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AN AREA OF CHANGE OUD WOENSEL

by conor trawinski


AN EMPTY PLAYGROUND


AN EMPTY PLAYGROUND

INTRODUCTION

On the corner of Weteringstraat and Van Galenstraat lies a rectangular play area. It is located close to the ring of Eindhoven (Kronehoefstraat), and also borders car park of a local Rabobank. I

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An empty playground, Once a set of five row houses.

An empty playground once, A field surrounded by a cage.

An empty playground, Surrounded by a cage.

Many people lived there.

Many people played there.

Nobody plays there.

From a distance, Five colourful houses.

From a distance, an empty field.

From a distance, A colourful playful place.

Houses with so much potential. Many people used drugs there.

Many people Played there.

The cats use it As their toilet.

An empty playground, Surrounded by a cage.

An area with so much potential. A potential taken away.

An area with so much potential. Nobody plays there.

This empty playground has both a difficult and colourful history. It has transformed many times. As far back as the early 1900’s it started off as five family homes for the workers of the Phillips factories. These houses had many different inhabitants over the years until the 1980’s when the houses started to decay and were soon occupied by criminals, prostitutes and drug addicts. In order to remove the criminals from the houses, the houses were destroyed in the late 1980’s. The empty space left behind became a football field and stayed that way until 2009. This field was often used by large numbers of local adults and children. It was the local football field. Finally it has come to its current state: a caged playground with its potential taken away, a playground which is used by few. Now it is left empty with nothing but the smell of cat urine and cat excrement lingering in the cage. In its current state it cannot be used as a football field. By 2020 this play area along with its neighbourhood will no longer exist. It will be demolished. Its difficult, but colourful history, left as a memory.


AN EMPTY PLAYGROUND

INTRODUCTION

The playground serves as a metaphor for Oud Woensel itself. In the early 1900’s the area of Oud Woensel was built in order to house the many employees Phillips needed to produce their vast amounts of products. Families from all over Europe lived in this area. It was a neighbourhood full of hope and potential. However in the 70’s and 80’s it became known as an “anti-social” area. It was a problem in the locality up until only five years ago with the Hemelrijken being well known for its street prostitution and drug users. However the problems of drug users and street prostitution is barely visible in the area anymore due to efforts of several organisations like the T-Huis, the Koffiehuis and other NGOs. It had once again become a relatively peaceful neighbourhood adored by most of its local population. The T-Huis, located at Weteringstraat 28, is a Stichting set up by two Designers in 2006. It is currently run by Heather and Dennis who are the driving force of this NGO. They strive to create social change using the power of Design and Education. They have mottos like: “Creativity as a business model creates opportunity for social innovation” and “We want to bring people together to improve the greater neighbourhood.” The Koffie Huis, located directly across the road from T-Huis at Vreidesplein 15, is a stichting set up two years ago by a social worker for Welzijn called Joreon. He has created an area where people of the neighbourhood can gather, drink coffee, and talk. It is a meeting point as well as place that gives support to those who need it. By 2020 this entire neighbourhood, along with its empty playground, its inhabitants and its stichtings will no longer exist. Domein, the housing corporation responsible for the Oud Woensel, plan to bring a new life and a new ‘spice’ to the neighbourhood. The area will be demolished in five phases starting in Winter 2011. Its difficult, but colourful history, left as a memory. Like the playground designers, will they turn a functioning area into a place with no potential? Will they, Domein, try to please everybody and in the end please no one? Or will they please those with money and ignore those without? Will they ask the locals what they want or do they presume they already know what they want? Will they provide a place to play football? How will they define public space? Who will the new inhabitants be? And what will their future look like?


