Five Minutes with Niek Roozen, the landscape architect who helped to create Floriade 2022

Five minutes with Niek Roozen, the landscape architect at the heart of Floriade 2022

We talked to the landscape architect Niek Roozen about planting 2,500 trees, alphabetical perennials and his pioneering green city philosophy. 

ECT: What was your role at Floriade Expo 2022? 

NR: I was responsible, along with some others, for the total green structure of Floriade. That means both the new green elements such as the arboretum with its 2,500 trees, and the existing nature. It is very important that we take advantage of the green that is already there. We were also involved with the some of the exhibitions, including one called ‘Green City Storytelling,’ which aimed to help visitors understand what we mean when we say we are ‘building a green city’.  


Floriade 2022 Garden City Netherlands grasses Mixed edge planting at Floriade 2022, image courtesy Niek Roozen
Floriade 2022 Garden City Netherlands River trees The site at Almere, image courtesy Niek Roozen

ECT: And what do you mean

NR: The whole Expo was designed as a new green urban district, rather than just an exhibition park, which was  quite a unique concept. What that meant was that after the six months of Floriade, the site was developed further as a new city district, where people will live and work. 

ECT: You have been involved in the ‘green city’ philosophy for more than 20 years 

NR: Yes, in 2002 I was the chief architect of Floriade in Haarlemmermeer and, during that expo, we designed the Green City Pavilion which included a design for a special area containing five houses and a garden. The idea, suggested by the manager of Land Publicity Holland, was to show what the perfect setting is if you are talking about a green city. We began working on it in 1998 and that was the moment when we first started thinking about how important plants and flowers and trees are in the city, not just because they are beautiful or smell good, but because they also have a role to play in climate and temperature and clean air and food and biodiversity. 

Floriade 2022 Garden City Netherlands Ariel view of Floriade 2022 at Almere, image courtesy of Niek Roozen

ECT: Tell us about the arboretum you are created 

NR: The idea to make an arboretum was Winy Maas’, founding partner of MVRDV, but he is an urban planner and architect so we went in to bring our experience as landscape architects. We followed Maas’ idea of creating a collection of trees and plants, arranged alphabetically by botanical name, but we said that it would be a collection only of trees and plants that can grow on this specific location. We didn't change the soil there were 650 different varieties of trees from Acer to Zelkova. We also designed the arboretum so that flowered beautifully during the Expo and will also be exciting all year round because this a city where people will live.


Floriade 2022 Garden City Netherlands Planting at Floriade 2022, image courtesy Niek Roozen

ECT: This was the fifth Floriade you have been involved with. Why are these expos important? 

NR: Every time there is a Floriade, there is an opportunity to inspire people because each one is a beautiful opportunity to show all the different ways that nature can be connected to the city. I was particularly excited by Floriade 2022 because Covid-19 showed us how important green spaces are and what I hoped was that everyone who visited - members of the public, decision makers, architects, urban planners and governments – saw how green can help us survive in a modern urban environment.