Bosch Architects and his own diederendirrix.
Studioninedots partner Arie van der Neut is working on Vestibule. Landscaping architects Flux signed up to create the landscape design for both projects, and Jo Coenen Architects and Urbanists are responsible for the urban plan.
Meeting and green are the starting points for both projects, the three of them explain. Arie van der Neut opens the tender book to outline his design: “Vestibule is one of three apartment complexes along the future Park Leeuwesteyn and along the Madridstraat. On one side, residents will overlook the green area, and on the other side the street dynamics.
As we wanted to create a link to that dynamic environment and avoid a so-called ‘dead plinth’, we designed a glass porch, i.e. vestibule as a central entrance. Full of plants, so you will see a green wall from the street. Everyone enters the building through the vestibule, before they head to their homes. It’s a place where people meet, full of activity, where things happen.”
A green wreath
The design is also characterised by lush vegetation. “Vestibule is, so to speak, surrounded by a green wreath”, says Arie. “To begin with, every home and private outdoor area looks out onto trees or plants. And every resident can sense the presence of Park Leeuwesteyn and Hof Monaco with farm De Vrijstaat.”
According to Arie, greenery on top of and around the building also helps to buffer noise, fine dust and high temperatures during the summer. “Furthermore, vegetated soil delays the speed at which water infiltrates the ground, and thus prevents peak loads in the sewerage system.” Nature close to your home adds quality, a green environment makes you feel better.”
The greenery at and around Vestibule does not only benefit residents, but also urban wildlife. Arie van der Neut: “Animals and plants view our buildings as a rocky landscape, with many places to nest and rest. We only need to give them some space, to make them comfortable.
We do so in our plan: swallow nest wall boxes, a rooftop nesting area for oystercatchers and deliberate cracks in cavity walls to house bats. We have created small openings for solitary bees and butterflies, where they can lay their eggs. Sparrows and robins will always find a place to hide in the facades covered with climbing and hanging plants. And berries growing on trees ensure there is a rich food supply during the autumn. The increase of biodiversity is of great importance for a healthy city.”
Healthy urban living
As a commercial regional manager, Michel fully understands the challenges the fourth city of the Netherlands is facing. “It is the fastest growing city in our country. To handle that growth the right way, Utrecht developed a vision on healthy urban living. Utrecht wants to be a city where it is natural to meet one and other, with green, quality and sustainability as basic standards.”