Introducing Wonderwoods; one concept, two towers
Wonderwoods is more than a building. All aspects of life will come together: living, working, culture, leisure, eating and drinking. Happiness 2.0
Tower I is ‘introverted’. It is covered in trees, creating what architect Stefano Boeri, the Milan-based architecture firm renowned worldwide for its innovative Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest), describes as ‘muted’ architecture. Nature surrounds the architecture.
Tower II, the MVSA Architects tower, is the opposite. Here, the verdant greenery is located on the inside and from there, goes outside. This makes it more ‘extraverted’ in character.
As Stefano Boeri describes, it, "A vertical forest in the heart of Utrecht is an ever-evolving ‘living’ landmark."
The future of our cities is connected to healthy urban living, re-introducing elements of nature to our homes and offices.
The future of healthy urban living
Over time, our environments have changed from being predominantly agricultural to industrial. As a result, our natural landscapes have gradually been replaced with high-density urban environments composed of predominantly single-use buildings. Housing tends to congregate in one area, shops in another, factories in another and so on.
Unfortunately, we are now realising that these environments are beset with problems that are increasingly making them detrimental to human, animal and plant life.
Pollution is damaging our air. An absence of natural elements is affecting our mental health. And as more and more space is dedicated to infrastructure, construction and transport, there are fewer opportunities for citizens to enjoy healthy, natural living.
This is an urgent issue. Already, half of the world’s population live in cities, and that percentage is expected to rise to 70% in the coming years. Instances of disease are becoming higher in urban areas, temperatures are higher on average and the availability of physical exercise is lower. Without intervention, there is a possibility that cities will become inhospitable.
This is why, in the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands, the municipal government is taking radical steps in collaboration with BNP Paribas Real Estate and Wonderwoods Development B.V. to significantly improve the effects these matters.
Rienk Baarsma, Commercial Development Manager, G&S VASTGOED describes the project by saying, "PlayLab is a cutting-edge ArtScience Museum, wherein art, science and the public all come together and experience this testing ground for new inventions, creating the playground for the future."
What is Wonderwoods?
For Wonderwoods Development B.V. the developers behind Wonderwoods; sustainability is one of their key missions. So, when the city of Utrecht called for responses to their brief to create a healthy urban living environment in their city centre of Utrecht, they sought the support of BNP Paribas Real Estate to help make their vision a reality. Since then, BNP Paribas Real Estate has provided support covering the entire real estate lifecycle, from research to development and beyond.
To help understand the philosophy behind Wonderwoods, we caught up with Alexander Ververgaert, COO of BNP Paribas Real Estate Netherlands, and Rienk Baarsma, Commercial Development Manager at G&S Vastgoed, to hear their thoughts on the vision and execution behind one of the world’s leading urban sustainability projects.
‘It’s like a green bubble in the city of Utrecht where people can become stimulated, experiencing a heathy lifestyle in the centre of the city,’ according to Alexander Ververgaert,.
The Wonderwoods site is located very close to the central business district and Utrecht Central station – being situated in HUQ which is a designated Healthy Urban area.
The team of Wonderwoods Development B.V. was inspired by the beautiful Bosco Verticale in Milan, Rienk Baarsma tells us, and the team even had the chance to meet the architect Stefano Boeri to understand how he achieved his vision of creating an entirely new type of green architecture. Together with Roberto Meyer from MVSA Architects the two visualised an entirely new breed of mixed-use architecture, creating a healthy lifestyle for its users, which became Wonderwoods.
What features will be included in Wonderwoods?
Wonderwoods will be built in two high-rise modules measuring over 70,000 sq. metres. It will feature a health gym and spaces for mindful activities, such as a yoga. Furthermore it will include a farm to fork restaurant, which, Alexander Ververgaert tells us, will “have the Wonderwoods philosophy in its DNA."
The exterior of the building will be covered in two hectares of trees, shrubs and bushes. The first plants and trees have already been selected by green specialists from Stefano Boeri Architetti, Koninklijke Ginkel Groep, Van den Berk Boomkwekerijen and Arcadis.
An image plan sets out standards for the quality and appearance of the greenery and recommends that the proprietors work together with a ‘flying gardener’ to ensure this.
“We are convinced that the building concepts, such as an Educational Hub and Playlab will help make the building educational for both young and old in the city,” Rienk Baarsma says. “Not everybody who lives in a city has access to green spaces and nature. We are therefore bringing nature to the heart of the city, with a public walking route around the roof gardens."
One thing that Wonderwoods does differently is stimulating different means of travel through a mobility plan – this is to encourage users to seek greener modes of travel. Parking spaces will be shared with office workers and residents. But, as Wonderwoods is located so close to the station, with links to Amsterdam in just 20 minutes, it is hoped that many commuters, visitors and residents will choose to use the train instead of drive. Furthermore a shared electric car fleet, electric bikes and a number of bike spaces help stimulate different and healthy means of travel.
“It’s a very important development for us and everyone at BNP Paribas Real Estate is very proud to be part of it. We are delighted to be partnering with Wonderwoods Development B.V. on this project, offering our knowledge and support throughout the entire real estate lifecycle, and across multiple business lines. This is a very important piece of real estate for us." says Alexander Ververgaert.
Why is Wonderwoods so significant?
The design of Wonderwoods is not only intended to offer its users a healthy relationship with architecture – it is also designed to set a new standard for European and world architecture. By demonstrating the effectiveness of a sustainable, green building, it is hoped that it will inspire future real estate projects. As Alexander Ververgaert puts it, “this is a national project with an international and iconic scope. With Wonderwoods we wanted to re-introduce natural elements to the architecture, to show that truly green architecture is not only possible, but that it can add value to its environment. Happiness attracts more happiness."
One of the greatest ambitions for Wonderwoods, Rienk Baarsma explains, is that “it will have a positive effect on the environment around it. One way it will do this is by helping to reduce carbon dioxide and the effects of air pollution. The other is by helping to stimulate a positive state of mind in users and passers-by, by offering natural shades and hues that will stand out amongst other, buildings in the City Centre. Wonderwoods is our Green at Heart ambition towards greener and healthier cities.”
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