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Mecanoo designs the first urban Blue Zone in the Netherlands

mecanoo PR
Jul 11, '18 10:04 AM EST

The consortium ‘Blue District’ - consisting of MRP Development, Ballast Nedam Development, Mecanoo architecten and several consultants – has won the tender for the Cartesiusdriehoek in Utrecht. This former marshalling yard of the Dutch Railways will be transformed into the first urban blue zone. Mecanoo was responsible for the urban design including architectural and landscape design.

The consortium was chosen by the Dutch Railways and the Municipality of Utrecht to develop the new residential neighbourhood with 2.600 homes, a large central park, a school, a supermarket, catering and various other facilities. The masterplan is based on a scientific theory about areas around the world where people live longer, healthier and happier lives, the so-called blue zones.

Eye-catcher and epicentre of the neighbourhood will be the historic CAB building, which will include space for the dB sound studio, the Oproer Brewery and the new CABLAB. In the CABLAB, the winning team will closely collaborate with four Dutch universities, insurance company ONVZ and other users to further develop the concept. Local residents and other stakeholders will also be approached to participate in the upcoming developments.

Well-connected and bicycle-friendly
The former business park of the Dutch Railways is set to become the most healthy, well-connected to public transport and bicycle-friendly neighbourhood in the Netherlands. The development is based on the ‘Koersdocument’ that was jointly drawn up by the Dutch Railways and the Municipality of Utrecht and unanimously adopted by the municipal council. The selection of the winning team was based on both the quality of the plans and on the fee. The design builds on the ambitions of the Dutch Railways and the Municipality of Utrecht to create an environment that would allow residents to enjoy a healthy life.

Diverse target groups
The Cartesiusdriehoek will become a lively urban neighbourhood with abundant greenery. All urban amenities will be easily accessible; walking and cycling will be the main modes of transport. Emphasis has been placed on sustainability, innovative energy solutions and sustainable (shared) mobility. The neighbourhood offers a variety of housing typologies for diverse target groups, with about a quarter of the units intended for rental social housing. The project will be realized in multiple phases in the coming years, and construction is expected to begin in 2020.

Blue Zones 
The blue zones are five areas around the world – Okinawa, Nicoya, Loma Linda, Sardinia and Ikaria – where many residents live exceptionally long and healthy lives. These zones attracted international attention through a National Geographic article titled “The Secrets of a Long Life”, written by Dan Buettner in 2005. Investigations about the residents’ habits that had positive health effects found nine common characteristics. These nine healthy habits have been translated into four urban design themes for the new neighbourhood in Utrecht: mobility, healthy diet, community and meaningfulness & relaxation.

Winning team
In addition to MRP Development and Nedam Development, the winning team consists of CBRE Global Investors’ Dutch Residential Fund, Portaal for the social dwellings, Mecanoo, Meyer Bergman Erfgoed Programmering and Hylkema, We Drive Solar, Urban Sync, Over Morgen, Antea, RROG, Rebel and C Concept Design. Fakton guided the tender procedure for the Dutch Railways. The jury consisted of representatives of the Municipality of Utrecht and of the Dutch Railways.