Discover Floriade 2022 with Winy Maas

Discover Floriade 2022 with Winy Maas

Award-winning Dutch architect and urban planner Winy Maas, Founding Partner of MVRDV, is overseeing the development of Floriade Expo 2022. We caught up with him to find out more about this living laboratory where urbanism and nature meet.

Winy Maas Floriade 2022  Winy Maas ©BarbraVerbij 

ECT: Floriade 2022 aims to provide answers to the question of what will happen when 70% of the world’s population lives in the city. Please can you outline the role the site you are designing for the Expo plays in helping to achieve this aim.

WM: The theme of the Floriade Expo 2022 is 'Growing Green Cities’, which is also a key element in my work as an architect, landscape architect and urbanist. The core element of MVRDV’s masterplan for the Expo is the Green City Arboretum, a one-of-a-kind library of trees, shrubs and plants. This green structure has been the foundation for the 60-hectare site. Visitors can see how much these plants each help in terms of oxygen, cooling and co2 absorption, and how much they cost in terms of water and soil management. We wanted to create a truly experimental green neighbourhood that could serve as a testing zone for the upcoming housing challenges. The arboretum should eventually grow over the houses and we will have to see if this works out practically. Over the next years, no less than 320,000 homes are needed in Almere so this Expo is an excellent opportunity to test how urban construction can be combined with a healthy and green environment. 

Floriade 2022 Garden City


ECT: We love the idea of a living plant library… tell us more! 

WM: The plant library is the central green structure of the plot. Trees and plants are planted in alphabetical order, based on their botanical name. The design has already attracted lots of attention - growers from across the Netherlands have donated almost 1,000 trees for it, which will form part of the first phase of planting. Layers of other planting will follow - bushes, plants and then the flower bulbs. When completed, these plants will immediately start contributing to a healthy and sustainable city by reducing heat or improving air quality, for example. Growers from 175 countries have been invited to participate in the Expo, so I am expecting an unforgettable mix.  

ECT: MVRDV is well-known for covering buildings with plants – a concept you call The Green Dip.  

WM: Yes, as MVRDV, we have experimented with façades made completely out of plants in various projects, adding rooftop forests to concrete buildings and transforming abandoned industrial buildings into public spaces. We also made an oasis on the ruins of an abandoned shopping mall for our building ‘Tainan Spring’ in Tainan on Taiwan’s southwest coast.

The Green Dip' refers to our architectural strategy to incorporate plants into buildings - a truly symbiotic urbanism where plants, animals and men are living together. What if we cover all cities with a thick layer of green - from roofs, facades and streets, to interior walls, floors and even furniture? We developed the Green Dip-concept and content within The Why Factory (T?F), my global think-tank and research-led institute connected to the Delft University of Technology, which resulted in The Green Dip Maker. This tool shows which elements can hold how much plant material and makes it possible to select the correct species for the right biomes. Because of it, we know the weight of the green hats, coats, socks, how much water each needs, when it flowers and how it effects our buildings. 


Tainan Spring MVRDV Garden Floriade 2022 MVRDV Tainan Spring, credit Daria Scagliola

ECT: You have said: "Managing the planet is a very human activity. Managing nature is part of our urbanism." Can you elaborate please? 

WM: We will be a world of 11 billion people soon, a growth that we have to manage ourselves as humans, since who else will come to the rescue? Some of us will go to the tundras in order to survive, others will stay in Singapore or Amsterdam… We have to deal with that and with the new densities that will occur and also keep enough emptiness for food, oxygen and water management. It is a major task of which, of course, not only architects need to be aware, but everyone. 

ECT: Going back to Floriade 2022, what are you looking forward to most and why?  

WM: The Arboretum being finalised and visitors strolling down the paths, enjoying the green. The grid is already clearly visible and a new green neighbourhood for Almere is taking shape. Last summer, the Expo organized boat tours to the plot to give people a sneak preview, and the reactions were already very enthusiastic. 

When we started out on this journey, our ambition was to make Floriade Expo 2022 a model for symbiotic urbanism, where nature, landscape architecture and architecture meet. The site may not be ecologically self-sufficient yet, but I see it as a living laboratory with inspirational exhibitions by countries, cities, and innovative businesses combined with a unique collection of trees, shrubs, and flowers. If all is executed well, I think the area will stand out internationally as an example for other cities to follow. 

Floriade 2022 Garden City Netherlands