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A continuous garden park and ring canal, the Catharijnesingel, still encircle virtually the entire old city of Utrecht. Within the ring lies a charming medieval city of elegant boutiques and cafés; outside the ring lie modern shopping centers and housing developments. This sharp contrast is most evident at the one area where the Catharijnesingel has been filled in by the city for a new highway. This once vital location now appears like a gaping wound in the heart of the historic old town. The city of Utrecht realizes the need to reclaim the original image of a continuous canal and garden park surrounding the old city, yet simultaneously acknowledges the enormous value of this location for new commercial space. To solve this dilemma, Emilio Ambasz proposed that an elevated pedestrian garden platform be constructed above the highway, thereby hiding the traffic below and creating a garden park surrounding the old city once again. At the center of the plat-form, Ambasz placed a channel of water to symbolize the old Catharijnesingel, flanked by shops, cafés and housing made of brick and stone in the character of the old city. These buildings are articulated to form a series of intimate courtyards and in this way the original character of the old city re-turns once more, using modern materials and a modern vocabulary.


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