artist impression van toekomstig Hembrug

Sound architect for a healthy and comfortable living environment (46/50)

M+P director Theodoor Höngens has been appointed by the municipality of Zaanstad to the unique position of sound architect. This fits well with his vision for building in a healthier and smarter way: ”The most important decisions are made on a scruffy piece of paper.”

It all began with radical plans for the Hembrug site in Zaandam. Where there was once a closed industrial area where munitions were made, a healthy and comfortable neighbourhood that facilitates living, working and recreation is to be created. A big challenge as the site is in a busy, noisy area with the port of Amsterdam and an industrial area to the south, and a busy road to the north. How can you ensure peace and relaxation in such a place?

Buildings and experience

A challenge like this is right up Theodoor's alley. “I personally prefer it when a project is a bit complex. I love the combination of buildings and experience. I studied architecture, but also dreamed of being a guitarist. So I think you have to take a holistic approach to the redevelopment of an area. Not starting from what should be done according to the rules, but rather from what you need to facilitate health and comfort. That’s more like how a designer or architect would look at it.”

Organise in advance, not fix in hind sight

To truly put health and comfort first, you have to think the project through and create a basic plan from the preconditions for the environment and the people who will use it, Theodoor stresses. “If you get everything right before you begin, you don't need to fix anything later. The most important decision are made on a scruffy piece of paper early on in the process, not based on detailed calculations or cost.”

Trees bring peace

The smart placement of buildings plays a huge role. Theodoor: “At the Hembrug site, for example, we ensure peace by means of a forest in the middle of the area. The buildings are placed around it, allowing people to always be able to walk to the forest to relax. Moreover, we create a layout for the buildings in such a way that opposite a busy side, they always have a quiet side too. This creates a very dynamic area.”

Monitoring plans

The ideas for the Hembrug site have now been incorporated in new zoning plans that have quality frameworks. Theodoor is currently part of a quality team. This team assesses new initiatives and checks whether they fit in the grand plan. “For example, there have been proposals for terraces in the forest to facilitate recreation. But by doing so, you would actually disturb the peace. So we refer such initiatives to the outer edges of the area. This is how we keep the living environment healthy and comfortable.”