MVRDV Designs A 3-D Plant Library On A Fake Island

MVRDV envisions an elaborate ecotopia in the Netherlands’s newest city.


The prolific Dutch architects MVRDV have unveiled plans to grow a 3-D “plant library” on a 45-hectare artificial island protruding off the shores of Almere, the Netherlands’s youngest city.


The library would catalog the world’s flora, only instead of housing books, it’d be a grid of real live gardens, possibly arranged alphabetically and stretched over new landfill that’s slightly larger than Vatican City. The proposal represents the city’s official bid for the Floriade 2022 Expo–a sort of six-month-long horticultural equivalent of the Olympic Games–and also features a university, a hotel, a marina, offices, housing, an open-air theater, camping sites, and other facilities. Here’s more, per the press materials:

Almere Floriade will be developed as a tapestry of gardens on a 45ha square shaped peninsula. Each block will be devoted to different plants, a plant library with perhaps an alphabetical order. The blocks are also devoted to program, from pavilions to homes, offices and even a university which will be organised as a stacked botanical garden, a vertical eco-system in which each class room will have a different climate to grow certain plants. Visitors will be able to stay in a jasmine hotel, swim in a lily pond and dine in a rosary. The city will offer homes in orchards, offices with planted interiors and bamboo parks. The Expo and new city centre will be a place that produces food and energy, a green urban district which shows in great detail how plants enrich every aspect of daily life.

If it sounds like some kind of elaborate ecotopia, you’re exactly right. Created in the 1970s to offset population overgrowth in nearby Amsterdam, Almere is on the verge of another development boom; some 60,000 new houses and 100,000 offices are expected to transform Almere into the fifth largest city in the Netherlands by 2030. MVRDV, which also designed Almere’s master plan, envisions Floriade 2022: Expo as the ultimate urban amenity. In the press release, the architects call it “an exemplary green city”; “a lasting green Cité Idéale”; and a paragon of “innovation and ecology.” Says MVRDV principal Winy Maas:

We dream of making green cities. City that is literally green as well as ecological. A city that produces food and energy, cleans its own water, recycles waste and holds a great biodiversity. A city which might even be autarkic: A symbiotic world of people, plants and animals. Can this symbiosis between city and countryside offer essential argumentation to the global concerns regarding of urbanisation and consumption? Can we realise in the next ten years an exemplary city which realises this synthesis? And could this city be the Floriade 2022?

Maas might be overselling it a bit. (An “essential augmentation” of “global concerns regarding… urbanization and consumption” in just 10 years? C’mon.) And even if Almere wins the bid with MVRDV’s lofty plans, you have to wonder how much of them will make it past City Hall, or whoever wields the rubber stamp. But if the architects are able to accomplish half of what they’ve spelled out here, it’ll no doubt make life better–and greener–for folks in those 60,000 new homes.

[images courtesy of MVRDV]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D