Achtkamp – Green Heart Metropolis

Randstad, Netherlands

Client: Eo Wijers Foundation
Entered: 1995
Project Team:
David S. Tobin, AIA, Principal-in-Charge, Lead Designer


Competition Preface

The open space in the West of the Netherlands, the Green Heart, is under pressure from continuous urbanization from the Randstad, the ring of cities around the Green Heart. How can this spatial conflict be dealt with? What is the ideal balance between the different spatial claims? Questions which have been discussed for years by both professionals and politicians. A great many people feel involved in this issue. The Eo Wijers foundation organized an open competition to elicit new ideas for the transitional zones between the Randstad and the GreenHeart. In this competition entrants were required to submit designs and plans at a local scale for the urban fringes surrounding the Green Heart of the Randstad. Furthermore, these designs and plans should be related to an overall vision on the relationship between the Randstad and the Green Heart. The response to the competition was overwhelming. From all over the world thousands of requests for information were received at the office of the foundation. Almost 300 teams finally entered the competition. The assignment to be undertaken by the competitors was difficult and complex, but eventually 130 contributions were entered. One third of these was sent in by competitors from abroad, notably from the USA, and from the United Kingdom and other members of the European Union.


Concept Statement

Choose the Path with Heart

The Green Heart

The Green Heart, more than geography, represents the natural unsullied world which urban people long to be near to. It reminds us of our ancestral heritage and its memory is therefore sacred. Unfortunately, when people reach out to and touch such a place as The Green Heart the wilderness dissolves in our hands and the land and natural eco-system is easily ruined. It is a fact that The Green Heart is losing its land to man’s structures. Ironically, only man can decide how much to take away. The decision for us is ultimately arbitrary. However, if the Green Heart is to survive, the edge must be artificially defined in the landscape so as to acknowledge a permanent and inviolable edge. People may pass through this edge but further hard human development goes no further than the permanent frontier.

The Edge

The key to the successful preservation of the Green Heart is in defining and developing a diverse and dynamic permanent edge development which relates strongly to the open space beyond its borders but also to the urban fabric within its borders. At this edge, people live, work and play. Density is high. At the heart of the premise of a permanent edge is the acknowledgement that the urban land within the edge will inevitably increase in density so that the open space can be preserved. The Edge development is planned and built from the outset as a relatively dense urban structure. This is socially possible exactly because the spatial release of vast open space is in close proximity. As a matter of promoting community, density is desirable from the early phases of the development to support efficient and convenient public transportation and other public services. As the later stages are built, the density of the edge is maintained, growing back toward Rotterdam rather than away.


In a land where water is so pervasive and land mass so plastic, the use of water as a means of defining the natural side of the Edge is natural and obvious approach. At Achtkamp, the expansion of the Zevenhuizer plas was a logical design response to the basic conceptual premise of a permanent Edge. Numerous other locations where the Green Heart is feeling urban pressure could also develop permanent urban frontiers by forming earth and water into an Urban Edge structure.


The social and economic success of the Edge depends on the careful integration of mutually supportive commercial, residential and public amenities along the Edge. For the Edge to be desirable and prosper, it can no longer be thought of as the weak and ragged fringe of the city. With the Edge, the city is encouraged to turn itself inside-out. This is not to say that the urban center is left to wither and decay. This is simply to assert that the municipalities of the Randstad manifest on a micro scale what they have formed on a macro scale.

The Randstad is many centers surrounding the Green Heart. The assertion of this scheme is that the solution to urban expansion in the Randstad is to grow around the Heart rather than into it. This has happened already to some extent (thus the name Randstad). The assertion of this proposal is that the structure of the individual constituents of the Randstad should move away from self-concentricity with a dominant element of linearity at the Edge of the Green Heart.


The urban plan concept of an Edge is generally adaptable to the Randstad as a basic developmental directive. The Achtkamp site, like all others, presents certain constraints and opportunities. With the Edge as a basic design approach, the landscape transforms in response to established structures and populations in its proximity. Using the Concept Structurschets Achtkamp as a point of departure, the main commercial/public center is south of the Huismanskade in close proximity to established residential development, the Metro line and A20. The commercial/public center is a node around which housing density is relatively high. While the scheme for the Achtkamp area associates strongly toward the Green Heart the commercial/public node is intentionally focused inward on itself with a large urban park at the center. The park is located coincident with the utility easements.

It is strongly suggested and assumed in this scheme that the electrical power lines are buried as they pass through the development. Obviously, land is extremely valuable and will become more so in the future. The expense and difficulty of burying or re-routing in a relatively small area is minor in comparison to the problems of allowing such utilities to interfere with habitability at The Edge.