Heerhugowaard’s City of the Sun: an Architectural Walking Tour
Located in North Holland, a new town with 3,000 homes has been constructed just south of Heerhugowaard, adjacent to the city of Alkmaar and the polder of the Schermer. The heart of this new town is the City of the Sun, a specially planned and designed residential area that aims for complete CO2 emission neutrality, which will have 1,600 residential
units when completed.
Carbon Neutrality means both the elimination of CO2 emissions as well as generation of renewable energy. Carbon neutrality and energy generation are achieved by the installation of more than 40,000 solar panels with 2.45 MegaWatt generation capacity, energy efficient building orientation and construction, three wind turbines on the outskirts of Heerhugowaard, and the planting of trees in the “Huygendijkbos” woodland park, part of the recreation area of Luna Park, the City of the Sun’s dedicated open space park. Luna Park has over 170 hectares (420 acres) of woods and ecological zones as well as approximately 75 hectares (185 acres) of surface water area suitable for water sports and swimming.
Major excavation for this new district and the recreation area began in 2003 in an area of low lying polders. Massive earth-moving and landscaping occurred in South Heerhugowaard. In early 2004, the first housing was constructed in the new district, with construction expected to continue until 2012-2013. Luna Park was completed in 2007.
Ashok Bhalotra (b. 1943) of the architecture and urban planning firm KuiperCompagnons (Rotterdam), was the designer of the town master plan of development. As the plan supervisor, Mr. Bhalotra continues to monitor the quality and energy characteristics of the architecture of the residential, commercial and institutional buildings in the City of the Sun, a new town within Heerhugowaard.
The Sun as Inspiration
The source of inspiration for both the subdivision and in the architecture of the houses is, of course, the Sun. The basic layout of the City of the Sun consists of a perfectly square land area (the “Carre”) seemingly floating in a surrounding lake. By orienting this square in a north-south direction which differs from the orientation of the grid of traditional towns and fields in the region, the plan of the City of the Sun maximizes the exposure to the sun and the benefits of solar power generation. The north-south orientation is also an urban design gesture, differentiating the City of the Sun from the rest of Heerhugowaard, or as Mr. Bhalotra puts it “the square has been liberated from the grid of the polder”.
Car-Free Residential Zones
Many residential streets have been made car-free by use of parking in special areas behind buildings or in backyards. The car-free residential zones are designed with greenery and special pavement. The car-free residential areas make for a very different kind of living environment.
The City of the Sun has numerous amenities, making it a very attractive and viable
neighborhood in which to live. There are primary schools and nurseries, shops, restaurants, medical facilities and a community center. The “Dacpan” restaurant is located in the town center. In south Heerhugowaard, there is the “Wending” soccer fields center as well as the Heerhugowaard Sports Center. In Luna Park, facilities include the “Sport Lagune”, a multipurpose sports center, and the “Waerdse Tempel”, a music and cultural center. Luna Park also offers many trails and paths for walking, cycling, rollerblading, skating and mountain biking. The water surrounding the City of the Sun provides the opportunity for swimming, windsurfing and canoeing and since 2010 the cable water ski center “Skeef”.
The architectural walking tour of the City of the Sun begins at the “Brandpunt”, the town center of this new district, at the “Hemelboog Binnen” or Inner Sky Crescent. (Note that many of the street names in the City of the Sun refer to astronomy or the environment). Here in the town center are located the “Reflector” elementary school and the “Komeet” kindergarten, both the work of Atelier Dutch (Almere), www.atelierdutch.nl. The primary school is a public school for residents with 20 classrooms and various game rooms and auditorium that can be configured into larger meeting and activity spaces. The town center also features a community center, daycare center, a health clinic with medical staff, physiotherapy, pharmacy, etc. An important part of the community center is the “Dacpan” restaurant, a restaurant serving traditional Dutch cuisine and operated by the GGZ (a mental health care organisation). This restaurant runs a training program for people who have difficulties working in ‘normal’ jobs. On the upper three floors of the community center are rental apartments intended for elderly people with nursing needs. Assisted living housing located here also includes housing for people with disabilities. This community center and elderly housing building was also designed by Atelier Dutch (Almere). Through its location and architecture, this building has a prominent place in center of the City of the Sun. Also here in the town center area is a small shopping center with a branch of the Vomar Voordeelmarkt supermarket chain (www.vomar.nl) and some shop space, with a 38 meter (125 feet) tall apartment tower above, a local landmark. The new commercial establishment is the most energy efficient supermarket in Europe. Den Heijer Architects (Haarlem), www.denheijerarchitekten.nl, was the designer. This plan has won the price in the “Golden Green Awards” architectural competition in 2010, for most green buildings in The Netherlands, www.buildingbusiness.com/awards.
