De Familistère Utrecht

Utrecht Leidsche Rijn, NL

Can monumentality and circularity go together?


Leidsche Rijn

Berlijnplein © Lansink, V.M

Familistère in Guise

This project was inspired by the Familistère in Guise. An example of collective living from the 19th century, it was built by Jean-Bapitiste Andre Godin who bought a plot of land in the village of Guise and started a factory there. Godin created a “palais social” where anyone, from director to worker, could rent a house. The building had a central courtyard under a glass roof. The residents lived a comfortable and luxurious life, certainly by the standards of that time, with running water and heating. Godin thus realised a 19th-century utopia and assumed that residents who worked, lived and socialised together in this way could help each other’s development and complement each other in a natural way.

Leidsche Rijn Centrum will be a heavily built-up urban area with the associated facilities abundantly present: spacious parks, schools, shops, culture, and lots of space for pedestrians and bicycles. The urban plinths and the great diversity of buildings are defining elements. The urban space is strongly delineated and the streets are classic streets as we know them in old European cities. Kavel I5 is located on a landmark spot in Leidsche Rijn Centrum East.

Different types of residents with different needs

The city block consists of four buildings by two architectural firms, with the buildings by the same architect also presenting a varying image. This results in four different buildings within this block. This manifests itself in varying rhythms, plinth appearance, use of colour and plasticity.

In the atrium there is a prominent staircase that connects the houses with an inner garden, the bicycle shed, the porticos and car parking. The routing to your home leads through this central green inner garden, past your fellow residents, via the stairs and the galleries that can be used as a collective balcony.

The building shell will last 200 years, the façades 150 years, the installations 20-50 years and the spatial plan and interior 5-15 years

Climate adaptation, water storage and limiting heat stress

The closed roof reduces thermal losses and adds necessary insulation (winter). The open roof creates an open garden and provides cooling via evapotranspiration (summer)

Green, healthy urbanisation

Exercise, healthy food, a strong community, sense of purpose and relaxation contribute to healthy and happy ageing. The way Familistère is organised has a positive influence on these elements.

Familistère is a place where anyone can rent a house with all the amenities. Where residents can work, live and socialise together. And whose impact on the environment remains limited. By making smart use of every square metre, we bundle housing needs and bring multiple functions together in one place. This is reflected in various places in the design of Familistère. For example, like Godin, we have an atrium – a central courtyard under a glass roof. This is not only a place to come together, but also a space for greenery, for relaxation and for exercise. It contributes to circularity, helps limit energy consumption and ensures the living comfort of residents throughout the year.

De Familistère Utrecht

The new Leidsche Rijn neighbourhood is growing into a district of 100,000 residents. We do not yet know how this new city district will function in 100 years, but the Familistère is prepared: this residential block in the centre will have 122 apartments, a café, a bicycle bar and a community room. But the most unusual feature is the glass-covered inner space that is hidden, cathedral-like, inside the block. This place functions as a vertical courtyard and a meeting place for residents to spend time in every season. The block consists of four buildings around the Familistère. Each building responds to its context through design and strong plasticity. Overlooking Leeuwensteyn Park there are spacious suspended balconies, intimate loggias in the narrow streets and a brick grid façade with terraces behind it on the Berlinpleijn square. Each of the four buildings has particularly rich detailing, from deeply stepped niches in brick, to high natural stone plinths and architectonic concrete. The vision on sustainability ranges from monumentality to circularity. Everything that can last a long time has a palette of monumental materials that are enduring and age beautifully. The passive heat and cold of the inner area, which functions as a greenhouse, is used in the surrounding houses. This indoor space offers room for vegetable gardens, an orangery, a library, games cupboards and places to sit. The roof is nature-inclusive and climate-adaptive. Water is stored here, which of course is also used to water the plants in the Familistère.


De Familistère Utrecht
Utrecht Leidsche Rijn, NL
8.000 m²
SBB Ontwikkelen & Bouwen, Coltavast
Catering & Retail, Residential
Development Phase
Faro, OKRA, Nibe, Hiensch, Urban Sync, Nieman en Pieters Bouwtechniek, Parallel
More info