Award winning edible neighbourhood project

Landscape Institute’s 2023 Dame Sylvia Crowe International Award goes to Felixx Landscape Architects & Planners for the new Rijnvliet neighbourhood with edible forest.

Rijnvliet Utrecht - the ‘edible’ neighbourhood

This international award category, rewards landscape excellence around the world and is awarded to projects, designs, management plans, delivery or research that has contributed to knowledge, learning and society in any field of landscape practice.

The innovative Rijnvliet Edible Neighbourhood project won the prestigious accolade as the judges said that the winning entry “demonstrates that with dedication, open dialogue and a shared vision, transformative neighbourhood projects can come to life.”

The edible neighbourhood, located in the Dutch city of Utrecht is a truly innovative urban planning initiative founded on the principle of accessible urban agriculture, and is the result of close collaboration between local residents and council. The project is part of the Leidsche Rijn expansion to provide 1100 new homes.

Rijnvliet covers an impressively generous, 37 acres of food forest with more than a thousand (fruit) trees and 220 different (sub)species of edible plants, herbs & shrubs. The entire district is embedded within a productive landscape, integrating three values: food production, usage and nature. The neighbourhood is built around the central edible forest, to promote social inclusion and harmony between people and nature. The living space also provides ecological services such as water management, heat mitigation, and air purification, making Rijnvliet a particularly healthy neighbourhood to live in. Part of the deal, is that residents must work together to keep the food forest in good shape which further strengthens social cohesion, making this project truly unique.

The masterplan was developed by the award-winning architectural and urban design agency De Zwarte Hond (DZH). The location has a large waterway (De Vliet) which connects to the ‘Leidsche Rijn’ canal and Strijkviertel lake, which subsequently branches out over a large expanse of green space and wider networks of interconnected green public spaces. The area consists of four (sub)neighbourhoods, distinguished by different types of architecture with characteristic individual homes. Housing stock consists of individual houses to apartment complexes. All have access to the green public space, either directly or indirectly through views, allowing for all residents to have close contact with nature.

Felixx Landscape Architects & Planners designed the public, edible, educative landscape which is based on the principles of food forestry and developed in collaboration with residents and AE Food Forestry Development. Construction of the housing project began at the end of 2017 and is nearing completion, with completed houses inhabited. Trees were planted in 2019 and 2020, and in September 2022 the edible forest was officially opened.

Design of the edible forest

The forest consists of seven layers of plants to form a cohesive, integrated ecosystem. Diverse varieties of vegetation provide habitats for wildlife, insects and organisms. The abundant green and waterside spaces blend harmoniously with the newly built environment, enhancing quality of life, ensuring optimal biodiversity and extensive habitat for birds, bats and other species. A detailed tree map is available for further detail.

The layers include:

  • Tall tree canopy consisting of original and newly planted large trees
  • Low/mid sized trees consisting
  • Shrub layer of fruit and berry bushes
  • Herb layer of perennial vegetables and herbs
  • Ground cover plants
  • Below ground plants such as bulb & tubers
  • Climbers to provide a vertical layer plants

In addition to the 2023 Landscape Institute’s Dame Sylvia Crowe International Award, the Rijnvliet project has also been awarded the Innovation in Politics Award in 2021.

We are in the middle of an ecological crisis and constantly faced with the consequences of our own interference in the natural environment, but also face mounting pressure to provide much needed housing for the growing population. Rather than the ‘building-for-volume-only’ developments, we see popping up everywhere, with little in the way of ecological value, projects such as these are a step in the right direction to provide a balance – a state of synergy between culture and nature.