WärtZ – Spoorzone Zwolle

Zwolle, NL

Type Masterplan, Landscape design
Design 2023
Location Zwolle, The Netherlands
Size 9.5 ha
Client AM, Nederlandse Spoorwegen, Gemeente Zwolle
I.c.w. MVRDV, Orange Architects,Skonk, Royal HaskoningDHV, DGMR, Mobycon, Kickstad, Pieters Bouwtechniek, Tenman, Stepforward, Kwirkey, ’t Idee Marketing & Concept
Team Eric-Jan Pleijster, Leire Calvillo Mendoza, Sara Ingignoli, Simon Verbeeck, Yishan Du, Dick Scholtus
Renders Vivid Vision

Zwolle is undergoing one of the largest inner-city area developments in the Netherlands, WärtZ, turning Zwolle’s Spoorzone into a rewilded creative district. Over the upcoming years, the former industrial site near the NS railway station will undergo a spatial and programmatic transformation, aligning with the Spoorzone Master Plan and the Memorandum of Principles established by the Municipality of Zwolle and NS. The winning plan got the green light, which consists of 850 homes for all ages, restaurants, educational institutions, public facilities, and makerspaces. The transformative ‘Spoorzone Zwolle’ turns a former industrial area into a rewilded neighbourhood that shows a promising young and innovative Zwolle. The organic landscape of WärtZ provides ample space for movement, encounters, sports and games. Moreover, it functions as a permanent ‘green stage’ for the creative makers in WärtZ by providing space for initiatives, festivities and art. 

This transformative initiative by area developer AM in collaboration with LOLA Landscape Architects, MVRDV, Orange Architects, Skonk, and others, will continue to the entire planning area which encompasses major ambitious goals in energy, mobility, circularity, and climate. LOLA Landscape Architects will design the landscape for the area near the NS railway station in Zwolle into a vibrant green creative district.

A bridge between city and nature
Based on the principles of urban rewilding, nature regains its course and brings people closer to nature. What is now largely asphalt becomes part of a large natural canvas for makers, residents, and visitors. The public space takes inspiration from the landscape of the river IJssel valley that once characterized this area, bringing it back to a more urban context. By embracing the benefits of spontaneous vegetation growth and introducing controlled urban rewilding in targeted urban areas, nature is restored and given its maximal potential to thrive.

The young landscape builds on its history, from an industrial site to a dynamic living and working landscape. Most importantly, it is a young and spontaneous urban landscape where nature can take its course. A nature-friendly bank along the Hanze Singel and the wooded urban wilderness of the Spoorpark along the railway are two robust green-blue structures connecting the inner city to the IJssel Valley. The urban dunes shaping the inner public spaces contrast the fragments of the existing industrial elements, creating an unexpected and exciting space. As a largely car-free inner-city area, WärtZ gives more space for biodiversity, urban rewilding, and outdoor social encounters than if the public space was used for roads, crossings, and car parking. WärtZ is to be an energy-positive, circular and CO2-neutral urban development, aligning with the city’s sustainability ambitions and the future of our planet.

Water retention
Water retention mainly occurs in green spaces through wadis, nature-friendly banks, and helophyte filters. While the larger paved areas are present to host bigger programming, The larger paved programming areas have underground retention, which acts again like a big sponge.

A springboard for the city and regional businesses
Wild, Art, Raw, Tech, and Zwolle, encapsulated in its unique name: WärtZ. The name captures the district’s bustling atmosphere and alludes to the existing Wärtsilä hall with its typical, undulating roof. While the roof remains the same, everything around it will give place to a hub for innovation, creativity, and forward-thinking collaboration to address future challenges. This sets WärtZ to become a pivotal green and innovation district, acting as a catalyzer for talent and businesses across the region.

The winning team will further develop the plan in close cooperation with (future) users and businesses. The first phase is expected to start in 2025.

Masterplan of the vibrant green creative district, called WärtZ

Eric-Jan Pleijster, founding partner & senior landscape architect at LOLA Landscape Architects:

“It’s essential to have access to nature in our daily lives, even when we’re living in the middle of the city. By creating places in WärtZ that are higher and drier as well as places that are lower and more humid, we provide optimal conditions for new urban nature to develop spontaneously. The rewilded landscape of WärtZ gives plenty of room for movement and meeting, sports and games.”

Integrated Skate bowl in Spoorpark

Urban dunes with minimized paving

Wärtsilä hall with its undulating roof

One of the entrance squares towards Spoorpark in Lurelui

WärtZ is framed between the trees of the Spoorpark and banks of the Hanze Singel

A robust green-blue structure connecting the inner city to the IJssel Valley

Landscape concept

Different layer principles for a nature inclusive WärtZ

Programming for initiatives, festivities and art

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