Living Lab: greening the UBB square

Boring, too much stone and too hot in the summer: the tiled inner courtyard of the University Library in the inner city (Universiteitsbibliotheek in de binnenstad, UBB) is not an inviting place. U-Council Member Saar van der Horst wants to change that by making the inner courtyard greener and more biodiverse. In this living lab, Saar, students and staff collaborate on a new design.   

Lively square?

The UBB Square at the Drift 27 is surrounded by monumental buildings, and mostly functions as a break area for students and staff. Because of the heat in the summer and the lack of shadow and green, the square sees little use. Which is a shame, because the location has the potential to become a lively square where history, biodiversity, education and socialisation come together. That is why in September 2023, student and University Council Member Saar van der Horst took the initiative to explore the possibilities for a greener square.


In the past three months, Saar and students Thijs de Rooij, Stijn Kant and Rebecca Hanke met with all stakeholders to set the criteria the new square has to meet. They each did this from their own expertise. Thijs researched possibilities for green on the square, Stijn occupied himself with the arrangement of the square, and Rebecca looked at the educational function of the square and made the design sketch.

The first sketches for the square.


The plan is to make outdoor study spaces surrounded with plants and small trees in pots. There also should be a learning path, where visitors are informed about the plants in the garden.

The advisory report and the preliminary design were submitted in February 2024. Corporate Real Estate & Campus, the Facilities Services Centre and Saar are currently looking into which ideas can be realised.

The expectation is that the first trees and bushes will be planted after the summer vacation. 

Square in development

Students and staff of the university will be involved in the greening up of the square throughout the entire process. The advisory report Thijs, Stijn and Rebecca contributed to is an example of that. In the future, the square will continuously provide space for experiments and innovations in the field of sustainability and nature. Based on user experiences, the design will be fine-tuned continuously.

Would you like to know more?

If you do, please contact Saar van der Horst.