When the City of Emmen decided to completely move the zoo from the city centre to a new location, they held a design competition for the new urban square which will link the zoo entrance with the city. The square will serve as an attractive public space between the existing buildings housing shops and the city hall and the new zoo entrance with theater and fulfill a central role within the open space structure of the city. The existing parking lots and road will be placed underground in order to provide space for the 2.3 ha square. The city sees the square as a space for events yet full of green and water. The residents of Emmen expressed the need for smaller spaces within the larger area for a variety of uses such as relaxation, recreation, play and meeting. They want a lively green space which will become the beating heart of the city.
The inspiration for the design is the butterfly: the symbol of the city of Emmen, biodiversity and the connection between the city and the zoo. The pattern on the wing of the butterfly inspired the creation of a gracious paving pattern that forms a calm but dynamic base for the entire square, from façade to façade. The contour of an inner square was added to create functional spaces along the buildings and create a more intimate atmosphere in the middle. The inner square is elevatedinto a large planter on the northwest corner and is richly filled with butterfly-loving flowers and trees, while in the southeast corner is sunken as a water element. All the edges of the inner square are detailed with a wide edge of natural stone at differing heights, creating a opportunities for both sitting and playing. This inner square also offers the human scale and variety of atmospheres that the residents need. The route through the middle at plaza level between the plants and the water allows a natural flow of movement from the city centre to the zoo.
The butterfly pattern in the pavement is made of marbled natural stone in various sizes and shades of sandy red-brown. The water element is multifunctional depending on the season and the activities on the square. In the summer it offers a cool and attractive place to relax and play in summer and during events it can remain dry so spectators can gather in larger groups. In the winter, the same water element can be used for ice skating. The water level is variable because of the sloping floor so it is always changing during rain showers.
The evergreen pine trees refer to the forests found in the Emmen region, while the flowering trees provide a welcome contrast in spring. The planting areas within the inner square provide smaller more intimate spaces for sitting amongst the flowers. There are a series of open spaces within the planting which can vary in use from skateboarding bowls to sunbathing lawns, playgrounds or other ideas which the residents imagine. A long pergola filled with evergreen honeysuckle and wisteria can be found along the long east wall of the existing shopping mall to tie the development together with a green element and provide a spectacular view in spring.