My Favourite Plan

De Dijk, Rijswijk

Graham Paul Smith
De Dijk, Rijswijk, The Netherlands Architect , Ashok Bhalotra, Kuiper Compagnons, Rotterdam. Source of plan: Gemeente Rijswijk

WHY I LIKE IT…

This is a housing project developed alongside the Dutch Vinex Programme 1995-2005 and specifically an area called De Dijk. I had taken a group of urban design students to visit Wateringse-Veldt Vinex to the west of here, and on returning to Den Haag, we travelled along the new Strijplaan. A long, straight, single-lane dual-carriageway with road-centre end-to-end parking, many trees, speed humps and waste cassettes was intriguing. We stopped to look down to a water area, a large oxbow dyke. Some seven areas of water were conceived in this plan. The architect, Ashok Bhalotra, also designed Kattenbroek, Amersfoort.

The linear formality of the whole plan is necessitated by the shape of this last site on the edge of Rijswijk. Development sketches and paintings indicate that the area with dykes is a counterpoint to the shape of the site. The whole area is a woonerf, a shared surface.

The open market terraced, wide-frontage houses are 150-200m2 in size with three, four and five bedrooms in a mix of two and three storeys. They are built on the edge of the curving streets with a 2m set back. Streets are narrow with a minimum carriageway of about 3m and as little as 7m between facing houses. Gardens step down to dykes behind the houses. The back-to-back separation distance varies from 20m to over 30m, giving a spacious private open area and balancing the relatively narrow public space on the street where children can be found playing. A cycling-walking path strikes across the plan towards the town centre. The curving street shapes are a reminder of the original woonerf experiment 5km away in Leeuwendaal.

WHAT TO LEARN FROM IT…

Might housing developments be designed to lessen car use? Connectedness is key. A new place needs to ‘grow the town’ and be located on, or between, existing public transport routes. Then, within the new place, other strategies can help, e.g. residents could be obliged to buy a peripheral parking space, as in Vauban, Freiburg. Or like here they can walk over 100m to park by choice. The design affects the convenience of using a car, unlike the current rear parking court orthodoxy.

Three types of car parking are available here:

Within the town houses: the fan-shaped plan of most houses provides a garage, a front door and part of a living room overlooking the streets.

Marked on-street parking spaces: in the residential streets and mostly around the perimeter of the area, and road-centre public parking, west of De Dijk, using the dual carriageway.

Squeezed onto the house frontage: special permission was required to legalise unmarked parking spaces in this woonerf. Drivers must manoeuvre completely off the road which helps dissuade them to take some car trips.

De Dijk was designed for 160 per cent parking provision, 100 per cent in garages plus an additional 60 per cent as on-street public provision. When the residents moved in, the municipality found that around half of them used their garages as storage. Thus, the initial lived-in parking provision was perhaps 100 to 120 per cent. The alternative is a lengthier walk to the more generous public parking provision.

URBAN DESIGN 155 Summer 2020 Publication Urban Design Group

As featured in URBAN DESIGN 155 Summer 2020

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Current position

Freelance urban design consultant, Member of UDG Executive Committee, (co-opted), Oxford Civic Society (Transport Working Group), and Cyclox, the cycling campaign of Oxford.

Experience

Formerly Principal/ Senior Lecturer in Architecture, Oxford Brookes University and Joint Centre for Urban Design Part-time Lecturer in Fine Art, Goldsmith’s College, London Teaching, consulting, writing and contributing to urban design, architecture and fine art

Education

Diploma in Art and Design, St Martins College of Art M Art, Royal College of Art MA (Urban Design), Oxford Brookes University

Specialisations

The layout and design of movement in public space, the experience of people within it and the levels of risk they are exposed to. Treating the highway as a ‘seam’ rather than a barrier, a place connecting people and activities. Challenging the orthodoxy which sees the highway as predominantly for motorised vehicular movement.

Ambitions

Seeing safe and sustainable transport delivered, within a responsive environment.