Castellum – a Mediterranean feel in Houten (NL)

Houten-Zuid goes back in time with plan for Castellum. From the remains of the Roman Empire, a unique district has emerged, complete with homes, shops, a station, and cycling transferium. The first pavers for the ‘fortress’ were laid in 2011. The district was completed in 2018.

Back in time

Rico Hoornaar, project manager for the city of Houten, explains how the project came about. ‘The idea behind Castellum was born from archaeological finds from the Roman Era. A castellum is a Roman fortress or defence. As such, Castellum has been configured as a Mediterranean fort, surrounded by water.’ 

We have used aesthetic industrial panels in a number of areas as part of the detailing – along the shops as a plinth, as part of the entrance area to homes, as a ‘red’ carpet across a square. An attractive combination with the clay pavers

Steven van Schijndel
tlu landschapsarchitecten

Calm in bold colours

Rico was responsible for executing the project, something which presented interesting challenges. ‘The project was delivered in several phases, involving a range of suppliers and contractors. My role was as the coordinator. But Castellum had two clients,’ explains Rico. ‘The City developed the western side of the plan, while project developers shaped the eastern side of the plan based on self-realisation.’ 

Enthusiastic about the design

Developer Steven van Schijndel of tlu landschapsarchitecten jumps in, ‘Having multiple parties involved did not cause any problems in designing the public space of the area; in fact, everything went smoothly.’ You can hear the enthusiasm when he talks more about how they went about shaping the design. ‘The starting points of any typically Mediterranean area like Castellum are the narrow, almost traffic-free streets, gently sloping roofs, and façades of bold colours. It’s great to be able to take that concept and implement it in all materials in the outdoor space.’ 

Enthusiastic about the design

The materials used for the project were carefully coordinated: darker paving, darker concrete benches, and dark-grey lighting columns. They form a calm and coherent whole in terms of both colour and user experience.

Steven van Schijndel
tlu landschapsarchitecten

Rico adds, ‘As the district really is part of the centre of Houten-Zuid, the look and use of materials needed to be of high quality. We took this into account in the methods that we used, as special materials need special attention.’ Virtually the entire district was paved with clay pavers, an area of no less than 22,500 m2 . Rico continues, ‘The finish to the paving is an example of that extra attention. For the edging to the paving, we used sawn edging bricks rather than snipped bricks. This really helped to enhance the streetscape.’ 

The choice for pavers

Steven explains why they opted for pavers, ‘Clay paving is sustainable, of high quality, and works well with the Mediterranean terracotta of Castellum . We deliberately chose not to introduce height differences to the streets and squares, that way you experience the district as a single area, which is why we chose one colour for the paving. The streets are narrower than elsewhere in Houten-Zuid, similar to a walled, Mediterranean town. The colour we opted for, Chiara from Vandersanden, is calming with attractive nuances. If you look at a large area, you will notice the slight differences in colour. This brings the paving to life, rather than it being dull and boring. It also matches well with the bold colours in the façades. That was decisive.’

Castellum is a unique place to live, with very little motor traffic. Residents of the roughly eight hundred homes enjoy a Mediterranean atmosphere in a natural environment. ‘Castellum is literally like a castle on the water,’ explains Rico. ‘Then on the other side, there’s a gentle slope that transitions into a green area. Houten is bicycle-friendly, and you can cycle easily from area to area. Numerous bridges for cyclists and pedestrians make Castellum easily accessible. It really has become the hub of Houten-Zuid.’ 

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