Cartesius quarter

Felixx Landscape Architects & Planners as Landscape Architects

Mixed use urban district

The Cartesius quarter is bounded by the railway lines to Amsterdam and The Hague and enclosed by the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal as a triangle. Where the Stadsbuitengracht, as a canal and former defense structure, frames the city center of Utrecht, the tracks, together with the slope and the canal, form the defense work of the Cartesius quarter. The sheltered location between the tracks offers the unique opportunity to create a personal environment: a surprising enclave in the city.

This creates a coherent high urban living environment with a stubborn and inventive character. A character that is a continuation of an industrial past in which seclusion has always ensured an independent place in the city. First as a noisy railway workshop and then as a quiet business park. With the rediscovery of this hidden potential, a unique transformation area is located just steps away from the inner city.


The cozy, intimate courtyards and inner gardens of the Utrecht city center are the urban inspiration to break up the inner worlds in Cartess to a smaller grain size. Within the construction fields there is a series of neighborhoods with a system of alleyways, lanes, collective courtyards and inner gardens. With encounters and spontaneous or planned collective activities as a supporting theme. The result is an area with many slow-traffic routes and bright places, where, for example, you can play. At the same time these places ensure a pleasant collectivity, you feel at home because you are part of a neighborhood.

Cartesiuspark – the green connector

The different neighborhoods are interconnected by the Cartesiuspark. This car-free green heart offers all the freedom to relax, play and invites to meet. The Cartesiuspark has three atmospheres with a Utrecht character: the Square, the Park and the Court. This combination of different places creates a distinct and lively inner area. Within these three spheres there are three public anchor points: the CAB building on the square, the pond in the Park and the food pavilion in the Court.

The park is visually extended into the surrounding neighborhoods, which increases the experience. In turn, neighborhoods derive their identity from the different spheres of the Cartesius Park. The transitions between the residences, collective courtyards and the Cartesiuspark have been carefully designed with differences in height and diversity in material types. Physically, the transition is subtle, but clearly marked in management.

Green urban loop

The urban loop forms the green belt around Cartess and is at the same time the connection with the surrounding city. The urban loop establishes – as an important access zone – the link with the environment. The bicycle tunnel under the railway continues this and via the urban loop you will pass an attractive square space that connects the CAB building and station Zuilen. The terrace zones at the front of the buildings along the urban loop provide space for informal use. In addition to the logistics function, the urban loop is a versatile and green 3D sports park. It also functions as a temporary and changing climate landscape. The deepened sports fields are connected to temporary watercourses, sometimes as shallow gutters in the promenade and sometimes as water channels in the green dike. Together they form a buffer during heavy rainfall. Then a stream of water forms in the gutters and the sport fields change into temporary water collection.

Square – the central meeting place

The square is literally the extension of the CAB building. The square is a central meeting place with ample seating and offers space for various activities, including the weekly organic goods market and annual recurring markets around specific themes. The upholstery of the square is a framework of concrete bands, alternately filled with a variety of fine-grained surfacing in high-quality and sustainable materials and laying patterns, and plant boxes for sufficient greenery and trees. The various sheds indicate informal, subtle outside chambers and form ‘red’ carpets that accentuate the entrances of the CAB building and continue in the inner streets.

Park – subtle transitions between private and public

The central park zone offers a sloping landscape with long views. A meandering path structure and rhododendrons mark the transition between the public park and the collective gardens. The central water feature is the anchor point and connects the public square with the park zone. The main paths are paved with baked paving stones, the paths in the collective gardens with granite boulders or baked paving stones in different colors. This way we make a subtle distinction between public and collective space.

Court – organic food source

This part of the Cartesiuspark is characterized by a small-scale interior with fruit trees and berries. The court has an explicit function as a ‘nut garden’. The central anchor point is the food pavilion. The food pavilion is a circular greenhouse that forms a central indoor park function for the surrounding neighborhoods. Learning about food is central here. The pavilion reinforces the sustainable character of Cartess; here, among other things, we use organic waste streams for new food production. The hedges in the court surround the gardens. The paths consist of the same materials as in the park and square section. In doing so, we give substance to the organic character of this zone and safeguard the cohesion within the entire Cartesiuspark.

The loop linear sports park

The course forms a linear sports park and is characterized by tough and robust materialisation. With its sleek geometric design, it is a reference to a defensive work, with the railway slope on the north side and the sound barrier on the south side as ‘defense walls’, which enclose this enclave. These three-dimensional structures offer plenty of possibilities for exercise and sports activities for adults and young people. Big gray concrete tiles are used for the row-out. The pedestrian zones are paved with high-quality, sand-colored concrete paving stones. A wide deepened zone is used as a water reservoir in case of heavy rain. Exuberant green water gardens, sometimes widening to sports fields lined with concrete steps as a stand.

The green loop has thus become an extension of the Spoorpark in the Daalsedijk on the other side of the track, the border of the larger Cartesius quarter and serves as a logical and clear recreational route to and from the Amsterdam Rijnkanaal. 

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Haier Smart Home Experience Centre
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Haier Smart Home Experience Centre

Shanghai, China - Build completed in 2020
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