UNStudio Designs a City of the Future for The Hague

City of the Future. Image Courtesy of Plompmozes City of the Future. Image Courtesy of Plompmozes

Dutch architectural practice UNStudio have created a new urban vision for the City of the Future, a Central Innovation District (CID) test site in The Hague. Dubbed the "Socio-Technical City", the design covers a 1 square km area in the center of the city. The proposal aims to transform the site into a green, self-sufficient district of housing, offices, urban mobility and public spaces over the existing train track infrastructure.

City of the Future. Image Courtesy of Plompmozes City of the Future. Image Courtesy of Plompmozes

UNStudio's vision for The Hague is one of the studies made for 'The City of the Future', a joint initiative by BNA Research (the Royal Institute of Dutch Architects), the Delft University of Technology, the Delta Metropolis Association, the municipalities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Eindhoven, the Directorates-General for Mobility and Transport, the Environment and Water, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and the Ministry of Interior. The project started in January 2018, when 10 multidisciplinary design teams were tasked with investigating new ways of city-making using five test locations in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Eindhoven.

UNStudio's concept for the Socio-Technical City combines the two largest challenges facing the future of cities - urbanization and sustainability - and focuses specifically on the questions of how an area like the CID can be self-sufficient and energy-neutral. The scheme creates a series of gateways made to become catalysts for encounter and innovation.

City of the Future. Image Courtesy of UNStudio City of the Future. Image Courtesy of UNStudio

With the elevated urban layer covering the existing railway tracks, UNStudio's urban vision distinguishes a number of technical 'domains', which refer to the major transition issues of our time: energy, circularity, mobility, climate adaptation / water management and food production. These domains are then each envisioned as 'gateways': physical architectural interventions that offer practical solutions to the problems as well as functioning as attractive symbols for the specific themes - a geothermal power station as an icon for energy transition, a (Hyperloop) station as a landmark for mobility, a Biopolus water treatment plant as a symbol for circularity. The gateways form catalysts for meeting; they connect neighborhoods and people and thus form breeding grounds for innovation.

City of the Future City of the Future

The concept for the gateways is inspired by the location itself. The existence of three intercity stations within walking distance of each other presents an unprecedented opportunity to transform this area into one Metropolitan Superhub; a system of closely linked terminals, comparable in size to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. It also provides an opportunity to create space for new forms of sustainable mobility such as the Hyperloop, with a free floating system of electric scooters, and possibly self-driving pods, interlinking the different modes of public transport. Following the construction of the elevated urban layer, the Metropolitan Superhub can gradually become a city center. The city grows all around it and connects to this layer, while creating a level of density that is unprecedented in the Netherlands. In turn, the geothermal energy plant is the central location of the energy supply and as such is an important gateway for the CID. The energy gateway is not only a geothermal power plant, but also a bridge that connects neighborhoods, a winter garden and co-working space for start-ups. But above all it is a symbol for energy transition: an energy cathedral.

City of the Future City of the Future

The Biopolus forms another gateway, a circular system that provides local food and water supplies. The Biopolus ensures that the waste water from the new part of the city is purified and the nutrients that are released are used for the cultivation of crops. Waste water is pumped through tubes to the highest level, after which it flows to the lowest level via various purification processes, producing drinking quality water which then enters the system again. The localized cycle is complete. The Biopolus is an urban farm, a vertical park and an emblem of the circular economy. Climate change presents significant risk factors for the area, such as flooding and overheating. Where currently rainwater, waste water and grey water are all disposed of through one drainage system, in the Socio-Technical City this is separated into different systems. Waste water is drained through underground pipes, however the relatively clean rain water is re-used and made visible in the form of water features in public spaces: an irrigation system of canals, water plazas and waterfalls.