Open Bajes plan wins international design competition for Bijlmerbajes

Published on
August 31, 2018

The Open Bajes plan is the winner of the international competition Design the Ultimate Urban Greenhouse - a plan for the 21st-century redevelopment of the Bijlmerbajes former prison in Amsterdam. The winning design by the GreenWURks team from Wageningen comprises a sustainable green oasis for the local production of vegetables, run mainly by local residents.

The jury – chaired by Aart Oxenaar of the City of Amsterdam – referred to GreenWURks' Open Bajes plan as a coherent design with attention devoted to people, planet and profit, but also to the history of the building, a solid financial foundation, and the appointment of stakeholders. The jury made particular mention of the ‘mysterious’ interior spaces that make visiting the tower a special experience.

Open Bajes plan by team GreenWURks

The Open Bajes idea is characterised by the driving forces of sustainability, healthy lifestyles, and a sense of community. Parts of walls have been replaced with glass and solar panels, creating an open feel, and there is space for jungle plants; but the historic purpose of the prison remains visible in the choice of materials used. Open Bajes should become a living lab where people can learn about ‘circular’ food production, where waste is reused, where there is space for art, education, sport and encounters with others and with nature. As the building is intended for use by local people, the business model is also based on long-term connections with society, for example via vegetable subscriptions.

Use as a case study

The design is used by the collaborating parties as a case study, aimed at innovative creations for metropolitan food systems and improving a healthy and liveable living environment for the local residents of the Bijlmer area.

The Audience Award (500 euros) went to team Technotitian (The EcoTower, WUR), the Sustainable Substrate Award (1000 euros) was given to team Green Spark with their plan From Root to Fruit (Copenhagen, Aachen, Milan and Wageningen) and the Outstanding Architecture Award (1000 euros) went to Thanks Work (for Millennial Growth, University of Michigan).

International teams

WUR organised the Green Challenge to mark the 100th anniversary of Wageningen University & Research in collaboration with the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute). Twenty-three international teams from ten different countries studied the situation in and ambitions for the Bijlmer area of Amsterdam from spring onwards. They put together impressions of their design. Fourteen of them reached the final.

With a view to realising their sustainability ambitions and contributing to a healthier and longer life for residents, around ten parties involved in the redevelopment of the Bajes Quarter looked forward to the concepts, designs and innovations of the student teams with great interest. As knowledge and creativity are being brought together from ten different countries and forty universities, they view the winning design as well as the other entries as an extremely interesting source of inspiration for the new design of the Bajes Quarter. The same applies to future development and redevelopment projects in metropolitan areas around the world.

Bajes Kwartier Ontwikkeling C.V. wants to transform the Bajes Quarter into a new energy-neutral district. The aim is to create an exemplary low-traffic district for people to live, work, spend time and move around in, with the former Bijlmer prison as a green tower with a vertical park and agricultural functions, with the focus on the health and welfare of residents and users.


The jury consisted of Nona Yehia (Vertical Harvest, GYDE), Beatrix Alsanius (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences), Jago van Bergen (Van Bergen Kolpa Architects), Michiel Klompenhouwer (Rabobank) and the Chairperson, Aart Oxenaar of the City of Amsterdam.

The Student Challenge 'Design the Ultimate Urban Greenhouse' was set up by Wageningen University & Research to mark its 100th anniversary in collaboration with Rabobank's Banking for Food Inspiration Center, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute), Klasmann-Deilmann, Bajes Kwartier Ontwikkeling C.V. and FABRICations.

Click here for a film of the winning team GreenWURks. See also for a film of all fourteen finalist student teams and an impression of their concepts. See also the description of all the concepts and interviews with the jury members.