The “Middenweg” or Center Street, is the main thoroughfare connecting the City of the Sun with surrounding rural and urban areas and conforms to the geometry of the original farming area. In order to maintain the country character of this road as much as possible, “villas” or farm houses have been constructed on both sides of the “Middenweg”. These residences are the work of Jacques Prins van Inbo Architects (Rijswijk), www.inbo.com, and Alexander Nowotny Architects (Rotterdam), www.nowotny.nl. The dwellings refer to traditional historical prototypes, both in appearance and in detail. In this area, known as the “Zonnegloren” (or the Dawn), the Atalanta school, an elementary school, has been constructed. This use is not permanent. The design of this school very cleverly recognizes that as children grow up, there may be a need for apartments or small offices instead of a school, so the building can be converted to these alternative uses in the future if necessary, while maintaining the character of the neighborhood. The "Butterfly Plan" was created by local architect Jim Lubach (Heerhugowaard), www.jimlubach.nl.
In the northwest corner of the City of the Sun in an area across the “Middenweg”, there is an area of starter homes as well as the Cassini Apartments, the work of Boparai Associates Architects (Amsterdam), www.boparai.nl. The architects of the houses on the perimeter of the square or “Carre” all have the task of conforming to the master plan of Bhalotra of having a supervisor three-layer design, to make a real front would be created. Architect Neelu Boparai has given the facades of these houses an Indian weave pattern with which expresses has their relationship to the sun’s light and orientation. Also the architect has outlined the ridges of the parapets of these homes with a variety of fresh colors, which is particularly noticeable in a distant view of the buildings. The island houses on the north bank of the square or “Carre”, by Boparai Associates Architects, are designed to be “zero-energy homes", which means that these homes generate their own energy through individual heat pumps and photovoltaic solar panels. The homes are also connected to the utilities of the district. Here is located one of the two accesses to all traffic of this subdistrict. The two-family island homes, called Satellite Homes, were designed by KuiperCompagnons Architects (Rotterdam), www.kuiper.nl. Seen across the water, the Waerdse Tempel (www.waerdsetempel.nl), a music and cultural venue on the strand at Luna Park, was designed by Schulze & Van Dijk Architects (Almere), www.senvd.nl.
The western perimeter of the City of the Sun is boarded by the “Noorderlicht” and the “Zuiderlicht”, bisected in the middle by the “Middenweg”, with a series of Satellite Houses jutting out into the water on a series of small islands. The “Zuiderlicht” continues along the southern perimeter of the City of the Sun, where the residences are distinguished by differences of emphasis in the facades. They were designed by KuiperCompagnons (Rotterdam). The detached houses on the “Hemelboog Buiten” were designed by Jacques Prins van Inbo Architects (Rijswijk). The design of the stepped gable houses on the “Hemelboog Binnen” are the work of KuiperCompagnons Rotterdam). Looking south across the water, on the other side of the “Oosttangent”, the eastern ring road of Heerhugowaard, there is a view of the Sport Lagune, a multifunctional sports center in the Luna Park, designed by: Sander Douma Architects (Stompetoren), www.sanderdouma.nl.
In the mid-southern section of the City of the Sun, there are different types of townhouses, both rental and owner-occupied units, including some assisted living residences inhabited by people with disabilities. Here the orientation relative to the sun to benefit from solar energy is visible in the many solar panels on the roofs, directly facing south. These distinctive blue units were designed in 2006 by architect René van der Maten of A & I Architects (Uithoorn), www.aeniarchitecten.nl. The playground located at the “Hemelboog Buiten” is an interesting example of participatory design, with children's participation in the development of a play environment where "adventure games" are the happy theme. This playground is a collaboration between landscape architect Berrie van Elderen and industrial designer Carmela Bogman. The construction of the housing between “Hemelboog Binnen” and “Hemelboog Buiten” was begun in late 2009. Completed residential units include townhouses between “Corona” and “Dampkring” (Atmosphere) roads and semi-detached houses near the “Zuiderlicht” perimeter road.
