From warehouse to market hall
In the former bicycle depot in Utrecht, part of the redevelopment of Merwede, Mei is designing a market hall with catering, creative activity, and urban agriculture. Commissioned by Lingotto Ontwikkeling B.V., Janssen de Jong Projectontwikkeling and 3T Vastgoed, Mei will design the transformation of the depot building. The characteristic building will be preserved, and new qualities – such as a circular construction – will be added. Under the name ‘MENU’, this unique place will open up to its surroundings and become a vibrant centerpiece in the new urban district of Merwede.
Lingotto, Janssen de Jong
A mix of market hall, catering facilities, boutique hotel, Knowledge Lab, bicycle parking, small businesses, living
14.515 m2 GFA
Seasoning for Merwede
MENU is located on the site of the OPG (Mutual Pharmaceutical Wholesaler). A place that is currently characterized by a sandplain, piles and large warehouses, will be transformed within a few years into a dynamic, green urban district. To achieve this, much emphasis is placed on attractive placemaking and programming. MENU lends itself perfectly for this; the building is located at the beginning of the Merwedekanaal zone and will be largely publicly accessible, giving it a key function in bringing the neighborhood together. The building endorses the municipal action program “Making City Together, the Utrecht Way” and will be a dynamic place with a lively community and great appeal to (young) people, where creativity, knowledge and energy are shared.
Bicycle depot from the ’80s
The building to be transformed, designed by Aronsohn Raadgevend Ingenieursbureau, is a building that you don’t easily fall in love with; typical of the 1980s and an austerely, closed appearance. This can be traced back to its former function. Originally the building was used for the storage of medicines and from 2006 until June 2021 it was used as a municipal bicycle depot. Nevertheless, the building has extraordinary qualities, such as great heights and endless columns on the inside. After transformation, the building will have a cathedral-like spaciousness, making it excellent as a meeting place.
Local food production
Perhaps one of the most distinctive and innovative aspects about the building is the indoor integration of local food production. In doing so, the CO2 present in the building is well absorbed and utilized. Everything is fully air-conditioned and monitored, and remains in view of the visitor.
The cultivated food is sold in the market hall, to local residents and the local supermarket. In this way we make local production part of the neighborhood and encourage interactions in the hall.
MENU will be realized in two phases. The temporary infill has workplaces, event space and catering facilities on the first floor and the roof. People can go there for locally produced food and a snack and drink on a sunny terrace. In the second phase, a circular addition is planned, which will contain about forty loft apartments. These will be placed as separate blocks on top of the existing building, creating a playful and recognizable form.
- Introverted building
- Inside, lots of spaciousness due to 7m high floors
- Forest of columns
- Little daylight in the middle of the building
- Two stability cores
Sharing unexpected vacancy with the city
- Unexpected space and height by making large floor cut in the middle of the building
- Impressive experience from the inside due to 14m high columns
- Functional and open space along the facades
- New openings in the facade provide more daylight
- Dramatic light penetration through subtle cutout in the roof
1 + 1 = 3: Extraordinary volume addition with loft houses
Balancing existing and new
- Multiple setbacks create a mountain landscape in volume and exterior spaces
- The 1st setback continues all around with a readable roof edge of the depot
- Using the setbacks to direct light, air and sunlight for the surrounding area
- Creating a hollow for a common deck on the roof of the depot
In both phases, new values regarding sustainability and nature inclusiveness are taken into account, in line with the three core values of the plan: local, together, and for a better world. Application of this takes place at multiple levels. Recycling will be promoted wherever possible, waste streams will be regulated, there will be room for knowledge sharing and special attention will be paid to locally produced vegetables and plants.
In practice, this means that in the temporary design as few interventions as possible will be made in the facade; only the facades will be replaced by reused glass copies. Access to the roof will be provided so that the entire existing building can be optimally programmed. In addition, a part of the roof is donated to the community, which can be used for their own initiatives.
In the second phase, a circular construction will be placed on top of the existing building. With this, the existing building forms the foundation for the homes. The new additions are demountable, adaptable and future-proof. The loft apartments will have access to both a private terrace and communal roof garden, where there is space for the community to gather. The block-like construction of the elevation allows plenty of daylight to enter the apartments. This creates a natural and pleasant living environment.
MENU’s programming also contributes to the three core values that this transformation represents. In addition to a market hall where locally produced food is offered, there is room for small manufacturing industries, co-working spaces, and a boutique hotel. Companies that are going to establish themselves here, can possibly become part of a circular economy whereby the waste streams are cleverly regulated. In this way, the waste of one company becomes the raw material for another. Moreover, there will be a general bicycle parking and a Knowledge Lab where information in the field of sustainability, circularity and innovation can be shared. In MENU everything comes together in one place – fitting the new generation.