For the tender for the former prison complex at the Wolvenplein in Utrecht, we worked together with Fakton, Groosman Architecten, OKRA, and ABC Vastgoed on a vision for the redevelopment of this unique building. Loup (French for Wolf) creates a bazaar of spaces for living, working, and relaxation, situated along the historical canal of Utrecht. These spaces house a community for short stay, creativity, knowledge, reflection, culture, and relaxation; a new Experience Hub for Utrecht.
The former prison complex Wolvenplein was designed to be a place of shelter, reflection, and reintegration. A place of understanding and returning to society. We give a modern interpretation to these themes by bringing living, working, and relaxation together on Wolvenplein.
We do this by focusing on residential functions for shorter and longer duration, and on multifunctional use of space in the form of a Square of Spaces. The housing component focuses on short and longer stays for people with an (acute) temporary housing demand, combined with housing in the social, medium, and private sector. Its residents are, for example, knowledge workers, PhD students, postdocs, interns, artists, people in divorce or breakup or expats. They find their place in Wolvenplein and use the Square of Spaces to work, enjoy, meet and come to their senses. This flexible, inspiring place close to home is in line with the increasingly visible interweaving of co-living and co-working. Due to the further growth of the blurring economy, this form of living, working, and relaxing is gaining an increasing right to exist.
The Square of Spaces offers the residents of the complex and the neighborhood a place to undertake activities that are not (or no longer) possible at home. This multifunctional part of the building is characterized by a high degree of flexibility in space and time. You can work during the day and there is room for, for example, meditation sessions, yoga, music lessons, workshops, and training. An "artists in residence", supported by cultural funds, is housed in a studio and exhibition space that enhance the public character. Wolvenplein also meets the needs of the neighborhood in other parts of the program. Expansion of childcare and the social program are shared with the new residents of Wolvenplein.
The envisaged dynamics and flow in living and working is to preserve the monumental character, both in function (as it used to be) and in form (in the existing cell structure). The historical value of the Wolvenplein is cherished and restored where possible. The recognizable closed-cell structure is further activated by a varied program of living, working, and relaxing according to the standards of the future. A new, light, open wood structure, based on the monumental building grid, wraps around the monument. The new elements thus provide more accessibility and new routes in and around the complex, thereby enhancing the gradient from tranquility to activity.
The restored forecourt and the cultural axis through the building will become part of the canal structure thanks to the new footbridge towards the Griftpark. This creates a new public pearl to the necklace of cinema, park, museum, and theater.
Our starting point is that the entire complex remains in one hand, with one operating partner who has experience in the integrated management of co-living, co-working, and the related facilities, that also program the Square of Spaces. The development strategy focuses on nurturing
and strengthening current users and supporting functions. A flying start from which organic further development can take place.
The intended functions will result in relatively few changes to the existing structure. This entails optimal exploitation, due to relatively low renovation costs. In an intensive co-creation process with the neighborhood, municipality, residents, and current users, we further develop the concept together. In this way we put a new form of flexible use of space on the map, we offer space for new users and residents in various segments on a regional scale and we ensure a high occupancy rate for the exploitation. A building that will continue to flourish for the next 168 years, while retaining its values from the past and equipped for the future.
Jeroen van der Vlist
Chief Operating Officer (COO)