Park Emmen

Unique heritage
As special as the Noorder Dierenpark was, so is it’s spatial legacy. Perhaps even more special. Where else in the world can you visit a park that was formed as a former zoo? A place where scenic geometry, topography and vegetation have their origin in the imagination of continents and climate zones and the separation of humans and animals. A kaleidoscopic collection of scenic dioramas where you constantly wondering which species lived there. A heterotopia which says something about our world and our relationship with nature. A spatial legacy that is loaded with stories and memories. But also provides new reasons for sports and games, adventure and culture, inspiration and contemplation. Where you can stroll on the savannah, listen to a concert from a monkey rock and learn to dive in a former shark residence.

New paths
A new system of bicycle paths, footpaths and wander paths will be constructed. These meander in a similar manner as the paths in the former zoo, so that the space appears larger than it actually is. Some of these paths are wider and designed for both cyclists and pedestrians. Other parts are narrower and only for pedestrians. This new path structure occupies less space and not only runs between the former islands animals, but it also make them accessible. This creates an interesting poetic reversal of the islands that were intended for animals, and now provide incentives for new activities focused on people. Between these 'people islands' and the paths that connect them, nature (flora and fauna) will get the space to flourish. These areas will be extensively maintained, so biodiversity gets a boost.

Building with scenery
The most valuable part of the spatial legacy of the Noorder Dierenpark is formed by natural landscape elements. The old buildings in the zoo have a more generic character, are less suitable for housing or accommodation and don’t perform well energetically. For the short term, these buildings are fine for temporary use, but in the longer term the aim is to add new buildings, especially at the edges of the park.

The starting point for the new development is to strengthen the scenic character of the park and not compete with it. We propose to blend buildings and landscape uncompromising together (synthesis). The parklandscape with maximized dimensions will be gently lifted at the edges of the park to give space for development. The facades of the new building facing the park are slopes (or steps) with vegetable mold for vegetation of grasses and herbs that are also found elsewhere in the park. The horizon is shifted so that the park seems visually bigger. The new buildings don’t interfere with the available space of the park but enlarges it and adds scenic and ecological value. This approach whereby the 'people islands' are incorporated into the landscape reflects the way in which many of the former animal islands in the park are an integral part of the area.

Unity in multiplicity
The spatial proposal whereby buildings and landscape blend in together provides a clear direction for development and provides guidance for the implementation and further elaboration. And it gives a lot of flexibility. The functional lay-out of the new buildings can be diverse, while still creating a spacious and scenic coherent picture. On the side of the Market Square, behind three historical park villas, new buildings can be realized for cultural and educational functions. The other edges of the park can be mainly used for a variety of accomodations. Examples are to provide housing for inhabitants of Emmen (young and old) who have pledged their hearts to this place. Apartments for seniors who want to fully enjoy the nature and liveliness in the park. And maybe also want to contribute actively to the maintenance. But also housing for young families. Because how magnificent would it be to grow up on the edge of this park that is a large natural playground for children. It is also conceivable that a part is used as overnight accommodation for tourists. A visit to Wildlands will be, combined with a stay for one or more nights in the former zoo, completely unique!

Green by red
In the current proposal more than 40,000m2 of usable area is available. The size of the footprint of the construction is similar to that of the current buildings. Thus creating a solid economic foundation for the establishment, maintenance and programming of the park. In addition the residents and other users of the buildings provide social security of the park. The proposed new building consists of distinct elements and can be easily phased. In the meantime, the existing buildings can serve as accommodation for various functions.


ir. Marco Vermeulen, ir. Bram Willemse, ir. Joost van der Waal, Chiel Lansink

in cooperation with
Urban Xchange

Park, housing, culture and innovation cluster

Design research

Municipality of Emmen


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