The recovery of Catharijnesingel in Utrecht by OKRA Landschapsarchitecten

OKRA Landschapsarchitecten,

OKRA Landschapsarchitecten,

Utrecht, Netherlands,

Ristrutturazione, Landscape,

Refurbishment, Landscaping,

In Utrecht, the Netherlands, the rehabilitation of the Catharijnesingel, a work by studio OKRA Landschapsarchitecten, is among the five finalists for the prestigious European Prize for Urban Public Space edition 2022. The result is the reopening of a canal with multiple benefits for citizens, ranging from microclimate to biodiversity to urban resilience.

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The recovery of Catharijnesingel in Utrecht by OKRA Landschapsarchitecten After the FLOW pool in Brussels, here is another finalist project for the European Prize for Urban Public Space edition 2022 related to water. We are in the Netherlands, in Utrecht, where at the behest of the municipality, the Catharijnesingel has been reopened. 
"Singel" in Dutch describes an artificial waterway within, or around, a city for defensive purposes and with roads on one or both sides. The restoration of one of these, the Catharijnesingel located in the historic center of Utrecht, is part of the master plan involving the station area, already the site of major urban interventions aimed at improving city livability. To this end, its historic water structure has therefore been restored, even exhuming a part formerly filled in for, among other things, constructing a ten-lane highway. The first sections of this water structure were recovered in 2015. 
The final restoration piece was the section from Mariaplaats to the Bartholomeï Bridge, or Catharijnesingel-Zuid, completed in 2020 by OKRA Landschapsarchitecten. This Utrecht-based firm has authored major urban regeneration projects in the Netherlands and China.
Aware that "a project is only successful if it has long-term added value for the public," in the case of the Catharijnesingel, the designers therefore proposed flexible public spaces that can change with the times, that is, "in line with today's desires and ready for tomorrow's development."
In detail for the arrangement of the Catharijnesingel and the extension of the adjacent Zocherpark, named after the landscape architect Zocher, the OKRA studio rethought the entire area, starting with mobility. As a result, an ample space dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists has sprung up, enhanced by a path along the water that invites recreational and sports use. There is no shortage of lawns and some art objects that encourage interaction, such as those designed around climate adaptation or the history of the place. Added to all this are numerous seating areas, different types of greenery to encourage biodiversity, and of course, views of the city. 
But the crux of such an urban intervention that has revoluzionised downtown Utrecht motorised thoroughfare is the obvious benefit to the citizenship. Change is always welcome if a higher quality of life for all rewards certain renunciations of motorists' convenience. Plantings, fired clinker and gravel create a pleasant visual connection to the city's historic centre. At the same time, a new wooden walkway, positioned next to the old pier, serves as a seating element, grandstand or stage. On the other hand, a lower section was added to the existing wooden bridge to improve the canal's usability, as it is now possible to navigate around the city centre again and admire the ancient remains of Vredenburg Castle and the Church Hoog Catharijne.
Studio OKRA's work for the Catharijnesingel is an excellent example of revitalisation of the city's qualities, achieved through an investment in restoring its blue and green infrastructure. A gesture that responds perfectly to the challenges of our times, from the need to reconnect with nature to climate resilience. Thus, not surprisingly, we find it among the five finalist projects for the European Prize for Urban Public Space 2022 that will be awarded, at the CCCB (Centro Culturale Contemporàneio Barcelona), on November 15.
Christiane Bürklein

Project: OKRA Landschapsarchitecten for the Municipality of Utrecht
Location: Utrecht, The Netherlands
Year: 2020
Images: © 2021 OKRA landschapsarchitecten
Find out more: https://www.publicspace.org