The former concrete slab sandwiched between the city center of Almere and Weerwater Lake has been transformed into a multifunctional park. It is designed as a public urban space that is simultaneously open and secluded and offers users space to gather, or in contrast find peace and quiet in a dense urban environment. This transformed outdoor space offers a soft landing between the elevated city center with strong city contours and the tranquility of the lake. With the new Esplanade, the city has capitalized on its urban waterfront.
The Esplanade in Almere connects a low waterfront with a raised city centre. A hospital, theatre, museum, schools, shops and restaurants surround this public square. Underneath the Esplanade, lies a whole other world. A food court, parking garage and storage unit entrances for residents who live in the buildings overlooking the square.
To be able to create a maximum amount of green surface, it was important to observe how people move around the square. This led to creating different sized green plains and a grid with walking paths. The square embraces its various levels, which create an iconic yet functional terraced landscape. It enables natural staging on event days. On average days, there is a pleasant contrast and interaction between the open grass plains on the lower levels and the raised plains that are a bit more private and secluded, thanks to their higher vegetation. It organically shapes a difference in how the space is being used and the activities that take place. There is liveliness – with room for sports and play – near the water and a more quiet setting when moving higher up towards the center.
We designed a public space that can hold its own and fits in well, sandwiched between downtown and the open water. Large events like the annual triathlon or the freedom festival at the 5th of May can take place on the square, withholding up to 20.000 spectators with ease.
Water stairs create a playful, cooling element in the design and create an entrance to the city center (or to the lake). They also draw the lake literally 100 meters closer to the city center. The water is sourced from Weerwater Lake and is pumped from, and released back into, the lake. The terraced landscape also creates a softer landing and turns the waterfront into an attractive city feature.
Close collaboration with residents and stakeholders
The residents adjacent to the square should consider the Esplanade as an extension of their living room. Therefore we gathered everyone (event organizers, square residents and entrepreneurs, and the city’s maintenance and planning departments) and kicked off the build by sketching initial ideas. Together with maintenance, we opted instantly for aesthetic yet durable materials, made to withstand the test of time … and large events.
Landscape Architecture: ECHO Urban Design
Other designers involved in the design of landscape (architects and landscape architects): Rots Maatwerk (water feature)
Project location: Esplanade, Almere, Netherlands
Design year: 2017 – 2018
Year Built: 2020
Manufacturer of urban equipment: Struyk Verwo