Artist Michel Huisman in collaboration with Wauben Architects

The new station area of Heerlen will be the connection between north and south as well as a public space of mixed use. But, above all, Maankwartier will be a significant new quarter with attention to detail: ‘The aim of the build is not to historicise, but rather to lovingly materialise and detail.’

The Heerlen artist Michel Huisman showed his plans for the Maankwartier the first time to the public in June 2003. In the years to come, his ideas have been elaborated, resulting in the master plan in 2008.

He made the design as a 'free work, hors concours", as Huisman says, in the time that everyone in Heerlen realised that something needed to be done to the station area. It was, in the words of Huisman, becoming a inhospitable area. Small, charming shops made way for large-scale stores and characterless chains.

“The aim of the build is not to historicise, but rather to lovingly materialise and detail.”Artist Michel Huisman in collaboration with Wauben Architects

The architecture refers to the Mediterranean urban landscapes, but also to the industrial history of Heerlen.

Citadel-like quarter

Maankwartier restores the cohesion in the barren station quarter. It evokes the city’s past, from the recent mining history right down to the ‘Romans who once lived here’. The new connection between Heerlen-Noord and -Zuid will not be a narrow bridging of railway tracks; even if there is no reason for going to ‘the other side’, the connection needs to be appealing enough in itself to attract people, says Huisman. 

So it will be a wide square above the railway, with buildings on either side, because a square needs walls. On both sides of the railway, Maankwartier gradually slopes down and brings structure to the worn-out context.

The project covers 94,000 m2 in total; it will soon accommodate a new public transport junction with accompanying facilities, 16,000 m2 of offices, 12,000 m2 of large-scale retail businesses and 2,000 m2 of small-scale shops, 8,000 m2 of hotel and catering facilities, more than 100 apartments and circa 850 underground parking spaces.

The design by Huisman has been fully developed technically by Wauben Architects. In tackling this challenge, the architectural firm went about the task back to front, as it were.

From the main structures and exterior façades – according to the drawings of Huisman – Wauben Architects has designed usable shopping, office and living spaces, complete with entrances, stairwells and delivery areas etc., the firm explains. Many of the spaces are delivered as a shell; the carefully considered fitting of escape routes and installations ensures maximum flexibility is maintained.

Like a citadel, the Maankwartier also has an inside and an outside, separated by urban walls. On the north side there is a strong curved wall.

Maankwartier is an elevated quarter – or a citadel, as Huisman and the architects call it. Like a citadel, Maankwartier has an interior and exterior part, separated by city walls. On the south central side, tall buildings border Maankwartier, on the north side stands a robust curved wall.

The relatively closed exterior of this contour is the carrier of the actual buildings inside. The interior of the citadel offers sheltered squares and passageways with little shops, cafés and housing. Just like in a historic city, the differences in height in the quarter can (also) be bridged without the use of lifts and escalators.

An intimate atmosphere is achieved with the varied facade design, which suggests an organically grown neighborhood.

Intimate ambiance

An intimate atmosphere is further achieved through the varied frontage, which suggests an organically grown quarter. The artist and architects reinforce this look by not placing the façade openings based on the construction or allotment.

Loggias, galleries and spacious stairs evoke a Mediterranean feel, just like the arches and gates. The arches also serve as somewhere for the masses above ‘to land’. At the same time, the design refers to industrial buildings and the ‘stark engineering art of mining architecture’.

'A bit more depth has been created', Van de Looij says. 'For a cohesive look, this has even been extended to the curtain wall systems used. Here, the cover caps of the frames have a bevelled edge reminiscent of traditional putty.’

Profiles with a drip edge

The Reynaers SL 38 system, used frequently in renovation of industrial heritage, has been predominantly fitted here. The SL 38 profiles have a ‘drip edge’, Hans van der Looij of Reynaers explains: the frame lines and dividing lines of the slim aluminium profile have a slanted edge, which looks like the putty finish used in the past.


Reynaers SL 38 has been applied, a system often used for renovation of industrial sites.

At the request of Huisman and the architects, this ‘drip edge’ has been raised a little on the exterior of all profiles. ‘This helps create a bit more depth,’ says Van der Looij. ‘For a cohesive look, this has even been extended to the curtain wall systems used. Here, the cover caps of the frames have a bevelled edge reminiscent of traditional putty.’ 

According to the designers, it is definitely not the intention for the build to be nostalgic and historicising. They do, however, aim for an ‘obvious’, loving detailing and materialisation. The skin of a city with history has to breathe, live, the designers feel. 

This is why the façades of Maankwartier will have subtle irregularities in colour and texture, and sometimes the crudity of old industrial buildings. In the quarter, the façades vary within one colour tone; on the outside, the city walls will have a cohesive feel.

The citadel is by no means an impregnable fortress. The connections of Maankwartier to existing streets are ‘inviting, enticing and attractive’, according to the designers. One example is the transition of Maankwartier into Saroleastraat, which forms the main artery between the station quarter and the city centre.

Here, the connection will take the form of a stairway street – a combination of a ridable slope and low-rise steps in a park-like setting, between Saroleastraat and the 7.5-metre-higher station square. The passage upwards will be accompanied by a pavilion at a height of about 5-metres and a majestic city gate, explain the designers.

“The design also refers to industrial buildings and the ‘stark engineering art of mining architecture'.”Artist Michel Huisman in collaboration with Wauben Architects

An underground passageway also provides quick links to the station square. This is the connection to the southern part of the Maankwartier area.

As a whole, Maankwartier is divided into Zuid, Plaat and Noord. Zuid will accommodate apartments, shops, a car park and embankment. An elongated structure, parallel to the railway, is characterised by a double façade with high arcades.

On the east side, the building curves down to the existing buildings. A second part of the build defines and shapes the square areas on either side and guides the difference in height from ground level to Plaat level.

Maankwartier: The connecting hill of Heerlen.

North-South connection

Plaat is the actual north-south connection for pedestrians across the railway. The square in Plaat is flanked on either side by buildings. The station, with platform stairs and accompanying shops, occupies the western plinth up to 8 metres high.

The building further accommodates a hotel. The eastern building will house shops, offices and hotel and catering establishments in a high gallery, and offices on the upper floors. The railway facades of both buildings are clean-lined, governed by building and maintenance regulations.

The square above the railway is closed, but offers views of the surrounding area through well-planned city windows. Sight lines and distinguishing marks also support the routing between Zuid and Noord.

The Heliostreet is the biggest artwork in Maankwartier

Maankwartier comes to life

The buildings in Noord consist of a base with car parks and large-scale shops; Maanplein square is built on this, surrounded by apartment and office buildings.

Incorporated in the housing plinth are shops of various sizes. This is also where the most important work of art has been erected: the Maantoren with Heliostat. This tower consists of a steel construction which contains a mirror ball that rotates with the sun. The Heliostat reflects daylight deep into the lower levels, including the car park.


In Noord, Maankwartier has already begun to come to life. A number of large shops, including a supermarket, and the underground car park are now open. The offices of UWV and the municipality are being used. Residents have moved into the first rental and owner-occupied apartments.

According to Huisman, Noord already shows that Maankwartier works and also what can be achieved when a number of people have the courage to take a different approach to tackling and seeing a project through. The artist thinks that it can result in urban renewal, which will even have an impact outside of Heerlen.

Artist Michel Huisman in collaboration with Wauben Architects
the Netherlands View on map
Hennie Raaymakers
Other partners: 
Weller Vastgoed Ontwikkeling (Investors) Bouwbedrijven Jongen (General contractors)