OKRA is an award-winning design office for landscape architecture and urbanism. Over the last twenty-five years OKRA has focused on the transformation of cities and landscapes for the people who use them. OKRA has extensive experience in defining frameworks for urban development, design public space, master planning and strategies. OKRA has a multi-disciplinary team with more than 30 international professionals working enthusiastically with partners and clients to create a better environment.
We believe that with the understanding of tomorrow, you can solve the issues of today. We build a collective memory through accurate observations of our cities. This memory of knowledge grows and we use it to develop our vision of the environment in our designs. We imagine, create and innovate. This makes OKRA a visionary partner in the debate on spatial planning, sustainable cities and public domain.
With our eyes open and a curiosity for discovery, we get to the heart of each problem by recognizing where opportunities lie. We aim to transform these into a lasting and meaningful environment. Challenge us with a complex problem to solve and we will strive to find the right balance between future urban pressure, landscape identity and quality of life. Within this tension we create clear concepts that make a project successful.
We use our knowledge and ability to bring our vision to reality. We understand current issues in the public domain and how a project can be realized. This translates into realistic designs and an achievable vision. A design is only successful if it has a long-term added value for the public and therefore we design flexible public space that can change with the times. Matching the desire of today and ready for tomorrow’s development.
A major transport hub
Rouen Rive Droite station is a major regional transport hub with over 6 million annual passengers, located in the densely built-up historic city centre of Rouen in Normandy. The station area today operates as the most important gateway to the urban region, but with its many carriageways and disorganised public space, its character has deteriorated and the space forms a barrier to key pedestrian connections. It has undergone a drastic transformation to develop connections with public transport and to improve their accessibility.
An attractive entrance to the city
OKRA has transformed this fragmented and car-dominated area into an attractive and pedestrian friendly entrance to the city. By narrowing carriageways, and redistributing car traffic and parking to surrounding streets, the public space has been reconfigured and decluttered for the benefit of pedestrians and local activities: pedestrian movement have been optimised with safe, comfortable and comprehensible connections to the city centre. The public space has been laid out as a place where people can meet and spend time, and where local businesses can display their wares.
A green square
OKRA’s design capitalises on the opportunity to improve the network of green spaces in which the area is particularly lacking. By creating a series of densely planted gardens inspired by the local impressionism heritage, the project reduces artificial surfaces and increases the biodiversity of the area with a wide range of perennials and tree species. Combined with the use of lighter natural stone, the design significantly improves the microclimate of the area, potentially reducing local temperature by as much as 4°C.
For the past ten years the Rijkswaterstaat, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, have been working to strengthen some weak links in the coast. Alongside building the required coastal defence, the coast zone investments also ensure that Katwijk remains a tourist destination and supporting the local economy of seaside towns. With the need to strengthen the Katwijk coast, care is taken to preserve the value of the existing town and, ultimately, how this can also be made stronger.
Relation Between Town and Beach
In an interactive planning process OKRA defined the most important values of Katwijk; namely the relationship between the village and the beach. The chosen dyke-in-dune coastal defences, a stone-lined embankment covered and reinforced by dunes, sufficient low dunes would be built with minimal disruption between town and beach. With this construction the City Katwijk could also realise an underground parking garage behind the dyke.
Natural Dune Landscape
The dyke and garage are completely hidden from view by natural-looking dunes. An extensive network of paths has been built to connect village and beach, offering views of the sea. The highlight of the design is a broad dune transition that serves as a welcome space and event plaza, in total forming a vibrant heart for the coast of Katwijk coast.
i.c.w.: Arcadis, RoyalhaskoningDHV, Municipality of Katwijk, the Water Board of Rhineland
Images: OnSite Photography
Recovering Vitality of the historical city center
In a number of small historical cities, the pressure of car accessibility and traffic has a severe impact upon the cohesion of city centers, where pedestrian space is claimed to accommodate vehicle requirements. Resulting in a fragmented identity and loss of heritage. In 2010, the municipality has engaged a process to regain quality of life and invest in the promotion of the touristic thermal city. Since the Roman times the city of Dax, in the southwest of France, is known for its hot water springs. OKRA’s plan is to develop a pedestrian friendly scheme for the city center and to renovate one of the main spaces, the Fontaine Chaude Square.
The Invisible Made Visible
By reorganizing the traffic system OKRA made it possible to create a peaceful pedestrian friendly platform. The old monumental porch of the Fontaine Chaude has recovered its position in the center of a generous, open and carefully crafted paved carpet. The paving details and lighting concept showcase and highlight the thermal history and collection of artifacts found on the square.
Public space as a catalyst for urban life and social cohesion
Cafés, restaurants and shops around the square have gained visibility, accessibility and lots of terrace space. The liveliness of the area has improved and the square now offers more space to organize festivities and events, becoming the true beating heart of the thermal city.
i.c.w.: OTCE Engineering, AAPP
Mayor Great Spaces
Cutty Sark Gardens is one of the key projects in the Mayor’s Great Spaces initiative for public space. When you stand on Cutty Sark Gardens the history can be felt, the naval history and significance of the tea clipper, Cutty Sark that can be experienced in Greenwich.
Square of Ebb and Flow
Through the plan ‘Tidal Tectonics’ OKRA introduces the square of ebb and flow, responding to the flows, not only of the river but also of people: quiet in the early hours and with a large number of visitors during holidays. The strength of the ‘tidal’ square is based on flexibility and joining paved open spaces with colourful flowering gardens. ‘Tectonics’ is used as the metaphor of how the heights on the square create one unified surface surrounding the ship and green steps towards the river creating a balcony overlooking the city.
With the addition of Cutty Sark Gardens, London has another prominent space on the Thames, a crucial link in achieving their vision for a green connection along the river. Views of the industrial heritage, the skyline of London and the connection to the heart of Greenwich are important added values. The new square is a demonstration of how contemporary spaces can provide liveliness, but also offer the green backdrop for the 21st century city.
i.c.w.: Buro Happold
Images: OnSite Photography