Utrecht (NL), 2027



For Merwede, we design a new, vibrant neighborhood that addresses the urban themes of healthy living, sustainability, and biodiversity. Following our Microcity-model, the design for the urban blocks 13+14 is fully committed to proximity of functions and to local cycles of water and energy. Located a short walk from Utrecht Central Station, the area’s layout is 99% car-free and pedestrian-oriented, with a supporting bicycle infrastructure. Therefore, we create an urban block built around an abundant landscape, a courtyard extension of the public realm, omni-present in the varying series of super-dense urban blocks.

Bold ambitions
Our design builds on BURA Urbanism’s development plan, for 6.000 dwellings and a wide variety of functions in 24 blocks, on the 24-hectares Utrecht location. Commissioned by the Merwede5 development combination, we are designing Block 13+14 with Marc Koehler Architects.
The Merwede plan presents bold ambitions. Social and ecological requirements like well-being for all ages and a strong habitat for plants and animals are quantified and have met rock solid demands like 482 houses in Block 13+14, gas-free, with a maximum MPG of 0.7 (ambition 0,5), a parking standard below 0.3, stormwater retention on site, and 75% (up to 100%) of the energy being generated locally. Parametric design solved the puzzle. The result is a dense as well as light and airy sequence of slender towers and low-rise blocks on the plots, adapting innovative water and energy solutions and highly diverse in architectural appearance.

Bedrock for a robust ecosystem
Block 13+14 characteristics are raised courtyards. Designed with Buro Harro, the (semi-)public courtyard landscape, that lushfully comes spilling out of the building blocks, forms the bedrock for a robust new ecosystem. Because of the slender towers and alternating building heights, sunlight generously pours in the courtyards throughout the day. The raised and stepped landscape forms hills with diverse and abundant vegetation. Practically, they provide street level bike storage underneath; socially, the publicly accessible and shared gardens contribute to the intended community-interaction.

Healthy urban living
In close connection with the green and blue network, reimagined mobility shapes the rhythm of routes in the area. Walking and cycling are the main modes of transport. Car access is minimized. The fluid system of paths and limited roads provides easy access. Building entrances, as well as cultural, social, and commercial functions, are carefully positioned.
The emphasis on green not only creates attractive areas, but it also allows for a healthy climate outdoors as well as indoors, naturally ‘air-conditioned’ and cross-ventilated housing, and heat retention. On top of that, the calm and relaxed vibe, and the extensive presence of nature in Block 13+14 set the tone for Merwede’s future urban life.


Name: Merwede
Location: Merwedekanaalzone Utrecht
Program: 482 apartments, cultural center, commercial space, center for the homeless, restaurants and parking
Surface area: 50.000 m2
Period: 2020-2027
Status: In Progress
Client: Merwede5 (Lingotto, Janssen de Jong bouw, 3T Vastgoed)


VenhoevenCS: Ton Venhoeven, Jos-Willem van Oorschot, Hermen Jansen, Nicolo Santini, Jeroen Jonk, Arjan Pot, Jeroa Amanupunnjo, Anna Hering, Iza Slodka, Andreas Bogenschutz, Maria Angeles Reinares San Martin, Robin Boenning
Partner architect:Marc Koehler Architects
Landscape architect:Buro Harro
Structural engineer:Royal HaskoningDHV
Building physics:Cauberg Huygen
Water treatment:Wavin
Cost consultant:SkaaL
Images: VenhoevenCS architecture+urbanism, Marc Koehler Architects, Buro Harro