Eleven guiding principles forLeiden’s Singelpark designBased on the brainstorm sessionwith Stadslab Leiden, local residentsand organisations in Leiden-
2 Singelpark LeidenIntroductionStadslab Leidentadslab Leiden, founded in 2009, is a network of Leiden’s‘creative class’. These are people who voluntarily lendtheir professional expertise to help make Leiden a morevibrant, cultural, creative, innovative and competitive city.Professionals from various disciplines (such as architects,artists, scientists, communication professionals, etc.)work together to develop ideas and projects includingthe revitalisation of Leiden’s city squares and plazas, thedesign of a swimming pool in the canals, the production of an annual news-paper about knowledge and culture, the transformation of Leiden’s mainshopping street Breestraat into the most attractive street in the city, the co-operation between the numerous festivals and events in Leiden, the presenceof Leiden on the Internet, and so on. The foundation was initiated by twoconcerned neighbours and the network has grown to over 900 volunteers inthe past two and a half years. These are all people who want to help Leidenrealise it’s untapped potential.On December 7th 2011, Stadslab won the National Prize for Best VolunteerOrganization (category Innovation). Stadslab’s story is being spread aroundThe Netherlands and abroad to the Prime Minister, members of Parliament,the Royal Family, mayors, councilmen and city developers in other jurisdic-tions.In 1998, one of Stadslab’s founders started a local resident initiative whichenvisioned the development of Leiden’s city centre, calling it Quartier Leyden.The vision was divided into a two-track policy: the active conservation of thehistoric aspects of the city and the creation of a new, innovative and crea-tive area (on the northeast edge of the city centre). Both areas would beconnected by parks and a promenade along the seven ‘singels’ (the sevencanals which make up the historical defensive ring around the old city). Thisidea was adopted by the City Council and is now a leading principle in the(re)development of the city centre. When the City of Leiden announced thebudget of €9.3 million for a park around these seven ‘singels’ which form aring around the city centre, Stadslab Leiden formed a Team Singelpark in or-der to support the City of Leiden in the realisation of the Singelpark. It is, af-ter all, a high profile project which deserves a high quality design and vision.S
Singelpark Leiden 3StadslabLeiden and theSingelparkn January 18th 2012, Stadslab Leiden invited residents,local organisations and anyone who was interested inthe Singelpark to a brainstorm session. The question wassimple: “What do you want the Singelpark to be?” Over200 people attended and enthusiastically came up withover 500 ideas for the Singelpark design. Brainstormgroups were organised around themes: ‘history’, ‘water’,‘sports’, ‘playgrounds’, ‘green & science’, ‘art & culture’,‘marketing & tourism’, ‘neighbours & public management’, ‘promenade’ and‘fundraising’. Even more suggestions were sent via e-mail and social mediasuch as Twitter.The Singelpark Team has made the results of the brainstorm event availablein two useable forms: The entire palette of ideas per theme can be found onthe website (see www.singelpark.nl). On a more abstract level, The Teamhas consolidated all of the ideas into 11 ‘guiding principles’ for the Singelparkdesign, to be used by the designers of the park. Luckily this was not entirelydifficult because of the broad consensus within the various brainstormgroups that the park should be of a quality that will benefit our city, our resi-dents (the Leidenaren) and visitors now and for generations to come. We areenthusiastic about developing our ‘singels’ into the longest, most attractiveand most exciting city park in The Netherlands.O
4 Singelpark Leiden1. Living breathing lung for LeidenThe Singelpark should be an open GREEN space.The park should be a continuous green park encircling Leiden’s city centre,providing residents the room to breathe in the most densely built city in TheNetherlands. There is currently a lack of significant parks and gardens withinthe centre, despite Leiden’s rich horticultural history. (Leiden has the oldestand arguably the most important Hortus Botanicus in The Netherlands. Thisbotanical garden was built in 1593 and is located along the Singelpark).2. Of the people and for the people (of Leiden!)The Singelpark should be first and foremosta park for all the residents of Leiden.The park is for all ages, all cultures, all interest groups and everyone elsewho lives, works and visits the melting pot we call Leiden. The park shouldbe such a highlight that tourists will not leave Leiden without visiting theSingelpark. And in order to guarantee the continuing high quality through-out the years, we are in the process of forming the Friends of the SingelparkFoundation which will work together with the City to manage and maintainthe Singelpark in the future.3. Without the “Singel” there is no “park”The 6 kilometre-long BLUE ‘singel’ should bethe leading element within the GREEN Singelpark.No other city in the world still has a canal of this size around its historic citycentre. We are proud of the water in our city and use it all year long: weswim, we sail, we skate and we enjoy watching others doing the same. Thereshould always be a chance to experience the water along the entire park,either visually or physically.4. Rings, routes and round tripsThere should be numerous short distance andlong distance options around the Singelpark.The Singelpark is the only space in the city centre where one can find a longcontinuous stretch of recreational (green) space. We love the idea of be-ing able to simply follow our noses for six kilometres while walking, running,cycling, (inline) skating and sailing a ‘rondje Singels’ (a round trip). Connec-tions and bridges will be needed in some areas to complete the entire routeand there should be possibilities for smaller routes which combine the parkexperience on both sides of the ‘singel’. Numerous theme routes (e.g. history,culture, nature, sport) could also combine the activities available in and out-side of the city with the park and invite visitors to discover the rich history ofour ‘singels’.11 Guidingprinciplesfor theSingelparkdesign
