Smart Dutch underpass design accommodates both pedestrians & cyclists

Benthem Crouwel
© Benthem Crouwel

From parks to transit oriented development, the quality of the design of our public spaces matter: it's what makes cities walkable, cohesive and pleasant places to live in. Now, the design of tunnels and underpasses are not usually high on most agendas, and more often than not they are built like utilitarian afterthoughts. But in Amsterdam, the architects of Benthem Crouwel have managed to create a well-designed public passage for both pedestrians and cyclists that is safe, well-lit, easy to maintain -- and is also culturally relevant.

Benthem Crouwel © Benthem Crouwel

The architects say on ArchDaily:

Since the end of 2015 it has been used by large numbers of cyclists, some 15,000 daily, and pedestrians 24 hours a day. This ‘slow traffic corridor’ was exactly what many users of the city felt was lacking. What once was by necessity a left or right turn is now, at long last, straight ahead. The tunnel is clad on one side by nearly 80,000 Delft Blue tiles: a true Dutch spectacle at a central spot in Amsterdam. [..]

The whole recalls old kitchens in Amsterdam canal houses, so that the tunnel is experienced as a safe place – as an urban room.

Benthem Crouwel © Benthem Crouwel

The 360-foot long Cuyperspassage is a tunnel running underneath the Amsterdam Central Station that links the city with the IJ-river. Its design accommodates pedestrians and cyclists simultaneously, by separating the two streams: on the brightly lit, elevated portion, pedestrians are given ample space to amble toward their destinations. Cleaning is made easier, thanks to the presence of rounded corners. The lower, darkly coloured, clearly demarcated "fast-lane" section of the passage is made to funnel people zipping by quickly on bikes. The cyclists' passage also features walls of steel grating to discourage littering or unwanted posters, while noise is reduced by a layer of asphalt underneath.

Pedestrians who are walking at a slower pace are able to enjoy the huge wall-tile mural created by Dutch graphic designer Irma Boom, which features blue tiles from Delft, a town well-known for its ceramics. The image incorporates a rendition of a seventeenth-century painting by Cornelis Bouwmeester, which gradually transforms into a more abstract composition as one walks out towards the water.

Benthem Crouwel © Benthem Crouwel
Benthem Crouwel © Benthem Crouwel
Benthem Crouwel © Benthem Crouwel

It's another example of that famous Dutch urbanism that harmoniously combines alternative modes of transportation (ie. foot traffic with cycling) into a design that respects and facilitates both, consciously creating a walkable, bike-friendly city, while adding a bit of cultural pride and local materials into the mix. Hopefully our cities too can move away from that absurd dichotomy of cars versus bikes and pedestrians, and move towards something a bit more sane and intelligent. More over at ArchDaily and Benthem Crouwel.

Tags: Amsterdam | Cities | Netherlands | Transportation

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