Voormalig Defensieterrein

Utrecht the Netherlands

Merwedekanaal zone development
The municipality of Utrecht has drawn up an urban masterplan for the 65-hectare former industrial and business area along the Merwedekanaal, which aims to transform the old industrial site into a new lively urban district of 10,000 new homes. The Defensieterrein will be the first part of this ambitious project with 600 homes, facilities and an attractive city park. The convenient location, close to the centre of the city, the good connection to Central Station, and iconic buildings with an industrial character make this site a very valuable location. These qualities are integrated into the new design.

Healthy urban living

Based on the principles of ‘Healthy Living’, OKRA’s proposal for the design of the public realm focuses on enhancing factors that determine health, such as air quality, noise pollution, safety, inspiration, happiness and an active lifestyle. As an integral part of the Healthy City, the public realm has been designed to give priority to pedestrians and cyclists while accommodating a wide range of activities for all ages, with sports, play, leisure and urban farming. The distinct typologies of public spaces within the plan highlight the area’s unique qualities and provide a rich gradient of public, semi-public and private zones. A continuous public route extending to the adjacent development areas, called the ‘boardwalk’, becomes the link between the new neighbourhood and the city-scale park along the Merwedekanaal.


The new neighbourhood will be climate-adaptive, energy-neutral and future-proof, based on the principles of circularity and resilience. OKRA has developed an integrated water management strategy linked to the regional scale system, intended to maximise water retention and facilitate rainwater reuse. A new biotope for the area has been studied to enrich biodiversity and compensate for the environmental alterations due to the urban expansion. That is beneficial for a healthy ecosystem that is less vulnerable to plants diseases.