Assignment: a city center for Leidsche Rijn
Client: City of Utrecht, project office Leidsche Rijn
Design: Monolab, team: J.W. van Kuilenburg, L. Veeger, W. Hoogerwerf with W. van Alebeek, K. Quantin, P. Schirr Bonnans, K. Verhoeven
Year: 2000


…programmatic blending and absorption


This scheme creates a vehicle-free city center for the 80.000 new inhabitants of Leidsche Rijn. It increases the population of the city of Utrecht by one third. It is based upon multiple space use and the interlace of infrastructure and urban programs. Its huge quantity of floor space generates the birth of the Polycentric City of Utrecht. We don’t need to be fully dependent on Utrecht’s medieval city centre anymore. At the same time we realize a city centre with all kinds of mobility: an operation that is currently taking place in all European city centers retroactively.


The center is positioned on the node of the A2 highway and rail tracks with infrastructural implications that cannot be denied. This node stimulates inescapable dynamics and urbanism that raise its significance and growth. We investigated these infrastructural implications and dynamics.


In the scheme the infernal conditions of the A2 highway (10 lanes in a total width of 80 m.) are restrained by absorption. All infrastructural spin off is exploited by sophisticated services for inhabitants, visitors, delivery, transferium, parking and public transport stations. By these services the center obtains perfect accessibility. The services are interlaced with a city floor and city blocks.


The vehicle-free context is realized by an infrastructural ‘breeder sheet’ that facilitates a complete accessibility. The parking, the delivery, the intertwining with the A2 highway, the railway tracks, public transport and large-scale commercial programs are absorbed in this sheet as well. The city floor, hovering over these services, is free of vehicles and negative aspects of delivery and public transport. This floor creates an eco-sphere for pedestrians.


The urban tissue is explicitly meant as a paradise for pedestrians and cyclists and therefore has a small-scale layout. It is cloned from the medieval inner city material of Utrecht. We reduced it 50% in size to deliver small urban blocks that hesitate between city block and building. They are four layers maximum and programmed with a mix of commercial program, working, housing and recreation. The blocks can be parceled vertically and/or horizontally or be filled up completely with department stores, for example. Derived from their smaller scale, the blocks can have either individual and single or assembled qualities.

The dimensions of the center are limited to 950 x 600 m. to keep its boundaries within a walking distance with a range of 500 m. The tissue takes care of absorption of higher positioned infrastructure which is hardly visible anymore because of the denseness of the tissue. The center is equipped with a commercial ring and a linear park on top of the A2 highway. Because the center is absorbing many programs, the park is animated with lightly programmed pavilions. Fifty percent of the four layers of tissue are to be programmed with apartments. The small towers are privatized protrusions of its residential program.

The center fits seamlessly in the layout of Leidsche Rijn. Programmatic blending and a large number of voids, escalators and lifts take care of light, air and contact in this multi level layout. Programmatic blending and multi level uses are essential to answer the demands for quality, social control and dynamic life of the center.


Within 450 m. from the station The Strip is located, a floating plinth with metropolitan volumes, towers for offices and apartments, that emerges­­ as a new permeable horizon between the city centers of Utrecht and Leidsche Rijn.


The scheme can grow in six steps and contains a maximum of 1.050.000 m2 floor space with 16.800 parking places. The first phase can develop a number of primitive ‘peripheral boxes’ with parking around the perimeter. Later, these boxes can be absorbed in the multi level layout. An Ikea can plan its primitive box in the infra world and position its more advanced and pedestrian friendly program, like restaurant, shop windows and children paradise at the city floor. The capacity of parking and the high-grade public transport connections with the inner city of Utrecht will generate a transferium.


If Leidsche Rijn wishes a more local city center with traditional urbanism it should not be planned on this site. If a conventional scheme is positioned on this site anyhow, all program will be have to be moved away from infrastructure. All infrastructures will block future development and will be restricting and ruthlessly present.