The Cartesiusdriehoek in Utrecht in the Netherlands, a former marshalling yard of the Dutch Railways, is set to be transformed into the first urban blue zone. The masterplan developed by Mecanoo for this new residential neighbourhood with 2,600 homes, a large central park, a school, a supermarket, catering and various other facilities is inspired by a scientific theory about areas around the world where people live longer, healthier and happier lives, the so-called blue zones. The area is set to become the most healthy, well-connected to public transport and bicycle-friendly neighbourhood in the Netherlands.
The blue zones are five areas around the world – Okinawa, Nicoya, Loma Linda, Sardinia and Ikaria – where many residents live exceptionally long and healthy lives. These zones attracted international attention when they were featured in a 2005 National Geographic article titled “The Secrets of a Long Life”, written by Dan Buettner. Investigations about the residents’ habits that had positive health effects found nine common characteristics. These nine healthy habits have been translated into four urban design themes for the new neighbourhood in Utrecht: mobility, healthy diet, community and meaningfulness & relaxation.
CAB building as epicentre
The eye-catcher and epicentre of the ‘Blue District’ neighbourhood will be the historic CAB building (1949). Its new infill will relate to the blue zone themes. A Food Hall with healthy catering facilities and restaurants traverses the CAB as a green street and forms a connection with the Cartesiuspark, the green heart of the neighbourhood. The diversity of functions in the transparent plinth activates the area on all sides of the building, making it an attractive meeting place for residents. On top of the CAB is a nine-storey apartment complex. With its undulating balconies it forms a striking contrast with the rectilinear substructure.
Well-connected and bicycle-friendly
Blue District will become a lively urban neighbourhood with abundant greenery. All urban amenities will be easily accessible; walking and cycling will be the main modes of transport. Emphasis has been placed on sustainability, innovative energy solutions and sustainable (shared) mobility. The neighbourhood offers a variety of housing typologies for diverse target groups, with about a quarter of the units intended for rental social housing.