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Singel · Utrecht, the Netherlands

Canals as climate-adaptive carriers


Utrecht’s inner city is characterised by historical authenticity however this had led to the inability to properly adapt to mobility and climate-related developments. Due to the long history of Utrecht’s city centre, most of its open space has been claimed and paved over time. It is precisely these qualities that make it difficult to design the city, like many other large historic city centres, to be climate-adaptive.

Utrecht, the Netherlands
Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie, Rijksdienst voor Cultureel Erfgoed
Stichting in Arcadiƫ, Wageningen University

Since the public green space is scarce, this has led to looking at whether the blue space can offer the necessary flexibility. From the perspective of new integrated strategies for climate adaptation and heritage, a Singel can become the cultural-historical and climate-adaptive backbone of the city. Together with Stichting in Arcadiƫ and Wageningen University, we have conducted research by design to find solutions for heat stress and pluvial flooding in the historic urban centres of Utrecht and similar cities.

Limited cool spots in the city
The inverse landscape of historic Utrecht
Flooding during heavy rainfall

Tailor-made climate adaptivity

The study examined the role of water and the Singel at three different scales: within the regional water system, in the city centre, and at a specific neighbourhood level. Three case studies at a neighbourhood level provide insight into potential design opportunities which respect the historical context. In the heavily paved city centre, smart combinations can be made to address peak rainfall and drought issues, while simultaneously reducing heat stress. Along the Singel’s edge, various interventions can be combined. Just beyond that, at the station area along the Catharijnesingel and Moreelsepark, it becomes possible to let the urban landscape benefit from the opportunities provided by the climate-adaptive Singel.


Three case studies


A new toolbox

Based on a range of typological and historical research, a toolbox was developed for the climate adaptative (re)design of the historic city centres. These ‘tools’ were then evaluated to provide insight into the required sequence of interventions. The study on the Singel as a climate-adaptive backbone yields scalable solutions for similar urban contexts and provides the kick-off for starting new pilot projects.

Creator of meaningful places

Discover Catharijnesingel

Our award winning project, serving as a climate-adaptive backbone for the centre of Utrecht

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