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MVRDV and Local Community to revitalize lost canals of The Hague for urban regeneration

Netherlands Architecture News - Sep 23, 2019 - 15:52   12057 views

MVRDV and Local Community to revitalize lost canals of The Hague for urban regeneration

MVRDV, together with local neighbourhood organisations, has unveiled plans to the city of The Hague which proposes to reopen the city’s 17th-century canals, which were filled-in during the 20th century.

The neighbourhood participation project aims to revive a run-down part of the historic centre of the government seat of the Netherlands. The vision is produced by MVRDV as a pro-bono project in collaboration with the various residents’ collectives, aiming to improve the sustainability, economy, traffic, and water management of the area.

MVRDV and Local Community to revitalize lost canals of The Hague for urban regeneration

In contrast to other Dutch cities, trade relying on the city’s central canal network was never the main focus of The Hague, which was founded as a government centre. Consequently many of the canals were filled between 1910 and 1970 and, in the 1970s, part of the neighbourhood was almost demolished to make way for a motorway. 

MVRDV and Local Community to revitalize lost canals of The Hague for urban regeneration

Citizens took action and stopped the demolition process, but not before significant damage was done to the once-pristine canal area. Recent years have seen a revival in community action. 

In 2018, a neighbourhood initiative demanded the closure of two red light district streets, which the city agreed upon and, boosted by this success, the inhabitants set the next goal: to reopen the lost canals and boost the area both ecologically and economically.

MVRDV and Local Community to revitalize lost canals of The Hague for urban regeneration

One of the driving forces behind the vision is local resident Shireen Poyck, who united the various neighbourhood initiatives and stakeholders in the 'Grachten Open' (Canals Open) initiative and, in 2018, called on her neighbour, MVRDV Partner Jan Knikker, to participate. 

MVRDV and Local Community to revitalize lost canals of The Hague for urban regeneration

View, Amsterdam Seveerkade, before

MVRDV drew up a vision to reopen the canals, building upon the work of the inhabitants. Based on a study of the historical canals by local firm BAU architects, MVRDV envisions the restoration of the main canals, and has drawn up plans for the minor canals which are either dead-ends or lost due to underground works or buildings. 

Each of these canal stubs needs to function as an urban activator, with proposals including swimming canals, koi carp canals, and even a surf canal which would actively support the ambition of The Hague as a sport city. 

MVRDV and Local Community to revitalize lost canals of The Hague for urban regeneration

MVRDV’s vision combines the canals with the "Spinoza Power 2.0" vision, which was created by the local community and includes a gastronomy route, the removal and renovation of the red light district streets, and a new market hall which replaces an underperforming parking garage.

"All over the world, neighbourhoods like the old centre of The Hague form the backbone of tourism and provide an identity to a city, but in The Hague somehow this ancient and incredibly charming area was forgotten," said Winy Maas, architect and co-founder of MVRDV. 

"The area offers the unique chance for an urban regeneration that will improve the local economy and make a leap forward in the city’s energy transition."

MVRDV and Local Community to revitalize lost canals of The Hague for urban regeneration

Special attention has been given to challenges such as tram lines and other infrastructure erected on the spaces which used to be canals. Like many other Dutch cities, The Hague already has some experience in bringing back its canals, restoring a small piece of canal and transforming parking space into a combination of parking, open water, and gastronomy. But overspending on this project caused by a complex underground car-park encouraged MVRDV and the local community to keep their plans simple and realistic.

MVRDV and Local Community to revitalize lost canals of The Hague for urban regeneration

Opening the canal and introducing trees could realise the potential of under-used streets like the Gedempte Gracht

The Open Canal vision was drafted by local inhabitants and local businesses, supported by the Oude Centrum and Rond het Plein neighbourhood communities, businesses, SOS Den Haag and two major real estate owners in the area. It was generously supported by Grachten Open and Wijkorganisatie Oude Centrum and was presented in the city hall to alderman Boudewijn Revis.

MVRDV and Local Community to revitalize lost canals of The Hague for urban regeneration

The Paviljoensgracht would be opened with bridges at key crossing points

The Open Canal Vision is the third project in which MVRDV has participated on a non-profit basis with local communities. Also ongoing are a project to renovate an open sewer in New Delhi and an energy transition project for the Hoogkwartier in Rotterdam which also includes a mobility challenge.

MVRDV and Local Community to revitalize lost canals of The Hague for urban regeneration

Canal typologies

MVRDV and Local Community to revitalize lost canals of The Hague for urban regeneration

Route diagram

Project facts

Project name: The Hague Open Canals

Location: The Hague, Netherlands

Year: 2019

Programme: Urban vision 

Architect: MVRDV

Partner in charge: Winy Maas, Jan Knikker

Design team: Lisa Ulbrich, Gustavo van Staveren, Emilie Koch, Fedor Bron, Elien Deceuninck

Visualizations: Kirill Emelianov

Strategy and development: Amanda Rooseboom, Miruna Dunu

Copyright: MVRDV 2018 (Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs, Nathalie de Vries)

Partners

Advisor: Shireen Poyck

Neighbourhood Organisations: Grachten Open / Buurtplatform Oude Centrum eo (Bob Willem van Hooft, Chris Schram, Jan Elsinga, Shireen Poyck); Wijkorganisatie Oude Centrum / Spinozakracht (Karlijne Scholts, Marieke de Jong, Jan van den Brink)

All images © MVRDV

All drawings © MVRDV

> via MVRDV