This initiative dates back to 2017. It was then that the first talks were held with businesses to explore ways of making Claude Debussylaan more attractive. Designer Joost de Wit: ‘When it was originally built, Claude Debussylaan was actually intended to be the major shopping street in Zuidas and quite varied.’ In practice, it has developed into the hospitality and catering centre of Zuidas. ‘That trend meant some changes were needed.’
Although businesses and the Council quickly agreed on their approach – more seating and greenery – the design and implementation took some time. De Wit: ‘We had to take account of the weather conditions in this street – very little sunshine and a lot of wind – and work out which plants would thrive here. Besides that, there are underground car parks just 40 cm below street level, which makes it impossible to plant trees. So, we had to find another way of making it greener.’ Eventually, large containers were chosen, planted with a mixture of dwarf Amelanchier, sea-buckthorn, and Choisya. It also took time to reach proper agreement on how the street and new furniture will be maintained. ‘Of course, it doesn’t only have to look good on paper. If it all looks nice, people will be more attracted to spend time in the seating areas.’
Work starts on Saturday 16 January and 60 natural stone pouffe stools will be positioned at the sides of Claude Debussylaan, protecting the large ceramic planted containers. ‘The natural stone is a good match for the street and the planted clay containers in earthy shades will add colour and warmth.’ De Wit had previously seen the clay containers full of plants in London’s Kings Cross, where there are a lot of office buildings. ‘I think it’s a great and relatively easy way of changing a street into a pleasant and accessible place to spend time in. The pouffe stools were our idea and will mean that you don’t necessarily have to sit on the terrace of one of the catering outlets. We’re also hoping that the seating areas will help prevent people thoughtlessly parking their bikes here.’
We are working on the seating on 16, 17, 18, 23, and 25 January. A deliberate decision has been made to do as much of the work at weekends as possible in order to minimise disruption. If everything goes to plan, Claude Debussylaan is set to look a lot greener and friendlier ten days later, on 26 January. Then, it is a case of hoping that, as spring approaches, there will be more freedom of movement so people can enjoy them.