Pushing the Boundaries of Mixed-Use Design
Completed in 2006, architect and urban planner Christian de Portzamparc completed one of the most unique mixed-use developments in recent years, De Citadel. The full block development which includes below grade, at-grade and rooftop uses provide a wonderful insight into alternative ways to plan and build urban mixed-use developments.
The site is located in the centre of Almere, Netherlands and encompasses 35,000m2 of commercial and 10,000m2 of residential space. This multilayer urban plan consists of four blocks and three levels that are divided by two pedestrian pathways crossing at a central square. The three tiered block provides shops and restaurants at the ground level, residential units on the rooftops including green roof amenity areas, and hidden below the pedestrian realm, an underground network of roadways, bicycle lanes and a parking garage with open access to the ground level.
Cities are more aware than ever of the importance of managing urbanization as populations continue to increase and greater numbers of people move into urban environments. What is intriguing about De Portzamparc’s design is that it challenges the traditional approach to mixed-use developments that is currently practiced in so many cities today. The result is a unique and certainly creative approach to urban planning that other cities can look to as a source of inspiration. What draws the most attention is the use of the block’s rooftops which provide a variety of housing in the forms of two and three storey apartment houses including a six storey apartment building. Each of the apartment houses have their own rear amenity space as well as a shared common green space covering the majority of the rooftops. The green roofs are for the sole use of the apartment residents providing them with an intimate and private shelter from the public space below.
The ground level has a network of pedestrian paths with engaging urban design elements including street furniture that is both aesthetically pleasing and serves a physical function in the space. Examples include decorative park benches and a large ‘staircase that ends in the sky’ that offers a place for pedestrians to relax while disguising stair access to the parking facilities below. Above is a rooftop restaurant patio that extends out into the public square and looks to be floating up above the shoppers below. Each of these urban design features contribute to their environment and further enhance street animation.
There is no vehicular traffic permitted within the the block development, however the design accounted for the need to move traffic through the block without interfering with its pedestrian-oriented design. As a result, a below grade transportation network was included to allow for traffic to pass underneath the square without disrupting the pedestrian experience at ground level. The network includes a roadway with bike lanes running adjacent to it, as well as an underground parking facility. Visitors to the site who choose to drive can park their vehicle below and access the shops above via outdoor staircases and escalators that lead directly into the open square.
The entire block development focuses on the pedestrian and their relationship to the surrounding built form. It is an engaging and intriguing approach to architecture, planning and urban design, and an example of how we can push the boundaries of mixed-use development and the many different ways to combine uses within an urban environment.
Sustainable Cities Collective