In Merwede, biodiversity and people come first

Bird’s-eye view along the canal

What will the public space look like with no more cars? In the preliminary design for the public space of Merwede, Utrecht’s newest city district, the starting point is green; paving is only where necessary, making it an exceptionally green district. As one of the largest car-free inner-city neighborhood projects in the Netherlands, there is much more space for biodiversity, urban rewilding, and social activities than if the public space was used for roads, crossings, and car parking. In the car-free Merwede, LOLA utilizes the space for nature, people, and water storage.

Preliminary design of public spaces of Merwede

Merwede’s nature-based city space consists of playful neighborhood squares, unique courtyard gardens, the waterfront Merwede Park, the Europalaan, and meandering trails for pedestrians and cyclists.

Impression of a green neighbourhood square in Merwede

Brigitta van Weeren, LOLA Landscape Architects: “What makes Merwede special is the scale on which we implement a nature-inclusive design, climate adaptation, and social design in the city. We approach the public space not just as a collection of streets, squares, and parks but also as an urban nature area that creates a thriving living environment for animals and humans in the city.”

The green wandering trail as meandering routes through the area

The future of the city is embedded in nature. With nature being a precondition for healthy urban living, Utrecht’s Merwede is to become a high-density urban district, with 6.000 houses on 24 hectares in the southwest of Utrecht. Using public space as ‘Merwede biotope’, LOLA Landscape Architects aims to design ample green space for biodiversity, sustainable living, and relaxation in an attractive environment.

Bringing biodiversity in Merwede focussing on the six target species

In Merwede, this city’s natural area is home to diverse biotopes, rich biodiversity, and robust green structures. With the buzzing of bees, the rustling of a hedgehog, and the chirping of the house sparrow, you imagine yourself in nature. The ‘Merwede biotope’ is a sequence of different ecotopes linked to the target species. Abundance and diversity of species are important, and we ensure to recognize this by creating the right conditions, such as sunlight, wind, and soil quality.

For the landscape design, LOLA teamed up with Bureau Stadsnatuur, MOVE Mobility and in close collaboration with the Utrecht municipality, BURA, and other stakeholders. The main focus is to maximize urban nature in a car-free public space that prioritizes pedestrians and cyclists. Merwede is to become an inviting, green, and lively public space for all.

Social inclusive public spaces in Merwede

Merwede – Biodiversity and People come first

Location: Utrecht, The Netherlands

Landscape Architect: LOLA Landscape Architects

Collaborators: Bureau Stadsnatuur, MOVE Mobility, AM, Boelens de Gruyter, BPD, Greystar, G& Vastgoed, Janssen de Jong, Lingotto, Round Hill Capital, 3T Vastgoed, Synchroon

Urban plan: BURA

Client: Gemeente Utrecht

Images Credit: LOLA Landscape Architects

About Damian Holmes 3313 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at