Máximapark is a 300 hectare, multi-functional public park on the west side of Utrecht, situated between the districts Vleuten, De Meern and Leidsche Rijn. Until 2007, the area was in use for agriculture – today it’s a celebrated forest park that lets the surrounding communities meet and escape from the busy life in the city.
West 8 were the winners of a 1997 design competition for a massive new green space that would be developed alongside a new residential district in Utrecht. The park has been built in stages from 2007 onwards and spans many years of continuous involvement with stakeholders, municipality and community representatives. The park was officially opened by Queen Máxima in the summer of 2013, and continues to be developed every year.
As construction on a wholly new suburb of Utrecht began, the community needed a unifying, public space that would not only bring the 100,000 new residents together but also create a shared identity. The multi-phased development has grown and blossomed and has become a key asset for the inhabitants of the surrounding neighbourhoods and beyond. With the majority of the design now realized, the longer benefits of the development are becoming more and more visible.
The design concept rests on four central spatial pillars: the Ribbon (Het Lint), the Binnenhof, the Parkpergola and the Vikingrijn. The Binnenhof is the core of the park. It is a secluded green ‘inner world’, to be entered only through the openings of the surrounding Park Pergola. The 50-hectare Binnenhof contains woods, fields, meandering watercourses, ponds, pedestrian areas, a playground, bridges and formal avenues for visitors to enjoy. With its varied flora and fauna, the layers of green protection help create a miniature ecosystem and allow the Binnenhof to be perceived as an illusion of paradise.
The Park Pergola, infrastructure-like in its scale, spans over a length of 3.5km and towers 6m above the ground with a honeycomb-frame. The ecological structure defines the borders of the Binnenhof, and marks the transition from the busy outside world into the serene interior of the core. It was designed as a system of individual and interchangeable precast concrete elements. In consultation with ecological experts, the cells are fitted with custom-made bat boxes, insect hotels and planters. It also acts as a trellis for climbing plants, and multi-coloured Wisteria, Virginia Creeper and Hops, that can be found blooming across the seasons. These ecological additions allow the pergola to become a functional and beautiful edge.
The Ribbon, or ‘Het Lint’ is a linear wide open space which both encloses the outer edge of the park with a tree-line and connects the surrounding neighbourhoods with the inner core, sports fields, varied gardens and other facilities of the park. Off-limits to motorized traffic, the Ribbon includes an 8km long, 7m wide pedestrian and cycle track, adorned with a daisy motif, and allows visitors to circulate throughout the entire 300ha park. From bridle paths to flowery meadows, the Lint allows runners, cyclists and skaters to experience the different and constant-changing atmospheres of the park’s programme.
The Viking Rhine, a former arm of the river Rhine, has been excavated on the location it originally had in Roman times. It connects several waterways of the Binnenhof and is used for different types of water recreation such as swimming and sailing.
In total, the design for Máximapark includes 30 bridges by West 8, amongst which are a series of Japanese Wooden Bridges, The Lily Pond Bridge, The Ribbon Bridge, The Daisy Bridge, and The Pontoon Bridge. The bridges feature unique detailing and abstract motifs of natural forms.
The ParkPavilion is a teahouse and lunchroom, inspired by a never-realized design by Pierre Cuypers, the architect of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Designed by West 8 and initially constructed in 2012, the teahouse was extended in 2018. The neighboring landscape features a playground, sculpture park, a Rhododendron garden and Butterfly Garden designed by Piet Oudolf.
The Friends are a permanent group of volunteers who, together with civil servants and the councillors responsible for the park, proudly take care of the largest city park in Utrecht. West 8 is acting as design ambassador to cooperate, amend and add new features to the park’s design.
Name of the project: Máximapark
Role of the entrant in the project: Lead Designer
Other designers involved in the design of landscape: Project Bureau Leidsche Rijn
Project location: Utrechtseweg 4, 3451 GG Vleuten, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Design year: Began 1997 – ongoing.
Year Built: 2003 – ongoing.