Leidsche Rijn - Utrecht, Netherlands
by Amy C. Verel


Image: Google Earth


Leidsche Rijn is a new city center currently under construction as an extension to the city of Utrecht, Netherlands.

As part of a 1990 Dutch urban expansion policy which mandated the construction of 1.1 million new dwellings by 2005, Leidsche Rijn will add 30,000 new dwelling units, 180 commercial and public buildings, and major transportation infrastructure.

Leidsche Rijn is expected to accommodate 90,000 new inhabitants, making it the one of the largest new housing developments currently underway in Europe.

The anticipated completion date is 2015, however construction is progressing at a somewhat slower rate than originally expected.


Image: Widehouse-apartments.nl

Major infrastructural changes entail the partial relocation and covering of Highway A2 with a linear park, three bridges connecting to Utrecht Centre over the Amsterdam-Rijn Canal, rail connections to future Randstadspoor line, express bus connections to Utrecht Centre, and a 1.2 square mile central park.

Also significant in the landscape are two large projects by Dirk Sijmons, principal of H+N+S Landschaparchitectenand Dutch National Advisor on Landscape, De Rijnkennemerlaan Bikeway and Groot Archeologiepark, an archeological park highlighting the unique resources in this location, once an edge of the Roman Empire.

Images: monolab.nl


The Master Plan


The master planning of Leidsche Rijn began with the assemblage of a broad coalition of the professions, public officials, and community representatives with a stake in the development.

The urban design firm Maxwan and the architectural historians Crimson developed a master planning concept for Leidsche Rijn that they have termed "Orgware," which derives from economic theory combining ideas & knowledge (software) with physical elements (hardware).

The master planning concept states that "The orgware of a plan has to be understood before its software can be intelligible and its hardware made real."


Changes in Dutch policy have led large-scale development to be enacted less by top-down decision-making and more by employing pluralist techniques and public involvement, leading the designers to embrace an "urbanism of negotiation," in which "bureaucratic obstacles & dynamic systems are accepted as part of the orgware & lead to the urban design itself, so the form it takes is unpredictable."


The project planners and designers

recognize that, "Whereas urbanism once provided guarantees (of coherence, collectivity and form), it is now being called upon for its capacity to create opportunities" and assert that "the shift of attention from collective to individual now requires an urbanism based on such generative concepts as contrast, temporal uncertainty, market conformity, image (in the general, cultural sense) and ambiguity."




Images: utrecht.nl/smartsite


By September 2002, 5,246 housing units were ready for occupancy. Residency is restricted to those with economic or social bonds to Utrecht region.

Neighborhoods are being individually designed and constructed with varying architecture and layout to allow for flexibility to adapt to local situations and to attract different "target groups," such as live/work for former homeless, artists & art lovers, communal elderly housing, and various themed communities formed around such concepts as education, solidarity, and reduced consumption.


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Green Urbanism and Ecological Infrastructure || Instructor, Jack Ahern

Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

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