WärtZ, Zwolle

WärtZ is the name of the winning design for the redevelopment of the Spoorzone site in Zwolle. In collaboration with MVRDV and LOLA Landscape Architects, Orange Architects has been commissioned by developers AM to design an ambitious and future-oriented plan for this new innovation and residential district in Zwolle. WärtZ will become the beating heart of the railway zone, focusing on the interplay between culture, education, maker industries and experimental forms of housing. This will be the ‘adventurous twin’ of the historical city centre, an innovation district for creative maker industries with international appeal, and a catalyst for the Dutch tech world. It marks a big step on the way to achieving Zwolle’s goal of becoming the country’s fourth economic region, a hub for the entire northern part of the country.

The site is prominently located right next to the southern entrance to the station and within walking distance of the city centre. A hidden gem, hemmed in by the railway tracks to the north and the Hanzekwartier office district and Hanzeland residential district to the south. This former industrial site belonging to Dutch Railways (NS) also contains a large complex of industrial structures, among them the distinctive Wärtsilä Hall, which will be preserved as part of the large-scale transformation and redevelopment of the area.

WärtZ will be the beating heart of the railway station district and the ‘adventurous twin’ of the historical city centre of Zwolle

WärtZ will offer an ultimate mix of adventurous living, working, learning and socializing. This is the place to be, the place where it’s all happening! What sets it apart from the historical centre and surrounding areas is the combination of urban hotspot, innovation district and wild urban nature. Together with the historical city centre, the Spoorzone defines a new central district, while the ancient IJssel landscape that once dominated the area will once again become palpable and accessible. The space we provide for creative and innovative maker industries gives this piece of city its character and identity. WärtZ offers permanent space for growth, evolving insights and the ambitions of innovators, adventurers and creative pioneers from Zwolle and far beyond. A flexible urban hotspot that always has something new to offer and can smoothly accommodate new generations of visitors and residents.

Making an adaptive urban mix of functions calls for resilient and multi-layered DNA that defines the identity of the area. The basis for this is wild urban nature. A varied landscape characterized by a gradient from an elevated dry wooded northern area to a low-lying southern wetland. The WärtZ mix then forms a programmatic layer that stimulates mutual influencing and innovation and defines the plans for all the individual parts. Each neighbourhood has its own emphasis and character, but always with the distinctive WärtZ identity. A pragmatic modular grid provides the organizing principle for the new development. Innovative buildings feature adaptive structures, open plinths and generous collective spaces. A traversable network of public squares and intimate streets invite people to stroll around and discover places. As a platform for interaction, WärtZ creates a network of people and expertise that ties…

By means of urban rewilding, the hard-surfaced industrial zone will be transformed into a green, dynamic IJssel landscape, drawing nature back into the city. A number of new building blocks will be inserted into this WärtZ landscape, and the existing industrial hall will be redeveloped and topped by a new structure to form an icon for the city. The site is split into three neighbourhoods, each with a character of its own, grouped around the existing industrial buildings. The Wärtsilä Hall serves as a central platform for culture, education and maker industries. Workshops offer space for a combination of innovative business and housing. And Lurelui will be an urban and dynamic residential landscape with a rich mix of housing types, shared spaces, hospitality venues, commercial functions, workshops, offices and mobility hubs.

Lurelui is located close to the Workshop and District Z areas. It is an active and collective residential landscape where social cohesion is important. This is reflected in the programming with social, commercial and collective amenities at ground level, but also on upper levels. The landscape strengthens this cohesion and establishes connections between the Spoorpark and Hanzesingel areas, and between the buildings themselves, with vegetation along the ground, up the facades and across the roof-top terraces.

To the north and south of the building envelope, Lurelui is positioned between two mobility hubs, with space for small commercial functions, shared mobility stations and car parking. The transparent, porous structure makes the plan traversable and creates connections. Both residents and visitors alike are triggered to discover landscape features between the buildings. The visual interplay between the modular buildings and the wild vegetation results in an intimate inner world where architecture and landscape blend harmoniously, a distinguishing element of the strong, liberated DNA of WärtZ. In three places, the rational grid is interrupted by rotated buildings. This gesture is a nod to the Willemskwartier area on the other side of the tracks, and helps to define public spaces with various qualities. All these spaces have a different character and they are threaded together by a public route that extends between, along, through and on top of the buildings.

