Düsseldorf Plans ‘Green Heart’ as Europe Boosts Trees in Cities

The masterplan features mass timber construction systems as the German city looks to a net-zero future.

Sun 14 Jan 24


One of Germany’s most vibrant cities is getting a “Green Heart” after global architectural practice MVRDV produced plans that will see Düsseldorf develop a green spine in Europe’s latest urban rejuvenation projects.

As one of the world’s largest architectural firms, the Dutch-based MVRDV has offices in Berlin, New York, Paris, and Shanghai and is behind Harvard University’s $750m net-zero campus upgrade as well as Prague’s $1b-plus Three Czech Lanterns airport development.

Once constructed, it will feature a 17-storey hybrid timber building, including green roofs, photovoltaic panels, and cross-laminated timber floors, as part of “an urban mining approach” to improve the city’s climate resilience and community activation.

mvrdv and lola unveil grune mitte a participatory social housing complex in dusseldorf 2
The development will feature a 17-storey hybrid timber building featuring green roofs and cross-laminated timber floors. (Photo Credit: MVRDV)

Announced on Friday, MVRDV said the “building’s façades celebrate diversity, with different treatments for each block, and some walls proposed for street art collaborations with Kiefernstraße residents.”

The new plan, known as Grüne Mitte (or “Green Heart” in German), will eventually see 500 apartments constructed as part of the reactivation of the city’s most disadvantaged districts, Flingern-Süd, incorporating an underutilised shopping centre, supermarket and car park.

Significantly, more than 50% of new apartments must be set aside for social, affordable and “rent-controlled” apartments, with a new “central park,” designed by landscape architect Lola, boosting green space in the district from 2% to more than 38%.

mvrdv and lola unveil grune mitte a participatory social housing complex in dusseldorf 1 1
Renders provided by the architect show how the different buildings, retrofitted and constructed for the development, connect around a central park. (Photo Credit: MVRDV)

Selected after extensive consultation with the community, it will feature blocks around a central green space – a community hub accessible through various passages – and increase the biodiversity in the surrounding neighbourhood.

According to a joint statement, “this green area features kiosks, sports facilities, and playgrounds, contributing to increased biodiversity and a pleasant microclimate.”

mvrdv and lola unveil grune mitte a participatory social housing complex in dusseldorf 5
The master plan will feature different façade treatments for different buildings, connected to the central green spine to “celebrate diversity and make the building more inviting.” (Photo Credit: MVRDV)

Increasingly, urban planners are turning to green spaces, vegetation, and city-based forest parks to prevent “the urban heat island effect,” which occurs when temperatures rise due to heat trapped and radiated by impervious surfaces like concrete and asphalt.

As reported by the BBC, there are many reasons for the temperature differences observed in cities, “including the different way building materials reflect the sun’s rays, reduced vegetation, and the fact that water runs off surfaces into drains.”

Is planting more trees key to solving the climate crisis? In a recent Ted Talk, researchers explore a new study that looks to plant 1 trillion trees worldwide – footage courtesy of @TedEd talk.

Across Europe, cities are planting more trees, greening streets and roofs, and “cooling buildings sustainability” as they improve climate resilience and readiness. 

Barcelona – which has a high population density contributing to a marked heat island effect – is concentrating on planting and looking after its trees as part of its efforts to green the city.

The city already has more trees than any other in Europe, with a 20-year plan aiming to increase the proportion of land covered by trees to 30% and ensure tree species can quickly adapt to climate change.


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