Designing for Biodiversity

Designing landscapes with a high regard for biodiversity is essential for ecological health, sustainability, and the well-being of both the environment and people. Biodiversity ensures the health and resilience of ecosystems, and the variety of flora and fauna creates visually appealing and dynamic spaces, fostering a deeper connection between people and nature.
A vision for the Shell campus, developed by PosadMaxwan, proposes a transformation of the car-oriented street into a pedestrian-friendly green space, where nature and people can thrive. Together with the ecologist Ronald Buiting, the ecological vision was drawn to increase the biodiversity of the area and to extend it towards the city of The Hague.

Connecting 'islands'

In the city, the green areas can be compared to islands, distanced from each other. Only species with wings, like birds, bats, and insects, can move between them easily. There is scientific evidence showing that large areas with natural populations have higher species richness and house larger populations per species. The larger the 'island' and the better the 'island' is connected to the other 'island,' the higher the expected species diversity.

The Shell campus has an ideal location to become such a connection between green islands and, thus, to enhance biodiversity in the city. By maximizing green spaces, it will become a missing link between the Oostduin-Arendsdorp estate, the green area around Groenhovenstraat, the city center of The Hague, as well as a habitat itself.

Matching the Growing Site Conditions

From an ecological perspective, nature holds the greatest value when the species present are indigenous and specific to the area. To support targeted species, it is necessary to design resilient vegetation that responds to their needs.

That is why we have endeavored to match the requirements of local species in the campus design, aiming to complement the existing ecosystem while simultaneously enhancing biodiversity within Oostduin-Arendsdorp Estate. The selection of plants and trees provides nectar and pollen year-round for insects, as well as berries in autumn and winter for birds.

Ecologically Responsible and Climate-Adaptive Choice of Tree Species

The climate challenges we face are, to some extent, unpredictable; in the future, temperatures will rise, and we can expect longer periods of drought and heavy rainfall. To anticipate these changes, environments need to function as resilient and adaptive systems.

Trees selected for the campus not only support local fauna but were also chosen to withstand the changing climate and rising temperatures of the inner city. While the initial focus was on native species, the selection had to be extended to include species from central and southern Europe that can thrive in the challenging future conditions.

Herb-Rich Vegetation

Ecologically, the herbaceous vegetation is the focal point of the design, providing essential nectar and pollen for specific bees, butterflies, and other insects. It was carefully selected as climate-adaptive and resilient, capable of withstanding periods of drought while contributing to the overall ecological health of the area. The soil was meticulously prepared to replicate the conditions of the dune landscape that surrounds the campus and The Hague, ensuring optimal conditions for plant thriving.

In addition, spring ephemerals (bulbous plants) were introduced to the design as a special enrichment for the environment. These early-blooming plants serve as the first source of nectar for insects in early spring, preceding the sprouting of other plants and the full leaf-out of trees.

Planting Plan Enriching Biodiversity

Herbaceous vegetation and ephemerals are most successful in sunny conditions, where they bloom and provide nectar desired by insects. That's why trees are planted in groups close to the paving or in shaded areas, keeping the majority of the planting zone open to the sun.

This approach has an additional benefit: the trees cast shadows on the paving and benches, creating pleasant walking routes and spots to rest.

Maximize Greenery for an Enhanced Experience

To cultivate a campus atmosphere and boost biodiversity, the design strategy emphasizes maximizing green spaces on the campus. The large planters provide ample space for multiple plant species to thrive and spread. Predesigned paths weaving through green patches not only offer diverse walking routes but also create inviting sitting spots within the lush surroundings.

Time and Space for Nature

Nature takes precedence with ample time and space on the Carel van Bylandtlaan!

The mowing of plants will occur in stages rather than simultaneously. This staggered approach allows insects to migrate and reproduce. Some of the herbs on the campus will remain untouched, providing a habitat for butterflies whose eggs overwinter on these plants. Preserving these herbs allows butterflies to emerge once again in the spring.

To facilitate the natural reproduction and successful growth of herbaceous vegetation in the following year, the timing of maintenance is crucial. Initially, the plants need to be 'ripe' and ready for mowing. After mowing, the cut vegetation cannot be immediately collected; approximately 4 days are needed for the seeds to fall and settle into the ground.

Lighting Scheme Strengthening Biodiversity and Enhancing Safety

Even elements of public space, such as lighting, have a significant impact on biodiversity. The lighting scheme was meticulously designed to keep natural areas dark while illuminating public spaces and routes for people. Multiple light sources minimize the contrast between light and dark zones, creating a more pleasant environment for people.

Simultaneously, the landscape—comprising herbaceous vegetation and trees—is not excessively illuminated, allowing animals to rest and sleep undisturbed throughout the night.

What's Next?

The Carel van Bylandtlaan is just one part of the multiscale interventions in the Campus vision. The landscape vision extends beyond the Carel van Bylandtlaan development.

S+: The second step (S plus) involves extending green spaces over the buildings, including facades and roofs. This expansion introduces more plant species, attracting and supporting a variety of animal species, creating additional habitat on the campus.

M: The third step (Medium) includes the redevelopment of the green area near Groenhovenstraat and possibly the car park. This significantly enlarges the planting area and enhances the diversity of natural environments.

L: The largest scale of intervention focuses on improving the connection between the campus and Oostduin-Arendsdorp Estate. Managing the park with a historical and ecological vision promises substantial ecological gains in a short time.