A good building is a good neighbour – i.e. it does not keep to itself but contributes actively to its surroundings. Our competition proposal for library, cinema and apartments in Utrecht does just that. The location is more than just an important traffic junction, it is also a gateway to Utrecht’s city centre. With its distinctive, sculptural shape, it arouses curiosity and signals that this is where things happen! By allowing the building to slope towards the smaller scale of the Middle Age town, and similarly screen off the taller buildings on the railway side, it functions as a go-between, drawing people to it.
The park area extends to the green façade, where it connects with the building’s inner square. The building also draws the street life inside, supported by the shops and cafés situated at the ‘heel’ and ‘toe’ of the structure. A cross-section of the building reveals all its functions. It will be buzzing with life all day long: When the citizens of the city step out onto their apartment balconies to see what the weather is doing; when the library opens, and while the citizens are off at work and the city is teeming with life; when people return home with their shopping and stop off at the shops and book café; when, in the evening, the cinema becomes the focal point. While preserving the openness of the place, the building becomes an ants’ nest of life, and a new meeting place for the entire city.
This building has not just one façade, but many. It slopes towards the Middle Age town and the park, and the central square functions as a meeting point as well as a gateway to the city, which people will notice from far off. By gathering instead of spreading the traffic, we are creating an active environment that will be perceived as being safe and inviting around the clock. At street level, a steady flow of traffic in the shape of HOV tramlines, cyclists and pedestrians ensures that the building is integrated with city life. Uppermost, the apartments open skywards, making the most of the light and air. From the parking facility beneath the building, you rise up through the complex, passing all the public functions as you go. In this way, both the roof and groundfloor levels play an active role in the building’s design, and serve as more than just a lid and a base.
The building’s main square will become an important public space for the city as a whole. It connects the building’s public functions with the private sphere of the apartments. Towards the city, it creates coherence with the park, and the large open views across the building will help people to find their way around, and encourage them to explore further, just as the residents can look down and see what is taking place from their apartments and balconies.
Smakkelaarsveld, Utrecht, Holland.
Kim Herforth Nielsen, Jan Ammundsen, Mans Nijkamp, Line Kirkegaard, Louise Heebøl, Eva Hviid-Nielsen, Carla Costa, Christian Bundegaard, Rikke Zachariasen