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High Concept Wins in the Low Countries

Night rendering of the new 'Green City' in the Netherlands
Designed by the Dutch firm MVRDV, the new “Green City” in the Netherlands will be built on a 111-acre peninsula and will include housing, offices, and an extensive “library” of plants. © MVRDV

 An ecologically rich “green city” is set to bloom in the Netherlands.

October 23, 2012—A “Green City” designed to exist sustainably in accordance with stringent environmental standards is to be built west of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, as an expansion of the municipality of Almere. The Dutch architecture and design firm MVDRV, which specializes in green urban projects, architecture, and landscape architecture, is leading the project, which will be built on a 45 ha peninsula extending from the Almere city center into Lake IJssel.

“We dream of making green cities—cities that are green as well as ecological, that produce food and energy, that clean [their] own water, recycle waste, and hold great biodiversity,” said Winy Maas, FAIA, one of MVRDV’s three cofounders, who responded in writing to questions posed by Civil Engineering online. Maas said he imagines “a symbiotic world of people, plants, and animals” for the development.

The catalyst for the new green city is Floriade 2022, an international exhibition of flowers and gardening held every 10 years in the Netherlands. Almere was chosen by the Nederlandse Tuinbouwraad (Dutch Horticultural Council) from among four competing Dutch cities to host the exposition. But rather than create a temporary site, MVRDC’s winning design is the “Cité Idéale,” a permanent construction that will serve as a green extension to the city center of Almere, the youngest city in the Netherlands, according to project manager Jeroen Zuidgeest, who answered questions from Civil Engineering online in writing.

Collaborating architects and structural engineers will be selected within the next few months, Zuidgeest said. The financing for the main infrastructure—for example, roads, bridges, and plantations—is covered by the Dutch government, while the development of all local elements and the exhibition area comes from the municipality of Almere and the Province of Flevoland. Costs will be offset by real estate sales on the land following the exhibition. 

 Rendering of Almere tapestry of gardens on a square-shaped peninsula

Almere will be developed as a tapestry of gardens on a
square-shaped peninsula, each block devoted to different types of

The square-shaped peninsula will be developed as a new urban neighborhood incorporating an extensive plant “library” that will remain after the expo. The new city is expected to house about 1,500 residents in 600 dwellings and to also contain office space, a university, a marina, greenhouses, recreation areas, and significant commercial development. Zuidgeest said there will be a rose garden, a lily pond for swimming, and a so-called jasmine hotel: “A hotel wrapped in jasmine trees, where you will sleep fantastic because of the smell,” he explained.

The university will be organized as a stacked botanical garden, a vertical ecosystem in which each classroom will have a different climate conducive to growing specific plants. The residential area will offer homes in orchards, and offices will feature planted interiors. Parks of bamboo are also contemplated.

The city plan aspires to be “300 percent greener than the standard,” said Zuidgeest. “This means developing green neighborhoods in the widest sense, with an overwhelming richness and differentiation of trees, plants, and flowers, a stimulating environment for biodiversity.” Zuidgeest said the development will recycle materials, water, and wastewater on-site, and will showcase innovative methods for producing food and energy, “all embedded in an urban context in a synergetic, even symbiotic manner.”

 Rendering of new city, featuring a university that will be organized as a stacked botanical garden

The new city will feature a university that will be organized as a
stacked botanical garden.

Zuidgeest said there are no special geographic obstacles or conditions affecting construction. The development follows the existing shorelines and islands of Lake IJssel, a shallow artificial lake that is actually the largest in western Europe, and on whose western shore sits the metropolis of Amsterdam. Access to the new city from the center of Almere will come from public transportation and a highway with a lowered position and landscaping to minimize sound pollution; it may even be covered with a glass roof to further reduce sound and air pollution.

The Amsterdam metropolitan area is growing rapidly and Almere, with just under 200,000 residents, is the seventh-largest city in the Netherlands. In October 2007, the city council of Almere entered into agreements with the government to expand the city to 350,000 inhabitants by 2030; MVRDV developed the Almere 2030 master plan. MVRDV has conducted significant research concerning urban farming and urban density.

“This is our chance to realize the ideals MVRDV [has been] propagating for the last 20 years,” said Maas. “We are thrilled to be working on this exciting project.”

MVRDV designed the boutique shopping building Gyre in Tokyo and the Mirador housing complex in Madrid. Current projects include a central market hall in Rotterdam, a culture plaza in Nanjing, China, and a master plan for an ecocity in Logroño, Spain.



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