Leiden, an important old city in the Low Countries, was ringed in the seventeenth century by fortifications and canals. This ring around the city is now a fragmented area containing small parks, the botanical gardens and two cemeteries as well as commercial activity, university buildings, a power station and a former flour mill. It is also crisscrossed by busy radial roads and streets of broad dimensions.
Leiden decided to launch an international competition for this area. Six practices were invited to take part.
We opted for cohesion in the form of a continuous park on the inner side, a Singelgracht canal navigable along its entire length in the middle and a continuous path lined by an avenue on the outer side. A true city park.
The many bridges necessary to lend this park meaning not only for the city centre of Leiden but also for the residential areas around it, with a motif of the cowslip (‘key flower’ in Dutch) in the balustrades – Leiden the ‘city of keys’ as featured in its coat of arms – will form a crucial visual icon for this future park. In places where the circuit is not possible at present, such as along the botanical gardens on the inner side and between the Witte Singel canal and the Morspoort city gate on the outer side, we propose a path running low along the water with a simple balustrade.
Grass and trees
The basic principle for the park is the creation of as much grass with trees and shrubs as possible. In places where space is limited and the grass surfaces are therefore small, the grass is to be raised in order to give it more significance and to protect it. The trees will be selected in consultation with the botanical gardens, making it possible to create not just a park but an arboretum.
A cohesive park, however, can only be realized through a radical transformation of the traffic system, in which the reduced-traffic city centre can be reached immediately from the outer side of the Singelpark.
Leiden has opted for a combination of two plans with great diversity.
Municipality of Leiden
In collaboration with
Delva Landscape Architects