Plein 1944 in Nijmegen, built in the reconstruction period following the Second World War bombardment of the city centre, is not functioning well. What was once intended as a square for gatherings and commemoration is now known as ‘the ugliest square in the Netherlands’. Its expanse and lack of any buildings to demarcate it deprive it of any intimacy. There is little activity: the entrances of the dwellings are located in the courtyards behind the square and there is a limited selection of shops. There is a bus station in the middle of the square, so that the stench and the noise of buses predominate. The square is also sunken, and so few people walk across it.
The challenge is to turn it back into a lively place full of ambiance. The restructuring plan, drawn up in partnership with Buro Lubbers, builds on the urban design and architectonic principles of the reconstruction period. An important modification is the new head building, which splits the existing square in two. This creates space for a separate entrance plaza with a bus station and a larger plaza for pedestrians. Both have been made completely level again. New buildings complement the existing buildings from the reconstruction period and create closed walls around the square. To reinforce the intimacy of the square, taller towers have been positioned in the mass around the square.
Each of the new buildings has been partitioned into three volumes: the bottom shopping section carefully matches the height, colour and material of the existing reconstruction plinth. Above this is a recessed glass volume that houses flats. Against this stand the vertical tower blocks, which have been made as slender as possible. The details are also adaptations of typical Nijmegen reconstruction themes, like the relief decorations in the brickwork and the use of concrete elements to frame or to add horizontal lines and blocks to sections of brickwork.
The addition of different functions is certainly as important for the ultimate functioning of the square. Large shopping and recreation buildings serve as crowd-pullers. The flats in the tower blocks have a front door on the square.
[A] Jos van Eldonk
[P] Houses, shops, parking garage & bicylce storage
[G] 24,892 m2
[C] ING Real Estate Development