Rijnvliet: an ‘edible’ neighbourhood that completes Leidsche Rijn

De Zwarte Hond has been responsible for the urban design of Rijnvliet, Utrecht since 2010. Rijnvliet will become an ‘edible’ neighbourhood: the public space is designed according to the principles of a food forest. Construction began at the end of 2017 and approximately half of the dwellings - 1100 in total - have already been completed.

Rijnvliet is one of the last sites to be developed in the Leidsche Rijn neighbourhood. Well integrated into its surroundings, it connects seamlessly to the Strijkviertel lake and the Rijnvliet sport park to the south, and to Rijksstraatweg and Voorn Park to the north. A large waterway - De Vliet - which connects Leidsche Rijn and Strijkviertel lake gives Rijnvliet a distinct identity.

Both the waterways and green space branch out into wider networks, creating generous areas of interconnected green public space in Rijnvliet. This predominant green/blue structure features an attractive edible landscape which allows for a functional, educational and engaging use of space. The landscape applies the ecological relationships of a natural forest but uses, in this case, mainly edible species for food production. 

The ecological properties of different types of plants, shrubs and trees are combined in a smart way to create a stable and resilient ecosystem. Besides providing an abundance of food, the food forest  - 15 hectares in total - also provides different ecological services such as habitat for insects and animals, mitigation of climate change and a pleasant environment for locals to relax. in this sense, Rijnvliet contributes to local food production, nature and leisure; these three values are applied to regenerate the former pasture area, where the green outdoor space, the natural waterways and food production connect people with each other and with nature.

The main plan divides Rijnvliet into four small-scale neighbourhoods, distinguished by different types of architecture with characteristic individual dwellings. Ground-floor dwellings form the main type of housing, complemented by apartment complexes at different locations. All dwellings have access to the green public space either directly connected on ground floor or indirectly through views. in this way locals have close contact with nature and are now reaping the benefits of this, so to speak.

The project status
The second tree planting day took place in spring 2020. Like last year, it was a big success, involving local children in the planting of the edible landscape in their own neighbourhood. Most of the dwellings in Rijnvliet Zuid have now been completed and the streets have also been planted; the stream banks will be next in the upcoming planting season. The kids’ play areas were collectively designed by residents through a participation process.

The housing corporation’s dwellings in Rijnvliet Midden and Rijnvliet Noord have already been completed. The owner-occupied houses are under construction and the landscape for this neighbourhood has also been designed.

The design of the Rijnvliet Oost and West neighbourhoods is being finalised. The plots have almost been defined, the architects have started designing the housing and the landscape architect is developing the outdoor space. The planting at Fladderiepvliet on the south side of Rijnvliet Oost is almost complete.

The school is under construction and will be completed next year. The concept of the final design of the food forest located between the school and the Metaal Kathedraal (ecological and cultural centre) is finalised, with the ambition to have the food forest ready with the completion of the school. in this food forest, students from Leidsche Rijn can experience nature in a new, innovative way. Lastly the design of the large apartment block at Rijnvliet Oost is nearing completion.

De Zwarte Hond is in charge of the urban design, maintaining an overview of the architecture and designing the bridges in the neighbourhood. Felixx is responsible for the landscape architecture. The food forest was developed by Æ Food Forestry Development.