Once a canal and located on top of an underground car park, Damsterplein in Groningen is nowadays surrounded by a mixture of old and new buildings and crossed by heavy traffic. Now this square is getting a major facelift, aiming - literally - to become “the coolest square in town.” The transformation has been spurred not only by a desire to create a “green and liveable environment” for the city’s residents but by the recognition that Groningen, like many other cities, needs to become more resilient to climate change.
At the heart of Groningen’s transition to climate resilience is the EUR 1 million LIFE COOL SQUARE project, transforming Damsterplein into a climate-adaptive, resilient, accessible and multifunctional urban space. Covered in concrete, tarmac and paving, Damsterplein is hot in summer and floods after heavy rainfall. A key element is to redesign Damsterplein and the wider municipality into a ‘sponge city’ to prevent extreme drought and flooding.
A ‘sponge city’ uses nature-based solutions such as absorbing and storing rainwater to mitigate the effects of climate change. LIFE COOL SQUARE will capture, store and recycle rainwater by constructing ‘bioswales’ - landscaped channels designed to collect and filter rainwater. By replacing concrete surfaces with green areas and drought-resistant plants and trees, Damsterplein will be more likely to absorb excess rainfall and store water for use during dry weather. The plants and trees will also provide shade for the surrounding environment, which will help to reduce the effects of urban heat islands and improve the health of those living nearby.
Residents are especially being encouraged to get involved, for example, by creating and maintaining gardens and the green islands on the square. “The residents came up with that idea themselves,” says Project Manager Hedwig de Boer. “They asked if they could adopt green spaces and take care of them.”
The project also ran an information market to explain the challenges and plans to around 50 visitors. In turn, residents shared their ideas to make Damsterplein a welcoming and pleasant neighbourhood space with its own special identity - for example, by installing more seating areas, more greenery and areas for small events and activities.
Students from Hanze University Groningen are monitoring LIFE COOL SQUARE to compare the current space with how it is used once the project is completed - providing valuable information about the effects of urban redesign for other projects in similar circumstances.
LIFE COOL SQUARE targets the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change.
- Publication date
- 17 July 2023
- European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency