Identity needed
Park Meerstad is now an essential part of Meerstad’s identity– exactly as LAOS landscape urbanism had envisioned it. The fact that the park was designed first, followed later by the adjoining residential area, played strongly into this ambition.

Thanks to its expressive multidimensional appearance and broad programme, Park Meerstad has become a popular meeting place for people living in the surrounding area. It has also become an events location with an appeal stretching far beyond the region itself.

The hills are overgrown with grasses, sown with around 50 species of native flowers and the odd tree. There’s also room for natural succession: the park is managed in a natural, restrained way and the ecosystem is allowed to crystallise and change over time. Various animal species, ranging from dragonflies to frogs to rabbits, discovered the park shortly after its construction.

Creating a landscape of contrasting experience
Like a sheet in the wind, Park Meerstad has settled on the shore of the artificial Woldmeer lake in Meerstad, the province of Groningen, NL. Cycle paths and footpaths run throughout the park. The designers have not shied away from incorporating the extremes of the relief into the footpaths.

The paths twist and turn over the hills, rather than along them. It’s a considerable workout, but all efforts are rewarded with magnificent views. To the east, you can look out over the lake and the nature reserve beyond, and to the west, the city of Groningen’s signature skyline emerges. Upon descent, that experience of vastness and vulnerability to the elements gives way to a sense of security. In the green valleys, you’re treated to ever-changing frame of surprising vistas over the lake and surrounding buildings.

The concrete cycle path has a completely different character. This path cuts through the hilly landscape like a ruler, oblivious to the relief and water that has to be crossed. Sometimes it sinks into its surroundings and other times it floats over the top. This ensures a different sensation from the footpaths – a deliberate contrast for the sake of experience. From one constant height, you experience the movement and rhythm of the rolling world you traverse; the alternation between large and smaller in-between spaces, between openness and seclusion.

The relief also plays a major role in water management and ecology. The designers approached the park as an ecosystem. Natural drainage is addressed in the concept, with the hills determining the watersheds and drainage directions. The differences in height and transitions between land and water add a great diversity of ecological gradients. There are many different microclimates: wet, soggy and dry, sun, semi-shade and shade, wind and lee.

The park’s folds disappear into the Woldmeer lake, suggesting that they continue as ridges for quite some distance across the lake bed. They dominate the views between the buildings and the lake. Since urban planning had not yet been drawn up for the neighboring district, the park provides a strong context to which the yet to be designed architecture could react. This opportunity was cleverly seized: the ground floor is slightly raised to provide good views towards the park. Also balconies on upper levels are generous. The unobstructed view gives the houses a special quality. Residents overlook the beach and its pavilion and the play island with natural water play components.

Unique making process fusing art, landscape and technology
In between the design and experience stages is the implementation stage. The scale landscape created in a sheet on the design table was fixed and used to make a wax print. This model was put through the scanner and the digital 3D model became visible on the screen of the GPS-equipped bulldozers and crawler cranes. The machinists knew exactly where they were in the design. They performed the work like a computer-controlled 3D printer – sand layer by sand layer. All the folds and slope angles lay as they had been shaped in the sheet on the design table and had exactly the same fluidity. This could only have been achieved with modern technology. In reality, any slopes that were too steep in the scale model have been flattened slightly, both for the purposes of management – in order to prevent the lawnmower from tipping over – and for the purposes of controlled water runoff during heavy rainfall.

Architecture offices involved in the design:
In collaboration with Jeroen Doorenweerd

Park Meerstad
9613 CV Meerstad
The Netherlands

Design year: 2015-2020

Year Completed: 2020


LILA 2024 Sponsor