OKRA: The Limos former army barracks site in Nijmegen opens itself before the city, and forms the link between the city and the extensive woodlands to the south of the city. The design is based on the landscape as the main factor for the site. The adjoining Mariënboom park will be continued through the Limos site, as far as possible into the city. Now that the Limos site has been handed over to the city, an optimum relationship between city and the landscape has been created. The buildings will literally be in the middle of the green landscape; the landscape will continue among the buildings, and the woods fan out towards the city. This continuous landscape, the banks and ridges in the land and the alignments already present have formed the guiding principles for the siting of the new buildings, with an informal open structure which opens itself up to the Mariënboom landscape like a fan. The new construction consists of two courtyards and a series of buildings which climb the slope like a row of sentinels. The two barracks buildings which are to be preserved together form a unique ensemble on the city side of the site.
The public space of the city park is a rolling landscape, in which there is a shift from a woodland ambiance to a green urban one. The characteristic difference in height in the site is emphasized by folding the relief into a number of wedges, with newly designed edges marking the difference in height. The road providing access to the covered car parks is slightly submerged and set into the landscape. The network of slow traffic routes independent of this road connects up with existing routes. Underground car parks are incorporated into the urban estate by designing them as underground spaces, through which the landscape continues.
The Limos former barracks complex in Nijmegen, with its historic barracks buildings, exudes military history. This complex, on the eastern fringes of Nijmegen, became available for a change of use in 1995. The complex is characterized by its fascinating historic buildings and its location immediately adjoining wooded hills. OKRA’s proposal is for an urban and park development plan that is firmly based on the characteristics of the landscape. The plan shows that it is possible to allow the green lobe surrounding the city to conclude in a green park, making use of the qualities of the existing landscape. From edge to edge, the Limos complex forms a green urban estate containing a variety of building complexes. The complex will be open to public access. The three historic ensembles (the Krayenhoff, Snijders and Prins Hendrik barracks) and a number of smaller barracks buildings within the complex will be respected, and have, or will acquire, new users. This complex of buildings will be supplemented with contemporary ensembles in a new programme. OKRA has proposed to place the historic buildings together with the contemporary new structures in a green, park-like environment, forming a new urban estate where past and present are intimately connected.
The choice was made for an informal open structure, which opens like a fan towards the landscape, and allows the landscape to penetrate as far as possible westwards into the complex. The ensemble of new buildings is made up of two courtyards and a row of free-standing buildings, which advance up the slope like a row of guardsmen. Just as with the positioning of the barracks, the topography of the complex is utilized in the location of the buildings. The new urban estate unites the more urban character of the western section of Limos with the green lobe on its eastern side. It provides a combination of intensive use of space and open green areas; the natural and the built environment; living, working and recreation; tranquility and dynamics; contemporary new structures and the restoration of historic buildings.
After winning the design competition, the plans for the urban estate were developed further. Alongside its inspirational role, OKRA also acts as a mediator, in order to ensure that the planning proposals are balanced in terms of their urban development aspects, green and ecological issues, and architectural opportunities. In the submission for the competition it had already been ensured that the plan complied with the demands of the land use plan, and the expectations of planners and residents as stated in their requirements. The implementation phase was marked by intensive collaboration with Nijmegen City Council and the developers, and also with participants from the neighborhood, to unite a diversity of functions in the complex and to ensure that a good relationship with the surroundings could be created. The Limos planning process became a testing ground for what has come to be known over the past six years as an interactive planning process. When it works well, participation in the planning process serves multiple ends: it leads to more creative, richer plans and generates support (for the plan as well as for the planners). The participation process has functioned as a ‘soft system’, characterized by the definition of aims through decisions by the participants. The ‘soft system’ develops over the course of time. Of course the aims of the participants are varied: their aims and interests will partly be in conflict and partly in agreement.
For the Limos complex, the aims and basic design principles of the complex are defined in abstract terms, and constantly readjusted in numerous working sessions. The design for the complex evolved through this process, and so gained its definitive form after a planning process lasting several years. There were indications of excessive pressure on the area where space had to be created for 350 homes, a park, an asylum seekers’ centre (already present), workshops, small-scale business premises, an addiction treatment centre, the Muze primary school, out-of-school childcare facilities, a neighborhood police station, perimeter fencing, 650 parking places, a park scheme and a nature garden. The task was to give all these elements a place in the Limos complex, within an area of only 16 hectares.
Landscape Architecture: OKRA
Location: Nijmegen, Netherlands
Area: 9 hectare
Costs: Euro 2.500.000,00
Realization: 2000 – 2007
Photos and text: OKRA