MVRDV - A “City Oasis”: MVRDV Designs Convention Centre with a Green Roof in Utrecht

A “City Oasis”: MVRDV Designs Convention Centre with a Green Roof in Utrecht

MVRDV, alongside Utrecht’s exhibition, event, and conference centre Jaarbeurs, are today releasing the design for a new, green-roof-topped Jaarbeurs venue, along with a masterplan for the surrounding neighbourhood. With a focus on sustainability and quality of life, the new venue represents a major change for an area currently dominated by logistics, cars, and parking spaces – with MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas describing the goal as “a garden in the city”, and Jaarbeurs CEO Albert Arp calling the proposal a “city oasis”.

Jaarbeurs came to MVRDV with a challenging question: how do you design a green, sustainable, and innovative venue while giving the surrounding neighbourhood an important boost? After a two-year process, the two companies are now launching their plan for a 120,000 m2 venue on the existing Jaarbeurs site to the west of Utrecht’s central station, forming the beating heart of a larger 600,000 m2 masterplan to transform the under-utilised area at the station’s rear.

The new Jaarbeurs will be a sustainable building that opens in all directions, with an accessible green roof that will descend to ground level via cascading terraces. On this green roof, a rooftop park is proposed, where it is hoped that a carpet of programmable 'squares' and gardens will offer space for urban nature, events, recreation, water storage, and energy generation. The rooftop of the new Jaarbeurs thus becomes an oasis in the city.

Alongside its event halls, the ground floor of Jaarbeurs will also feature functions such as hospitality, shops, and offices. A car-free street, the “Jaarbeurs Boulevard”, cuts through the site, serving as the neighbourhood’s backbone. This boulevard will not only provide access to the Jaarbeurs venue, but also form a key route connecting the station to the areas beyond, including the Merwede Canal, which will be transformed into a vibrant waterfront area with restaurants and terraces. Here, residents of Utrecht, visitors to the Jaarbeurs, and tourists visiting the city will be able to enjoy a drink in the sun. Complementing this focus on quality of life is the project’s sustainability strategy, with the design pursuing BREEAM-Excellent certification.

“It is rare that a private party not only invests in its own building, but also includes the environment in its plans,” says Winy Maas. “This master plan shows that Jaarbeurs is passionate about the city and dares to think outside the box. This is desperately needed, because this underutilized area has the potential to become a fantastic neighbourhood with the venue as its core – an attractive green ‘hill’ in the city. The plan is also an opportunity to significantly improve the city and properly connect the centre, the station area, the Merwede Canal zone, and the Kanaleneiland.”

The announcement of the plans begins the next phase in the development of Jaarbeurs. Working with the municipality of Utrecht, the plan will now be elaborated, with the inclusion of a participatory process consulting local residents, sports clubs, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders in the neighbourhood. The construction of Jaarbeurs exhibition, event, and conference centre is expected to start in 2023.