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Marktplein · Hengelo, the Netherlands

A living room for the city

Transforming Hengelo’s largest open space into a green and active square for all


In a short span, Hengelo’s city centre has undergone a comprehensive transformation. This gives the market square a new role as an active, future-proof, and appealing destination. The project marks a milestone in the transformation and redevelopment of the city centre of Hengelo as it transforms the biggest open space of the city into a green and active heart for all.

Hengelo, the Netherlands
2020 - 2023
Project area
1 ha
Gemeente Hengelo
Dusseldorp, De Zwarte Hond (pavilion)
Photography credits
Jeroen Musch, Giulia Spagnolo

Towards a new city heart

The centre of Hengelo has been redefined based on a holistic vision for the entire city centre. Three core zones, each with its own character have been recognised and addressed. Each area is connected to historical and architectural landmarks, the three towers of Hengelo: the Lambertus church, the city hall and the Brink tower.

Creator of meaningful places

The Market square is a large urban space inherited from the period of the post-wat reconstruction. It has been conceived originally an open, clear, and paved urban space progressively colonised by cars during the 20th century. About 25 years ago, the square was redesigned and made car-free. It was clearly positioned as a market and event square. With the addition of trees and the new Brink shopping centre with its tower on the square, a more versatile image emerged. Nonetheless, the character hardly changed: during markets, it was bustling, but on other days and most of the time, it remained uninviting and hostile, it’s surface largely mineral and oversized, lacking any amenities or places to stay and to dwell.

Between 2010 and 2020, the need for change emerged. A design competition was held, and a plan involving a reconstruction of historical buildings won the public vote. Nevertheless, the plan lacked support from stakeholders and was abandoned. This experience drove a second attempt, with collaboration as a core requirement of the process.



From this second round, we collaborated to find a realistic optimal solution. As designers, we engaged extensively with local stakeholders. Instead of immediately presenting a design, we developed and visualised four distinct scenarios based on this input. These scenarios served as a starting point for extensive dialogues with multiple stakeholders. Approximately 1000 responses to these designs helped shape a final wish list. The most dominant response was a clear desire for more greenery and water, for ambiance, a pleasant environment, and sustainability. Simultaneously, space needed to be preserved for the weekly market and other events. Furthermore, the city expressed a strong desire to preserve the Brink Tower and the bear sculpture. All these wishes were incorporated into the resulting outcome, which was subsequently realised with broad support.


‘Torenkamer’: the Tower Room

To encapsulate the extensive – and sometimes conflicting – wish list, the square received a distinctive structure to form a metaphorical living room for the city: A large but light architectural structure frames a green and lush room.

The square’s inner core is designed as a living room for the city. It was specifically designed as a hospitable space with plenty of room for gatherings, sit-down areas, and all kinds of activities for all ages. This gives the square a green and hospitable character every day of the week. In contrast, the edges of the square have been left open and flexible, allowing shoppers to move freely during and outside market days. The steel frame forms a graceful boundary that separates these two areas and defines the walls of the Tower Room. Additionally, it houses lighting fixtures and supports climbing plants.

Creator of meaningful places

Discover how we transformed Hengelo city centre

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Circularity and climate adaptation

The space of the new market square feels new, but where possible, pre-existing structures and paving materials have been carefully integrated. The existing pavilion has been refurbished and integrated with the new square by adding a large podium and new underground bike parking facility. The existing large concrete slabs of the former market have been reused and reintegrated within the design of the new market strips along the central frame. Part of the existing concrete pavers have been retained and replace on site to create an encroachment zone along facades and shop windows along the square.

The design of the square is made to amplify the presence of green within the urban area. The centre of the square is conceived as lush garden. The integration of water has received a particular attention within the plan. On the south of the square, a large water element with stepping stones and wet vegetation forms an attractive landscape magnet and a playful area. On the sides of the gardens, two large swales have been designed to accommodate and infiltrate rainwater.


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