Atelier Utrecht

The Healthy City

2015 - 2016

Atelier Utrecht investigated what innovative spatial development strategies can contribute to the creation of an inclusive, healthy city. For this purpose, the research team zoomed in on a number of strategic test sites in two areas of Utrecht: Overvecht, the area with the weakest health statistics and Merwede Canal Zone, a transitional area between well- and poorly performing parts of the city.

The Next Economy. Photo: Lotte Stekelenburg
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The population of Utrecht is among the healthiest in the Netherlands. There are, however, marked differences inside the city. Utrecht is doing its best to address such persistent differences in health and life expectancy, but has to operate in a force field that is in full transition. The national government is delegating care tasks to municipalities. The consolidating health economy is passing into the hands of a few large parties that add little local value. In addition, the city of Utrecht expects its population to grow from 330,000 today to 400,000 in 2030 within the current city limits, which will result in a significant densification of its existing urban territory.

Atelier Utrecht investigated how health and urban development can be linked, based on solidarity between different generations, cultures and income groups. Not only were spatial and programmatic transformations in the city explored in relation to health and well-being, but also changes in the funding of health care.
Image: De Smet Vermeulen Architecten

The result comprises a number of promising scenarios that use densification as a catalyst to achieve a healthy city. Increasing the number of places for social encounter will strengthen social networks and thus the residents’ independence. Proximity encourages healthy mobility and, in addition, living, working, shopping, and relaxing all within walking or cycling distance stimulates local economic and social networks.

Besides spatial opportunities, municipal authorities are given an opportunity to position themselves as choreographers of a ‘cooperative’ urban development and to involve a variety of actors with very different investment potentials and ambitions in area and neighborhood development. Atelier Utrecht: The Healthy City provides insights that can also inspire other cities in the Netherlands and abroad.

The results of Atelier Utrecht were on view in the main exhibition of IABR 2016: The Next Economy and were subsequently exhibited from July 25 to October 7, 2016 at the Utrecht City Hall.