EINHOVENS HANGING GARDENS ARE NOW 10 YEARS OLD

Available translations: 

The British architect Neave Brown is  the designer of Medina, the large terrace shaped building with hanging gardens in the city center of Eindhoven is now 10 years old. The name of the complex has nothing to do with the form. Even though the hanging gardens originated in the Arab world, the name remains for the earlier design of this place. Martijn van de Loo, responsible for design, construction and maintenance, is the Director of Soontiëns Gardeners from Eindhoven. This company has done some striking experimental green projects for the municipality of Eindhoven, including the planted bus stop by the Light Tower and therefore was interviewed.

In advance:
Neave Brown was asked to design a terraced building within Jo Coenen’s master plan for this part of the Eindhoven City Centre. Coenen, in an earlier stage, had already designed a kasbah like structure for this location. This concept had once been prpoposed by him as a replacement for the new construction that would take the place of the Wijdeveld Building which unfortunately was demolished near the Muiderpoort station in Amsterdam. The design of Neave Brown contains, on the street side (the busy Vestdijk), commercial spaces covering two storeys, above that five floors of dwellings and on the sunny side 3 storeys of descending terraced dwellings. Aside from the terraced building the plan also includes a low building at the foot of the complex, situated on the car-free Street 't College. There is a  total of 73 dwellings. At the presentation of the plan it was not yet clear how important the potential greening would be. The preconditions for a good quality green plan were present: large bins along the edges of the terraced dwellings that would be planted.


 
BCJ: Martijn, are the architectonic and architectural designs a good basis for planting?
Martijn van de Loo: "Certainly, in comparison to Brown’s terraced buildings in England the Medina Neave complex was a carefully thought out design in which the desired theme ' Hanging gardens ' could be realised. The generous size of the integrated planters offer a smooth irrigation. The pergolas function very well, although they could have been somewhat firmer. In our Green concept we distinguish 3 green strips: public greening on the edges of the building, the communal greening along the individual terraces and private greening on the terraces. The greening in Strip 1 and 2 is built by us and is also maintained by us. Here we have used cladding as a counterpart of the stony Street to create the requested Mediterranean atmosphere. A number of residents have outsourced the maintenance of their greening to us. In general, the residents are very careful with the plants. They greatly appreciate it as well.. We have informed all of the residents so everyone is also aware of the why particular choices were made. This is all stipulated in the regulations assuring that new buyers will comply. For example bamboo plants are not allowed because of the risk of an invasion of bamboo roots. The water supply to the public green is provided by integrated water pipes and governed by a float system; water reservoirs have been incorporated for the remaining green strips.. "

 BCJ: How was the dialogue between architect and gardener?
Martijn van de Loo: "That didn’t happen. There wasn’t enough money reserved for a really good greening plan. The company certainly didn’t do a bad job when hired, but the result was too poor for the buyers. A year after completion the owners of the dwellings put their money together to have us create and carry out a new plan.
 
BCJ: Can you tell a bit more about the choice of plants?
Martijn van de Loo: "The idea was to create a Mediterranean atmosphere. In order to create certain uniformity we  repeated the use of various plants. In addition, there has been particular attention paid to the summer-and winter images as well green structures giving birds, insects and butterflies optimal chances. There are thick hedges as well as winter greening providing safe havens for birds. For butterflies plants were needed that would provide sustanance in the form of  nectar and host plants that caterpillars use for food and the opportunity to pupate. Particulate matter was not yet such a big item but that would not have led to radically different choices now. "
 
BCJ: Is there a relationship with the revitalised Dommel which flows past the building?
Martijn van de Loo:  "Certainly not in the design of this building. However, it acts as a stepping stone; butterflies and other insects can go through the Medina jumping, flying and fluttering from one Habitat to the next. It would be nice if there would be even more green corridors in the city centre, not only for the animals, but also for the people. The outskirts of  Eindhoven are pretty green, but the downtown area is far too petrified. So we’ve been hoping for years that where the unfortunately demolished Fens-complex was, a green pocket garden could be planted. For many years the large profits made with the existing parking lot make it extremely difficult. "(This demolition and that of the beautiful neo-Gothic City Hall in the 1960s was the first step towards demolishing the entire old city center to initiate the so-called Cityplan. This did not continue, the Hooghuis Office Tower located on the opposite side is the only result. Ed.).
 
BCJ: Does the greening also play a role in the acoustics since it is so close to the Stratums End area a very busy and noisy area in the weekends?
Martijn van de Loo:  "That has never been measured, of course it will help. The people who choose to live in the middle of the city know of course that it is not a silent-oasis. The green makes sure, in any case, that the building is kept cool. Such a stony mass behaves differently like a ' heating island '. The greening also works partially as a sound barrier between the individual houses. "
 
BCJ: You guys also do the maintenance, are the plants easy to reach? 
Martijn van de Loo: "Planting maintenance is not included in the building design, We therefore have many safety features enabling us to safely get to the plants and extract any green waste. I wouldn’t know how you could integrate such a thing as maintenance/safety features during the design process, it would have become a different building. I would advocate for a much more integrated way of design in creating a green building, the gardener must be there from the start and preferably sit in with the construction team. The residents accept the fact that we come twice a year and walk from terrace to terrace through the planters. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to do it. The foil with which the architectonic planters are clad in order to achieve water density is still in very good condition unlike many other architectural elements of the building, which are leaking! One time we found a planter was leaking and discovered that  a realtor shoved the sale sign in with such force that that had caused the damage.
 
BCJ: Has the project become an example for other clients?
Martijn van de Loo: "We are often asked for information, but we have never gotten a similar assignment and I also know no comparable projects in the Netherlands. This is quite unfortunate because we actually put a lot of time into the design and now after 10 years maintenance we have the necessary experience and know how.
 
BCJ: What needs to happen to get more green buildings in the city, in times of crisis?
Martijn van de Loo: "People should find this important and not just think of the expensive systems for vertical gardens. We have also developed this type of system, but there are also so many more ways to greening the urban environment, without high construction and maintenance costs. Unfortunately, there are still too few architects and patrons who find greening, as an integral part of the design, important. The Medina is so convincing that you naturally become enthusiastic upon seeing the complex. The residents there are, in any case, very proud and have even made sure there was a publication of the history of the project! "