The harbor front homes in “Meridiaan”, the major north-south axis of the City of the Sun, are distinguished by many varied facades. The greater floor-to-floor heights of these houses make them suitable for small art and industrial activities at home. These units were designed by Van den Oever, Zaaijer & Partners (Amsterdam), www.oz-p.nl. The “Meridiaan” is a pedestrian street with broad dimensions that gives space to cyclists and walkers and forms the link between the town center and the south shore of the Square or “Carre” at the “Zuiderlicht” perimeter road. At the termination of “Meridiaan” at the “Zuiderlicht” perimeter road there is a sundial placed by the water. Visitors can, by standing on the appropriate month on the scale in the pavement, find out what the actual (sun)time is at that moment. The watercourse along the “Meridiaan” is in open connection to the water surrounding the City of the Sun, all of a natural, clean quality. Along the quayside, there are stairs and bollards which make it easy for a boat to tie alongside, in typical Dutch fashion. Likewise, all bridges and overpasses make it easy for small sailboats to pass and for skaters to skate along the water in winter. On the other side of the water, there is so-called warehouse housing, where traditionally the walls align with the water’s edge, but most of these units also have balconies or small projections above the water. This part of the new town is a reference to the canal cities of old, including nearby Alkmaar. These buildings were designed by Roy Gelders Architects (Amsterdam), www.roygeldersarchitecten.nl. In the south-east corner of the square plan of the City of the Sun is the main entrance to this quadrant, the “Dijk van Kyoto” causeway, which can accommodate pedestrians, cycles and cars. The nearby “Hof van Ra” is characterized by townhouses in rows, with the central houses for rent and the corner houses for sale, another example of sun-oriented housing, designed by Van den Oever-Zaaijer & Partners (Amsterdam). Behind the Hof van Ra, the three apartment buildings are rent- or price-controlled units developed by the local housing authority. The southern building includes a series of residential units for people with disabilities who are supported with the support of Esdégé-Reigersdaal, a health care organisation. Architectural firm FKG (Zaandijk), www.fkg.nl, designed these apartment buildings. Roy Gelders Architects designed the two apartment buildings on the “Hemelboog Binnen”, which take their form from the curved line of the crescent established by Bhalotra in the master plan.
In the northeast quadrant of the plan is a mix of apartment units, both for rent and for sale as well as starter homes, townhouses, two-family and freestanding houses. The Orion apartment building on the “Dampkring” is the creation of Boparai Associates Architects (Amsterdam). Clearly visible are the rows of solar panels on the roof. East of the “Dampkring” is an island known as Bastion, a fanciful reference to the fortified islands of former times, with 17 tower residences and apartment buildings by KuiperCompagnons (Rotterdam). The apartment building at the Winter Garden and adjacent townhouses were designed by Boparai Associates Architects. East of “Dampkring”, the Satellite Homes by KuiperCompagnons Architects project out into the water. Across the water from these houses, along the “Steigerdijk”, are the many varied towers, at the end of piers, inspired by the lighthouses of Holland, designed by Atelier 19 Architects (Zwolle), www.19hetatelier.nl. Where “Dampkring”, turns the corner there is a special four-story house by Boparai Associates Architects. This house anchors and accentuates the northeast corner of the square master plan. At the northern boundary of the square, the previously identified island homes by Boparai Associates Architects match those located west of the “Middenweg”. Proceeding along “Corona” are the detached houses of Jacques Prins van Inbo Architects on the right and housing designed by Boparai Associates Architects on the left. This architectural walking tour ends back at the Brandpunt, or focal point, of this new town, The City of Sun, one of, or perhaps, the most carbon neutral town in the world.
We hope that you have enjoyed this walking tour of The City of the Sun. Now take some time to visit our shops and restaurants, and contact us at www.heerhugowaard.nl for more information about the town and region.
Translation by Kevin D Gray Consulting, USA