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The city region of Utrecht has an attractive residential and business climate. Because of this, a strong growth of residents (+ 30%) and companies is expected within the coming 30 years. The focus within governance and spatial planning is now mainly on the inner-city densification, heritage and keeping up with the growth of mobility. The shared landscape of the city of Utrecht and the nine municipalities surrounding it (the “U10″), does not yet have a connecting story. While it is almost unnoticeably being appreciated. For the city region of Utrecht, the Independent Advisor for Spatial Quality of the province of Utrecht has taken the initiative to develop a “Ringpark”. A green belt around the city that improves the current landscape qualities.

Within this initiative local entrepreneurs and initiators play an important role. In this way, the Green Belt is shaped from the bottom up, through a program-oriented and not through a pre-conceived design. By focusing on the social, local and nature-inclusive initiatives, a network is being built that makes the integration between the urban landscape and a regional park more attractive and more accessible for urban residents. The province acts as an “area broker” that helps initiators to scale up. Commissioned by the Independent Provincial Advisor for Spatial Quality of the province of Utrecht, Paul Roncken, NOHNIK has developed a visual vision, in collaboration with the province and stakeholders of the area.

There are three periods of development of the Green Belt that can be distinguished, each of which puts its own stamp on the Green Belt. The first period exists out of a start-up phase of 5 years (0-5 years). An important starting point is bringing together initiators within the theme “healthy urban living” and the generation of sustainable energy with which the city region wants to distinguish itself. Some other examples are the initiative for a local brewery in combination with the production of barley and hops, an initiative for the development of ‘tiny estates’ in which care is combined with food production and accommodation options, an initiative for sustainable festival grounds with solar-roofs, and an initiative for the gradual conversion of the peat meadow area into so-called ‘chinampas’. These initiatives will all have a place within the Green Belt and form the start of a landscape transformation. A circular “arcadian route” through the park ensures the cohesion and recognisability.

After the initiation phase, the next step of 10 years will start. This phase characterised by the growth wave of +50.000 inhabitants in the Utrecht city region and the increasing need for recreation. In this phase all major mobility changes will be carried out. New bridges, underpasses, enclosures and nodes are needed. When the initiators from the previous phase have reached a critical mass, they contribute to a co-creative and participatory feeling of urgency. The surrounding centers will realise that they share a landscape with the larger city of Utrecht, but that a residential carousel, green programming, and other elements are shared within a larger living environment. The chain of governments (national-provincial-municipalities) will in this phase have to give priority to the landscape integration of health programming, mobility and sustainable energy.

Year: 2017-2018
Type: landscape, spatial strategy
Client: province of Utrecht, Independent Provincial Advisor for Spatial Quality of the province of Utrecht (Paul Roncken)
Status: vision