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City centre · Hengelo, the Netherlands

Co-created reinvention: a new city heart for Hengelo


In the heart of Hengelo, an ambitious redesign of the Centrum area has revitalised the cityscape. This resulted in a dynamic space that reflects its unique identity and responds effectively to the evolving shopping climate. This transformative project is the result of a collaborative effort, instilling a renewed sense of energy where inclusivity, involvement, and pride flourish.

Hengelo, the Netherlands
In progress
2016 - ongoing
Municipality of Hengelo
Photography credits
Jeroen Musch, Pierre Marchevet, Giulia Spagnolo

A necessity for reinvention

Hengelo is a relatively young city that, thanks to industrialisation in the second half of the 19th century, quickly developed into a prosperous industrial city. The textile and steel industries have successively left a strong mark on the city’s identity. During the Second World War the city was bombarded heavily, leaving most of its centre in ruins.

The restoration that followed, created the city’s current atmosphere of a typical post-war reconstruction district, featuring modern-style buildings that define the streetscape. The public spaces, revamped around 2000, adopted a functional, neutral grey concrete palette with dedicated bike lanes criss-crossing the area. The result was an unattractive space with a cluttered streetscape. For these reasons, Hengelo progressively lost appeal compared to the competing neighbouring cities of Almelo and Enschede  causing the city to enter into a downward spiral. Both shops and visitors moved out of the city and stayed away.

Creator of meaningful places

A new vision

About 5 years ago, the view that thorough intervention was needed to reverse this downward trend began to gain momentum. To achieve this, the city had to reinvent itself. This went beyond  a simple refurbishment, the structure and frameworks also had to be redefined. We were asked to step in and create a strategic approach.

Water strategy
Greenery strategy
Key public space

The answer was to redefine the boundaries of the city centre to become more compact. The new envelope is based on the areas  three key landmarks in the city: the three towers. The church tower, The Town Hall tower and the Brink tower each represent a different time of origin and cultural aspect for the city. Based on this new definition, the public space was redesigned in strong collaboration with the key stakeholders. The municipality, local entrepreneurs and residents were involved in all aspects of the project. This interaction led to an overall enthusiasm and energy that helped the city transform.

Creator of meaningful places
Creator of meaningful places

Heritage in motion

The design focused on providing a sense of cosiness and warmth by laying out a generous and welcoming brick carpet throughout the city centre. Part of the concrete stones has been reused to mark the edge of the carpet in direct contact with buildings.

Inspired by the former brooks that used to irrigate the city centre, and the industrial heritage of Hengelo, a metaphoric steel river has been designed as a ludic and dynamic element tying up the different places of the city centre. A wide patterned steel grate is laid out as a continuous gutter with a changing pattern and integrated art pieces. Unfolding itself as a paperclip along with the different spatial sequences of the street, it connects the different spaces together and creates a distinctive signature for the city centre.

Inviting places to stay

A great deal of attention has been given to enhance the main landmarks of the old Lambertus Church and the Italian-style town hall which was rebuilt in the 1950s. Generous gardens with long benches have been laid out, turning difficult height differences into green urban stages and inviting places to stay for all.

Creator of meaningful places

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