H+N+S yet again conquered the infrastructure category! N69 is a story on how to make roads more green. It is also about how people driving these roads can experience the essence of the surrounding landscape much better. In large part, it concerns the profile/section of the road where the quantity of the asphalt is reduced to the minimum and where the road is stripped of other elements. The animals are welcome to cross the road through a sequence of underpasses but also on the road, as, due to the fence-free profile, the visibility is much improved.
More or less linear masses of trees try to remain as uninterrupted as possible when crossing the road so birds can be protected while flying back and forth. A part of the road is lifted on the bridge so the animals can move seamlessly on the grounds.
This is how we should do roads.
The new built infrastructure: ‘Nieuwe Verbinding N69’ in the south of the Netherlands, is part of the redevelopment of a larger area between Eindhoven and the Belgian border. Various goals were formulated after several years of political considerations. The integration of the route had to minimize the impact on the existing landscape, nature, water system and recreational areas of the Natura2000 stream valleys (Run and Keersop), as well as the forest areas to form the greenest road of the province.
This new 8.5-kilometer road winds as a sober line through the surrounding landscape. Ten new constructing bridges are discreet. Their subtle, slender bow shape makes them belong to a similar and organic family while creating a panorama for road users, pedestrians, and cyclists. In terms of species, the new planting design blends in with the existing and has an added value for ecology while guiding animals under and over the road. Wide herb-rich verges and nature-friendly ditches are guiding the road.
H+N+S Landscape Architects worked within a team of experts. Together and through weekly work sessions, the spatial quality team stayed involved in the technical road design, hydrological modeling, and engineering of the constructions to prevent that only technical conditions would lead the decisions. H+N+S’s role was ‘Manager Spatial Quality’. This ensured that the performance and qualities offered were safeguarded throughout the design process and well communicated to the client, stakeholders, and municipalities.
An important part of the landscape integration is the ecological framework of landscape structures, as carrier of the integration of the road. Existing intersecting landscape structures such as wooded banks and avenues were strengthened, and new structures added. Besides determining the perception of the road, these structures have an important ecological function. They form natural hop-overs for animals to cross the road without artificial intervention. For mammals and amphibians eleven eco-tunnels have been integrated to the work. Parallel to the road, the wide side verges are constructed and managed as insect’s berms. The roadside ditches and slopes are designed shallowly. They fulfill an ecological function as well as storage for the road water, which can infiltrate on the spot.
The new N69 route crosses the stream valleys of Run and Keersop. Two stream valley bridges, respectively 250 and 310 meters long, run high on protruding legs. This means that there is no physical barrier to the meandering streams and their natural values. This results in an open landscape, where visitors and numerous species (such as roe deer) can pass the N69 uninterrupted. Also, the intersecting N397 (leading to the cultural town of Dommelen) crosses the stream valley of the Keersop. Originally the competition foresaw a culvert bridge on this location. However, Boskalis cleverly offered the opportunity to design a fully-fledged stream valley bridge. This little brother of the two valley bridges creates, with a length of 50m, space for the Keersop, an ecological connection for the largest species and recreational connections to cross the N397 unruffled. The offer has been taken and build.
Three pedestrian bridges are situated in the forest areas. They are crossing the road in one smooth gesture. Recreational routes are brought to a raised plateau and from this level, a gentle and wide staircase leads the pedestrian over the N69. A wooden lamellae balustrade embraces the route and slopes are planted with indigenous. From the road, the artwork itself has the same curved slender silhouette as all the other bridges.
Eleven iconic benches have been designed and located on recreational spots along the hiking and biking roads of the N69. The benches are designed and refer to geological features while telling stories throughout carved lines of poetry. They contribute to spatial awareness and are a recognizable identity for the user.
Sustainability and CO2 savings is a great social purpose woven into the assignment. An economy in materials has been realized (in comparison with the project’s primary specifications), biofuels and new asphalt technologies have been used in the execution. Bio-based materials have been implemented, including a bicycle bridge of prestressed geopolymer concrete, and the two stream valley bridges have been equipped with integrated solar cells screens generating more energy than the road consumes in lightning and pumping stations.
For the LILA Landscape Awards, the Nieuwe Verbinding N69 is a proven example of intensive and integral collaboration from all stakeholders to reach the ambitions for sustainability, ecology and spatial quality. This resulted in an innovative and energy neutral road that raises the quality of the landscape and the experience of the nature for its users and surrounding species.