office photo: John van Hamond

Karin van Essen and Mark van der Bij founded MAAK space on 1st January 2019, after working independently, but in the same studio, for ten years. Since then, Louise Mabilleau and Dominic Zwartkruis have joined the team, which is always completed by a trainee. The studio is located in the historical city centre of Amersfoort from which two additional freelance landscape professionals also work, joining the team on specific projects now and then.

MAAK space takes care of the design of outdoor spaces from the first idea to the placement of the last paver. MAAK space works on all types of projects, on a variation of scales, nationwide and internationally. The main objective is not only making designs but actually get them constructed.

MAAK space works in networks: for each project a team is put together and an approach decided on. Constant factors are a pragmatic attitude and cooperation with future users. Three design approaches can be distinguished.

1. Contextual and conceptual design: make a plan for the site.

2. Sounding out possible sources of funding by showing potential investors pictures of what could be done with a site, without actually making a design: making a plan based on a picture.

3. Communicating with parties so that a project wins supporters: using their involvement and participation while making the plan.

Every project is unique, has different starting points, users and clients and therefore requires its own approach. MAAK space believes that the role of people in the process is indispensable. It is important to be sincerely interested and to be a good listener. Behind every remark there is an idea that is useful for the design. The design ends up being different from what it would been without public involvement. Different – not worse. The input helps to move forward as the designers are surprised by new and innovative viewpoints. Commitment is created for the special framework, able to accommodate future developments. 

Amersfoort CNME ‘the green house’

The Green House houses the educational centre for nature and environmental. It is a sustainable and green meeting place located on the transition of forest and meadows in Estate Schothorst, Amersfoort. The forest floor and meadow interlock in the Green House. In line with the classic English landscape style of the estate, the roadway, parking spaces, bicycle parking and footpaths are subtle laid out around existing trees. The entrance of The Green House is flanked by collection gardens containing many stinzen plants.

Stinzen plants form a special group of naturalising ornamental plants, which in earlier centuries were often brought from distant countries and were mainly planted in outdoor areas (stinzen). Then they became feral and integrated. Many stinzen plants are originally forest plants; they tolerate quite a bit of shade. Development and flowering of the bulbs, tuber and rhizome plants usually fall in the spring before the foliage closes. In this way they take full advantage of the spring light and make a visit to the gardens a true spring festival. There are gardens where the theme of scent and tasting is central and where plants can actually be harvested and tasted. The bee and butterfly gardens are sorted by colour and ensure continuous flowering of all kinds of plants and shrubs. Finally, the picking garden is full every year with a different assortment of surprising annuals.

Maassluis City Center

Although Maassluis council recognised the need for reorganisation, there was no budget allocated. A sketch plan with a dual character was made: it had to seduce and it had to be specific. The first aspect was necessary in order to win supporters, and the second because it was possible to assume that work would start immediately if the plan were approved. Based on the sketch a subsidy was applied for and obtained.

The centre of Maassluis is small in scale. with large civil engineering structural elements such as the Maasdijk, streams and squares. The layout of the public space did not support this arrangement. Therefore, simplicity and flair were central to the redesign; one single material – brick paving – was used for the public space, and, where possible, trees were planted by the side of the stream. This provided a regular and timeless ‘floor’, which connected with the various different historical facades. Every square has a special feature. On the “markt” there are fountains and on the “Bloemhof” there are steps which can be used as seating to create a stand for an audience. The “Marelplein” was the last square to realise, welcoming the market.

As a counterpart to the simple and uniform ‘floor’, the Delftse stoep (Delft doorstep) was given a new lease of life. The Delft doorstep is a means of self-expression. It indicates which zone a building belongs to and where residents and shop owners can place their flowerpots, displays or benches.

Zeist Kerckebosch – Life in the woods

Life in the Woods is a small living environment in Kerckebosch, Zeist. The superbe forest was the starting point for the plan. Forest means trees, many trees. Preferably existing trees, where not possible or not existing, new ones are proposed. People live in intimed clusters and the quality of the forest is the key. The houses are transparent with big windows and integrated terrasses, making you feel one with the forest.

The trees cut to make living places in the forest are used on the spot to generate privacy and to enhance a big variety of plants, insects and small animals. Many shrubs were planted for the privacy of the residents but also to create a good woodland atmosphere. Quite a few houses were built on a small surface. The green dominates the image, not the houses. The shrubs may be planted in large groups and became somewhat natural, matching the forest atmosphere. The roads, made from bricks, were thoughts as narrow as possible. Parking is not marked with special parking spaces: you park on your own property or in places with a simple wooden post on your house number.

Thinking of every detail to enhance the forest atmosphere, wooden walls were designed to delimitate the clusters, drawing a limit between private and public reusing branches available on site. These 1.2m high walls totally fit the environment and the tones of the surrounding landscape, forming a beautiful shelter for birds. After all, if you live in the forest, you want to wake up to a bird’s whistle.


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