Heleen Bults

Heleen Bults


Overvecht, VET gezond

Towards a healthy city district

Utrecht Overvecht was designed in the 1950s on the basis of a green principle, but the greenery has deteriorated and hardly contributes to the quality of life in the neighbourhood. The large amount of car parking spaces now determines the image of the public space, at the expense of space for sociability and relaxation. When the neighbourhood Leidsche Rijn was built around the year 2000, residents with higher incomes moved there. Those with less money were left behind. Overvecht became the district with the most social benefits and crime rate in Utrecht. It is not surprising that the neighbourhood is valued low by the inhabitants. Moreover, they are relatively often confronted with health and social problems.

Utrecht expects to house 100.000 extra inhabitants by 2040 and the city must take measures to cope with climate change in the future. In order to preserve the landscape surrounding the city, the inner city will have to be densified. In Overvecht there is not only room to take in part of the densification task, but such a task offers opportunities to make the neighbourhood more liveable and attractive. More homes and a variation in typology can bring a diversity of inhabitants to the district. An important goal is the restoration of the original, green principle of Overvecht with an upgrade aimed at stimulating exercise and healthy living, and social interaction. Extra greenery is accompanied by an increase in biodiversity and better infiltration of rainwater, which together will lead to an improvement of the ecology in the neighbourhood.

Overvecht now mainly has single strip buildings. The existing building height varies from 2 to 10 storeys. The long strip buildings on the edge of a residential area creates a strong barrier between the green public space and the buildings fields, and many extra buildings have been built in the green public space. My design focuses on the development of Utrecht Overvecht South. My proposal is to cluster all buildings in the existing building fields, including the densification, so that the current volume of public space becomes available for greening. This is achievable with the introduction of residential towers. These will open up the building fields to the surrounding green public space. In this way, the greenery can be experienced from every front door. In addition, the residential towers offer the district a new typology of housing, which is attractive to both existing and new target groups.

The building height of the residential towers is 15, 20 and 25 storeys respectively. The new buildings ensure that Overvecht can densify and grow in population while at the same time breathe new life into the area.

But there's more. Another task that the city of Utrecht has set itself is 'healthy urban living for everyone'. Even today, the inhabitants of Overvecht are on average the most unhealthy of Utrecht. An important part of my graduation proposal concerns interventions in public space that should inspire healthy behaviour. It is therefore necessary that sports and play facilities are prominently visible and easily accessible in the neighbourhood.

This provides a completely different setting for the residents of Overvecht, because it gives the public space back to the residents. They will soon be able to make use of the greenery again, meet each other and be inspired to exercise. The car is given less space and is stored in (temporary) parking garages. This creates more freedom of movement for pedestrians, cyclists and athletes. Athletes can run, rollerblade and cycle through the entire district. A sport path is a prominent element in the district and connects other sports facilities. With the transition from car to bicycle and pedestrian, a boulevard becomes the main access for slow traffic. The boulevard will connect important locations in the district, such as the station, the shopping centres and the beach, and will thus become a place to stroll and meet.

The combination of the construction of a boulevard, the densification and providing accessible sport options creates sociability and variety on the street and offers the residents of Overvecht opportunities to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Graduation date: 29 november 2021
Graduation committee: Martin Aarts (mentor), Pierre-Alexandre Marchevet, Herman Zonderland
Additional members for the exam: Ad de Bont, Marijke Bruinsma

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