Pretend it's a City

Overvecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands

June 2021

Academic Project

MSc2 Urban Architecture

TU Delft

In collaboration with Aneesh Nandi

Guidance

Elsbeth Ronner

Eireen Schreurs

Leeke Reinders

Overvecht might easily be dismissed as yet another post-war modernist neighbourhood, practically identical to hundreds of other neighbourhoods built in the Netherlands and beyond in the 1950s-1960s. These new habitats were designed/intended to form a utopian vision of the modern city and its residents, providing an alternative to the dense, polluted cities of the pre-war era. From a contemporary perspective, we see these principles as creating non-urban environments, which favour vehicular movement over pedestrian, isolate functions by means of zoning, and display repetitive and automatic urban and architectural design in all scales.

 

Our site study aims to identify and describe local forms of post-war modernist urbanity, by acknowledging the existence of traces of urban behaviours in this non-urban context. By doing so, we highlight the gaps between the tangible aspects of Overvecht’s design and the ways in which its vast public spaces are occupied by residents and passersby. A series of site visits concluded in behavioural mapping of the site, creating a utopian image of intensive human activity. This collage of alternative forms of urbanity draws a connecting line between the human and spatial phenomena observed in Overvecht and long-established urban elements, which the neighbourhood supposedly lacks.


In our work, we see the modernist neighbourhood of Overvecht as a hopeful starting point for creating a lively, inclusive and diverse living environment, enhancing the urban elements recognised in the research stage. Both conceptually and physically, our design can be considered as an extension of the existing slabs. The proposed buildings stitch the architectural product together with the landscape by introducing smaller urban blocks that break down the scale of the courtyard. The materiality and expression respect the architectural language of the existing, creating a consistent whole. By making use of a non-binary programmatic scheme and a sequence of diverse private, shared and public spaces, we imagine a revived version of the modernist house, block and neigbourhood.