Utrecht – Hof van Cartesius


The Hof van Cartesius is a test ground organised by creative entrepreneurs where work is undertaken according to circular principles. The pavilions surrounding a large green public courtyard garden are 90% built using reused and/or bio-based materials. The Municipality of Utrecht organised an Open Call for this initiative, is the initiator behind the Hof and provided € 125,000 in process funding, and even provided the land subject to favourable conditions. A further € 42,409 was collected via crowdfunding, and € 32,000 was borrowed from a fund provided by the Economic Board Utrecht.

The Hof is based on 4 principles. It is a green workplace that aims to promote biodiversity; work is undertaken on a collective basis; the initiative makes circular and sustainable choices, and uses 90% circular materials and installations. Finally, the project serves as a catalyst for the Werkspoorkwartier district. In all respects, the Hof aims to experiment with the reduction of waste and residual flows based on a measurement tool developed by the University of Utrecht. This will make it possible to scientifically measure the impact of the Hof van Cartesius.

The project consists of 28 self-employed creative entrepreneurs, 169 private investors and 40 members of the cooperative. The group has redeveloped 1450 m2 of waste ground into 545 m2 of circular pavilions, 580 m2 self-built premises and 325 m2 of climate-adaptive collective garden.The aim of the municipal authorities is to stimulate and facilitate, partly by providing the necessary funding. Parties such as schools, businesses, residents and social organisations are involved. The Hof van Cartesius works as a cooperative. This means that the members are not only tenants but also actively contribute ideas and efforts in the design of the Hof. For the construction work, the members made use of a wide range of available materials including 30 metres of railway track, 12 old hardwood doors, 3 roof trusses from a warehouse, 650 m2 of insulating sandwich panels and more than 275 recycled wooden beams. Natural materials have been used for the finishing work (ecoboard) and insulation (sheep’s wool, hemp, jute and wood fibres) and facade covering (wood or bamboo).

The Hof van Cartesius offers residents and creative entrepreneurs from the Werkspoorkwartier district of Utrecht the space to organise their own activities and share their skills with others. A special role has been set aside for a Facebook group. Activities are organised on a regular basis. The Hof offers space to 30 self-employed creative entrepreneurs. 4 self-employed entrepreneurs work directly for the Hof.

The Hof works in close collaboration with the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht and the School for the Arts, so that student assignments are continuously provided based on circular building, circular business and area development.

During the construction of the Hof and its projects undertaken by the associated creative entrepreneurs, (immigrant) residence permit holders are employed at a volunteer rate. This helps them expand their (social and commercial) network, teaches them better Dutch and improves their chances on the labour market. In phase 2, the ambition is to establish Buurman Utrecht (a franchise based on Buurman Rotterdam) as part of which a Material Recycling Centre will be established, to prepare materials for reuse, and to structurally train people for work in the construction sector.

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