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15. Brittle Blocks

Client: Municipality of Maastricht BPF Bouwinvest
Location: Maastricht, the Netherlands
Program: Masterplan, Housing
Area: Masterplan 0.5ha Building 5.600m² / 60.200 sf
Status: Competition 2009



In coming decades the city of Maastricht will be competing with neighboring municipalities to lure a shrinking regional population into its borders. Its dense and historic urban setup of closed blocks with monumental facades will be one of the city’s main assets in this endeavor. The given master plan for the Sphinx terrain acknowledges this quality. It proposes a series of enclosed or semi-enclosed blocks positioned on a Cartesian grid.

Our proposal accepts the block typology as the most adequate solution to achieve density on the ground. However, it introduces a radical re-conception of the traditional city block with its formal, representative front and informal, casual back.  The quality of the Sphinx Quarter as a secluded, walled, car-free enclave allows for an inversion of this polarity. We can liberate “the casual” into the streets. By turning the block inside out its rough edges create a fuzzy zone between public and private. This zone promises to be ideal for young, working-class families and households and elderly citizens. These are the demographic groups Limburg will focus on attracting to combat population decline. The ground level of Sphinx Quarter can turn into a leisurely, casual and porous field where formal and informal coincide.