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Domplein · Utrecht, the Netherlands

Revealing the Roman origins of the city

Underlining layers of history in the heart of Utrecht


Domplein, located in the heart of Utrecht, hides the treasure of 2000 years of urban history beneath the surface of the square, waiting to be discovered. By dynamically marking the historical Castellum, which now rests 4 meters below ground, we make history visible and accessible in an exciting and contemporary manner.

Utrecht, the Netherlands
Project area
160 m²
Initiatief Domplein
Rots Maatwerk
Photography credits
Ben ter Mull
2011, Lamp awards (ES)

The origins of the city

The Dutch city of Utrecht was founded by the Romans around the year 50 AD. Along the Rhine they constructed a fort, a so-called castellum, as part of the Lower Germanic Limes border and defence zone. The remains of the castellum lie four metres under Domplein, a square that now lies in the heart of the city, next to the famous Domtoren. On top of that, several layers mark the city’s history. The Domplein Foundation aimed to make the city’s past visible and tangible. The project, that also includes a visitor centre on the Domplein Square as well as tours and events, envisioned a way to display the historic castellum wall and its historic significance.

Creator of meaningful places

Small intervention, great significance

The design consists of a series of small interventions with great significance. The underground castellum wall is marked in the street plane by a single line of cor-ten steel elements, positioned directly above the original Roman wall. Visitors entering the square experience this line as if they are stepping over the threshold of the historic fort. Engraved in the elements is a map-like demarcation of the borders of the Roman Empire, displaying the castellum as part of the whole defence line.

Creator of meaningful places

Light spectacle

A colourful mist emerges from the ground. Like an ethereal wall of light, it projects on the surroundings. The history of the place is thus made visible, yet at the same time remains elusive and is a clear contemporary projection of what was once there.

On special occasions and holidays, the mist intensifies during sunrise and sunset, creating an even more dramatic transition to the square. Depending on the specific event and conditions, this mist changes its colour accordingly.

Heritage embraced

The intervention is an educational and narrative part of the square. Not only does it depict the cultural richness of the place, but through this abstracted translation, the visitor is made more aware that the contemporary perspective on the past is always a subjective and selective interpretation. The construction of the marker has proved to be a vital impulse for the entire area surrounding Domplein Square. In 2021, the whole Lower Germanic Limes was placed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO.


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