Residents of Lurelui live in a dynamic green urban landscape with plenty of scope for innovation. And sustainability is embedded in every fibre of the plan – the vegetation, buildings, energy, circularity, use of materials, programming and community. That makes it more than a place to live. It’s where you meet your neighbours and can take part in all sorts of outdoor activities, doing or making things in a vibrant setting, or seeking out one of the many calm spots. This remarkable, vibrant living environment displays a fine balance between the city and nature.

WärtZ is a place of work! And that should be shown off. The Rangeerheuvel area is a maker square. Here, a bike mechanic rents out shared bikes (including electric ones), from a workshop where you can have your bike or household appliances repaired. People with special needs can assist, learn and meet locals. The flexible work programme around Rangeerheuvel is organized collectively, creating connections and enlivening the building plinths. Working with your hands and living above all the bustle. Moreover, Rangeerheuvel contains studio spaces for starters and small businesses, which are combined with homes above. In other words: making on the ground floor in full view, and living upstairs.

Here you live in and with wild urban nature; inside is also outside everywhere

The Biels Bos on the railway side is an active square. People can skate and climb and practice all sorts of other sports outdoors. An activity route runs alongside the railway tracks and through both mobility hubs. The public route through Lurelui passes through a patio and becomes a green promenade that crosses the site, offering wonderful views of all the other marvels of Lurelui. Entrances to the residential buildings line both sides of this route, and there will be a co-working unit for residents.

Located in the heart of Lurelui, where the Noordzeelaan and Hanzesingel intersect, the Stamplein is an informal hotspot for socializing and relaxing. This is the place where local residents can meet up. A living room café that encloses a sunny urban terrace is a perfect place for a cup of coffee or a graduation party. The cooking studio opposite is ideal for a quick bite after work, or for an extended cooking session with friends and family. Next to the urban dunes between the residential blocks, a small stage caters for intimate performances by local talents. The lift takes you to the roof-top terrace, a collective green neighbourhood space with an elevated vegetable garden. From this terrace, three bridges connect residents to a shared guestroom, sports hall and other shared amenities housed in the buildings.

Connected to your neighbours and your neighbourhood in lots of ways

An ambitious vision and integral approach weaves sustainability into every fibre of WärtZ, creating a future-oriented plan for climate, nature, people and surroundings. Urban rewilding brings the dynamic IJssel landscape back to the Spoorzone, a nature-inclusive and biodiverse piece of new urban nature. The use of modular, adaptive building structures and circular, bio-based materials limits the environmental impact, both now and in the future. WärtZ is energy-neutral and self-sufficient thanks to the use of local renewable sources of energy. Another area of focus is the health and wellbeing of all users, from residents to visitors. Interaction, encounters and social cohesion are at the core of the rich mix of functions, housing types, placemaking and collective spaces. This innovative and flexible spatial framework can adapt to meet future challenges. Building on the raw character of the railway site, contrasting with yet…

Project Details
  • Site
  • Zwolle, the Netherlands
  • Client
  • AM
  • Design
  • 2023
  • Size
  • 120.000 - 160.000m2
  • Program
  • Mixed-use
  • Assignment
  • Competition
  • Team
  • Patrick Meijers, Jeroen Schipper, Florentine van der Vaart, Midas van Boekel, Lena Papanikolaou, Elena Staskute, Victoria Tomás, Marlene Hamacher, Elchan Koelijev, Rik Meijer, Allard Meijer
  • Collaboration
  • MVRDV, LOLA Landscape Architects, RHDHV, DGMR, Mobycon, Pieters Bouwtechniek, Kickstad, Skonk, Tenman, De Stadstuin, Stepforward, Kwirkey, ’tIdee!
  • Visuals
  • Vivid Vision, Barbara Krantz