Accessibility links

Top Navigation

Urban Design Compendium

Case Study 057 - Accommodating freedom in design

057 - Nieuw Leyden, Leiden, Netherlands

In Leiden, The Netherlands, a unique and pioneering inner city residential development of some 670 dwellings is emerging. With a high percentage of self-build plots, the neighbourhood includes a wide variety of architectural styles which are wholly reflective of the wishes of the individual homeowners. Yet the overall streetscape is cohesive and legible, thanks to the strength and simplicity
of the urban plan.

When a 16 hectare brownfield site on the edge of the city centre became available for development, the municipality of Leiden, in partnership with housing corporation Portaal, sought to realise a scheme that would help to keep families in the city and assist in the regeneration of the surrounding area. A brief was prepared stipulating high-density, competitively-priced family housing (comparable in cost to a home in a typical Dutch urban extension), ample and conveniently located car parking, car-free streets, 30% affordable housing and abundant opportunities for self-build.

MVRDV’s response to this challenging brief was to create a standard development block or “field”, sized to accommodate a naturally-ventilated semi-basement car park (offering two allocated spaces per dwelling), on top of which 18 back-to-back dwellings could be positioned. These fields were rolled out across the site into a simple grid pattern, with approximately half of them intended for self build.

The urban plan fixes the footprint of the buildings and sets out maximum building envelopes. In addition, a series of rules have been established to guide the technical aspects of the build. Within these parameters self builders and their architects are free to choose their own design style and building materials without the need to refer to development control policies or architectural coding. This has resulted in highly innovative and cost effective design solutions not usually seen in mainstream housing design.

Other Information


UDC2 Section - Delivering Quality and Adding Value

Working directly for the future homeowners, Nieuw Leyden has challenged architects to design innovative and cost effective homes.

Images (image bank)