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New Defence Area · Utrecht, the Netherlands

Pioneering 'Healthy Urban Living' in Utrecht


In Utrecht, an attractive, lively and green urban district will rise along the Merwedekanaal in the coming years. ‘The New Defence” will be the first quarter to be realised, showcasing and promoting the concept of ‘healthy living’ in a dense urban setting. Thanks to an innovative sustainable mobility concept, this new residential area will be largely car-free, allowing space for people and nature.

Utrecht, the Netherlands
In progress
2017 - ongoing
Project area
7 ha
Gemeente Utrecht (public space), BPD (courtyards)
SVP architectuur en stedenbouw, MLA+, ANA architecten, CROSS Architecture, INBO, EFFEKT, Sweco, Arup

Urban transformation

The municipality of Utrecht has envisioned an ambitious transformation for the 65-hectare former industrial and business area along the Merwedekanaal, aiming to create a vibrant urban district with 10,000 new homes. The residential area ‘The New Defence’, located in a former defence site, will kick-start this ambitious project. The site’s strategic location near the city centre, its excellent connectivity to Utrecht’s Central Station and its position in front of a new waterfront park make it a highly valuable site. We have leveraged these qualities to design a lush green and pedestrian-oriented setting for the residents of the 950 new homes.

Creator of meaningful places

A model for Healthy Urban Living

Centred around the principles of ‘Healthy Living,’ our proposal for the design of the public realm focuses on enhancing factors that contribute to overall health, such as air quality, noise reduction, safety and an active lifestyle. As an integral part of the ‘Healthy Urban Living’ concept, the public realm prioritizes pedestrians and cyclists while offering a diverse range of activities suitable for all age groups, including, sports, play and leisure. The varied typologies of public spaces within the plan highlight the area’s distinctive features, creating a diverse mix of places to stay, play or safely move through. A continuous public promenade serves as a connecting link between the new neighbourhood and the city-scale park along Merwedekanaal.

Developing a new biotope
Defining a network of distinct public space typologies
Enhancing pedestrian connectivity through the urban blocks

A green inner world

The courtyards of the new residential blocks act as an extension of the green street network and the adjacent Merwede park. With a predominant green atmosphere, they provide a welcoming and attractive green setting for the new residents. The treatment of the boundaries between the private gardens and the communal spaces of the courtyards, through an articulated planting proposal, creates a gradient of green density within the courtyard and brings nature and biodiversity at every doorstep. A publicly accessible green route weaving through all the courtyards enhances connectivity within the district and promotes a sense of community in ‘the New Defence’ area.

Creator of meaningful places

Climate-resilient design

The development of the new neighbourhood adopts a climate-adaptive, energy-neutral, and future-proof approach, founded on the principles of circularity and resilience. We have devised an integrated water management strategy both for the building blocks and the public realm, intended to maximize water retention on site and facilitate rainwater reuse.

Creator of meaningful places

A new urban biotope

As part of the ambition to create a new urban biotope in the whole district of Merwede, we have developed a nature-inclusive public space plan and planting proposal that extends from the park and the streets to the communal courtyards and the buildings’ rooftops. The new multi-layered “Merwede biotope” enriches biodiversity, provides space for the local fauna, improves the area’s microclimate and eventually ensures a lasting and resilient ecosystem.

Creator of meaningful places

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