Aorta presents the online magazine Interaction Landscape Utrecht

Architecture Center Aorta has launched Magazine Interaction Landscape Utrecht. The online magazine is the result of design research in data-driven design on the scale of area development. The focus is on a current case: the development of the Papendorp/A12 zone area.

This project is one of the nodes designated in the Regional Strategy Utrecht 2040 (RSU) as a new center where densification will take place. In the near future, Papendorp will transform from a monofunctional office area to a mix of housing, offices and urban amenities in high(er) density.

The use of data is becoming increasingly important in spatial design tasks. Especially on a smaller, architectural scale, data-driven design is very common. On a larger scale, of area development, this is less obvious. What possibilities does data provide for this type of task? To answer this question, Aorta organized the research by design.

The different approaches to data assume that the selection, validation, analysis and use of data follows naturally from the question. Research by design Interaction Landscape Utrecht revolves around this: what happens if datasets help guide the question and designers get involved earlier in the selection, analysis and processing of data? Does this working method provide different and perhaps new insights and therefore also alternative design tasks?

Design team
A design team consisting of the IMOSS office for urbanism, BASTA urbanism and Sweco, together with various other experts, has investigated the Papendorp/A12 zone problem. By analyzing, validating and appreciating endless (open) datasets, the team discovered that the task for Papendorp might need redefinition.

The surrounding landscape on the western side of Utrecht appears – objectively – to be poorly accessible from the urban nodes defined in the RSU. Papendorp may be close to the landscape on the map, but if you look at the area in the light of the delayed city and the ten-minute landscape that Utrecht municipality wants, Papendorp is the furthest away from this landscape of all nodes.

It also appears that although Papendorp is on the outskirts of the city, it is centrally located in the city region. It raises a fundamental question: Should Papendorp continue to develop into an urban hub, or should we focus on an urban resting place, to allow the inhabitants of other districts, such as Kanaleneiland, to enter the countryside within ten minutes?

Design with Ten Minute Landscape
The scenario of Papendorp as a city center near green areas has been further elaborated. Using four different modes of transport (on foot, by bike, cable car and tram), the accessibility of the landscape from the future Papendorp interchange was investigated. The starting point was always ten minutes.

Range per modality was calculated and drawn within this time frame, it was investigated which infrastructural interventions could contribute positively to this accessibility, and the influence of the choice of modality on the potential development of the exchange was investigated. The team also took into account the type of user. Utrecht wants to be a spacious city where facilities are accessible to everyone, regardless of whether you move through the city with an electric bike or with a wheelchair or pram. Ten minutes means something completely different to those target groups.

Not criticism, but inspiration
The results of the study are not intended to criticize the RSU, reports Aorta. Rather, it is an addition or elaboration based on an alternative design process that can inspire the field. The designers show that the use of data is not only intended for technical experts, but that the selection, combination and interpretation of data can and even should be an important part of the design process itself. They use the data sets as an instrument by cross-referencing them, asking the right questions and keenly analyzing the results. In this way, working with data becomes as much a creative as a technical process, according to Utrecht’s architecture center

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