Today’s Solutions: September 22, 2023

The Netherlands is a country that is home to more bikes than people, which explains why city train stations have more than half a million bicycle parking spots, including the largest single garage in the entire world located in Utrecht.

Even so, cyclists often struggle to find a spot to park their bikes, so the country has decided to create space for an additional 100,000 bikes before 2025. The new garage, which will be built in Amsterdam, won’t simply be a space to safely store your bicycle. It’ll be underwater, allowing for more public space to be constructed above, while there are plans to install features that support aquatic and plant life in the garage area underneath.

The bicycle parking garage will be part of a semi-floating structure build behind Amsterdam Central Station. The structure’s original purpose was to protect the quay (where the station sits along the water bank) from potential accidents such as boat collisions. “The protection put in place for the train and bus station, road traffic, and the Michiel de Ruyter tunnel meant there was some unused space between the collision protection and the quay,” explains principal architect at Venhoeven CS Danny Esselman.

Venhoeven CS is the architecture and urban design firm responsible for designing the floating structure in collaboration with Van Hattum en Blankevoort and DS Landschapsarchitecten. “That’s where the client decided to add bicycle parking, as there is always a lack of parking space in the city. Designing the project so it was semi-underwater meant we could create additional public space above it.”

The garage, which the team plans to open in 2022, is designed to be a calm and sleek refuge for cyclists who have to navigate the chaotic hustle and bustle of the city above. “A good, attractive design means cyclists will want to use the parking facility,” Esselman says. “This means good accessibility, a limited height difference, efficient traffic flows, a safe and light environment, and using aesthetically beautiful materials.”

Not only will the structure add much-needed bicycle storage, but it was designed with aquatic life in mind, and has features that will help support the river’s ecosystem. For example, the porous concrete allows plants and mussels to grab onto the walls, while coconut mats offer vegetation space to grow while helping purify the water. The team also included mesh baskets called “biohuts,” devised to shelter young fish, and a net will help trap plastic waste and prevent it from entering the river.

Esselman highlights the importance of “tak[ing] measures to build a better habitat for aquatic life than there was before,” because the floating structure robs these creatures of a part of their home. “As designers, you have to be aware that you are making changes to the environment, and it’s important to minimize the impact of your work. Our aim was to go beyond just minimizing the impact and improve the conditions, being mindful at every stage of the process. During construction, the methods we used meant that there was minimal disturbance of the riverbed and surrounding biotope.”

Esselman hopes that other designers and architects working on bicycle parking garages at other train stations near the water will take on this approach, too.

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