Singelpark Leiden 55. From façade to façadeThe Singelpark should stretch from the façade on the insideof the ‘singel’ to the façade on the outside of the ‘singel’.It is essential that the water itself is the centre of the green space we will callSingelpark. This approach respects the character and history of the ‘singel’and will provide room on both sides of the water for promenades, green,recreation and circulation of vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.6. The park trumps trafficWhere park and (motorised) traffic meet,the design of the park should prevail.The car is welcome in the park but should behave as a guest. There are anumber of locations along the route where traffic in and out of the city mustcross the Singelpark. This is not a problem but deserves extra design con-siderations in order to provide a safe environment for pedestrians withoutcompromising / breaking the character of the park. The Singelpark shouldact as a green boundary between the low-traffic historic city centre and theoutskirts.7. Unravel and reveal Leiden’s rich historyLeiden’s history is based around its ‘singels’ and city centreand the Singelpark should tell its compelling story.Leiden was once the most important city in Holland, and Leidenaren love toshare their history. History is, above all, change. There are treasures to be dis-covered along the route and stories to be told where layer upon layer of his-torical gems have transformed Leiden into the city it is today. A ring aroundthe entire city centre is a perfect opportunity to tie it all together. Also, thepark itself must respect the historic transformations that shaped the formerdefensive line in the course of time.8. Singelpark as connection instead of barrierThe relationship between the city centre, the water and theneighbourhoods outside the ring should be strengthenedwith the introduction of the Singelpark.The Singelpark is not an edge between the city centre and the outskirts, buta connection between the two, with the water as the focal point and unitingfactor. The’singel’ belongs to both sides and the park, with its own character,should not be seen as a separate Leiden entity but an element that enhancesLeiden as a whole. The designer is challenged to give form to the relationshipbetween the physical, historical and social character of the city centre on theone side and the neighbourhoods on the other. Also there should be connec-tions to nature (green and blue) outside of town.9. It is one “single” park, but not an amusement parkThe park should provide spaces to accommodate permanent activities, oc-casional activities, spontaneous activities and no activities at all.We have more ideas than we have acres of park. However, we do not wantthe Singelpark to become one big amusement park. It should be above all apark. The design should be one continuous identifiable park where variousfunctions / activities / spaces can occur over the entire length, with enoughroom in between to simply provide green and relaxation for the residents andvisitors. There should be places where activity is concentrated AND places ofcontemplation. There should be areas with designated functions AND areaswith room for spontaneous activity.10. Singelpark as a brandThe design of the Singelpark should be so strong and identifiable that it canbecome a marketing tool for further funding, awareness and support.To reach the level of quality we envision for the Singelpark, we will need ad-ditional funding. Potential investors will only invest if they know about theSingelpark, believe in its potential and are enthusiastic in sharing the dreamof realising it. The longest, most beautiful and most exciting city park in TheNetherlands, located along the largest intact city fortifications of Europe, isa start. But the design needs to convey this message in its ambitions, qualityand unique design. This is why we have to work on the Singelpark as a firmand inspiring brand, with its own visual identity, publications etc. Ideas inwhich the design and the design process itself can support our brand build-ing and fund raising efforts are encouraged.11. Make us proud!The Singelpark is an unique opportunity to boost the liveability, attractive-ness and physical quality of the city now and in the future. We believe that agreat Singelpark design can be a major turning point in the attitude towardscity development in Leiden. A number of large ‘ambitious’ projects die in theplanning stages because of a lack of money, management and/or social sup-port. Building the Singelpark is more than building a park: we will be buildingcity-wide pride, self-consciousness, social cohesion and confidence that it ispossible to achieve ambitious, unique and high quality projects in Leiden!