6 April 2023

Heatherwick Studio and Nudus team up with Edge to design Utrecht’s new city centre hub

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Heatherwick Studio and Nudus have been chosen to design a new building on the Jaarbeursplein central square that champions Utrecht’s vision for healthy urban living.

The team, together with Edge, a leader in sustainable real estate development, were selected in a competition organised by the Utrecht Municipality to envision a new centre for culture, work and leisure for the city’s diverse population.

The plans aim to capture the spirit of Utrecht, bringing a sense of warmth and fun to the square. Nicknamed Oopen, the building is a colourful collection of diverse cylinders, a design that stands out against the backdrop of conventionally angular buildings in the neighbourhood. 

Its rounded form allows for open access from all sides and on the inside, the interconnected design will include varied facilities and services that promote exploration and chance encounters between people and activities. These range from sports and cultural event spaces and start-up offices to pop-up cafes and a rooftop restaurant with views across Utrecht’s skyline.

Thomas Heatherwick, founder and design director at Heatherwick Studio said:

“This building on Jaarbeursplein is the result of an extraordinary collaboration with the forward-thinking municipality of Utrecht. The leadership team challenged us to create a special place that reflects the urgent need for healthier cities that bring people back together again. The result isn’t just a design for another office building, but a thrilling opportunity to activate the square and create a surprising, new public place for this historic city.”

The city’s creative and entrepreneurial energy paired with the municipality’s focus on healthy urban living permeates the design. An indoor urban sports area and a skate park spilling out onto the public square promote active recreation whilst a large public hall will host cultural events and exhibitions. A collection of flexible kiosks will allow for a variety of services from local gastronomic highlights to charity pop-ups. A nightclub turns into a daytime dance school and practice space for aspiring DJs. A bicycle shed and a mobility hub will take up an entire floor, providing a natural nexus for anyone passing through the Netherland’s busiest train station nearby.

Caro van de Venne, Nudus added:

“In Oopen, people are at its heart. It is vibrant and aims to bring people of different cultures, generations and communities together to reflect the true diversity of Utrecht. The design is as a system of different parts and programmes, cogs working intrinsically together, whose outcome is unpredictable but always more than the sum of its parts.”

The design is further enhanced with multiple landscaped terraces, some of which will be reserved solely for the city’s wildlife residents. The adaptive timber and steel structure will allow for long-term flexibility, providing options to reconfigure the inside spaces. The design aims for a Net Zero Carbon status and strive to become the first zero emissions mixed use high-rise building in the Netherlands.

Coen van Oostrom, Founder & CEO at Edge commented:

“We are proud to be working on this eye-catching mix-used project to deliver a new cultural destination in the Netherlands. Bringing our local expertise and knowledge together with our partners – Heatherwick Studio and Nudus, will position Utrecht as a hub of design and innovation to provide a vibrant atmosphere. The result of our collaboration will be a building that fosters healthy work environments. Aligned with Utrecht’s vision of healthy urban living, the building will contribute to the growth of the region.”

Today’s announcement is the first step in a long process and the teams look forward to developing the project with the city in the months and years ahead. Construction is set to start in 2025 and the building will be delivered in 2028.

Contact details:

Olga Dziewulska, Head of Media, Heatherwick Studio


Marlène de Jong, PR & Social Media Manager, Edge


Visualisations by Pixel Flakes