MY BMW MY FOOTBALL


MY BMW, MY FOOTBALL

CHAPTER ONE

The playground is divided into two parts. In its current state, far fewer balls than previously go over the fence as the football field is much smaller. If you enter into the cage the space feels like a contradiction. It seems extremely small considering its actual, measurable size. This is because the layout of the area looks like it has not been well thought through. Boules, which is not a game many children or adults play, takes up a quarter of the whole space. The cats use it as their litter box. One picnic table and one slide take up an other quarter of the space. This only leaves half the area for the football field. It looks like the designers of the space could not decide what they wanted to put there or maybe they simply wanted to prevent the football hitting parked cars. Whatever the actual plan for the playground was, in its current state, nobody can play football there. Bram, a nine year old dutch boy, has grown up in Oud Woensel. He is one of the children who used to play every day in the football field before it was changed two years ago in 2009. Prior to the change the football field had two goal posts and a medium sized fence surrounding it. He played there with friends of his own age but some of the adults would also play with them now and again. Bram and his friend often, accidentally, kicked the ball over the fence and many times they hit the cars which were parked on the other side in the Rabobank car park. Johan, a Rabobank employee and owner of a BMW 7 series, was not very happy with this at all. On several occasions he shouted at Bram and his friends, but they, mostly, just ignored him and kept playing football. As far as they were concerned it was their neighbourhood after all. Johan was not the only one who was finding this football bombardment to be a problem. It was often an issue discussed among many of the Rabobank employees. On one day in the Summer of 2008 he saw a football hitting his car for the fifth time in one week. He went to Domein, the housing corporation who are responsible for the area of Oud Woensel, and made an official complaint to them asking for some changes to be made. According to some locals this is why the football field was changed at the end of 2009. Both Domein and the Rabobank state that they have changed the playground for the benefit of the local inhabitants. Its Friday afternoon on May 20th, 2011. Bram and his four friends are playing football between the circular concrete platforms on the Vreidesplein. Johan, having parked his car at the Vredesplein, has just left the Rabobank to go for lunch break. As he walks through the square he sees the children play-


MY BMW, MY FOOTBALL

CHAPTER ONE

ing football and before he can do anything about it, Bram, accidentally hits the BMW 7 series with the football. Johan rushes over to his car and grabs their ball. Johan shouts at the five boys, “Hey, hey. Boys! You realise you just hit my brand new car with your football.” Bram responds, “Mister can you just give us our ball back.” “Did you not hear what I said little boy? You just hit my car with your ball.” Still holding it in his hands. “Ya, but you have our ball.” “Since we fixed the playground for you, this was not supposed to happen any more. Little boy where are your parents?” “I don’t know,” he says shrugging his shoulders. “Give me my ball back or I will tell.” “What is your name, I’ve seen you before? You know you are going to have to pay for the cleaning of my car. You marked it right here,” he says pointing at the wheel arch of his BMW. “Rudy. Rudy . This man took my ball. Rudy.” Shouts the boy as loud as his little lungs will let him. At the same time two of his friends run over to the Coffee Huis. Johan continues to interrogate little Bram, “Listen here boy! I will report you to the police if I see you hitting my car again. I have already stopped you playing in your football field, don’t think I can’t do the same for the Vreidesplein. Tell this Rudy that he is lucky I don’t file charges!” Bram, holding back his tears, does his best to turn it into anger. He starts shouting “You stupid fat old man... I just want my ball back. Give me my football. Give me it now. Give me my football!!” Getting his breath back he continues, “We will stop hitting your stupid car if you give me somewhere to play football. We are moving away from here in a few years and then daddy says I won’t have to see you


MY BMW, MY FOOTBALL

CHAPTER ONE

stupid ‘suits’ anymore. You can’t bully me anymore in my new house!” “Well hopefully you do better than your dad and actually get a job... then your children won’t be running around on the streets terrorising us decent working folk.” Just at that moment the two children and Rudy arrive to hear what Johan has said. Rudy, a rough looking and intimidating man, roars at Johan “Get the fuck out of my neighbourhood before you are carried out. Give this boy his fucking ball back and leave.” Johan, a man not used to this sort of aggression, quickly gives the ball to Rudy, gets into his car and speeds of as fast as his brand new BMW will take him. Rudy, happy to let out some of his aggression, hands over the ball to the children and walks back over to the Coffee Huis. The children continue playing as if nothing had happened, enjoying the space of the Vredesplein.


CULTURE AND DEMOLITION


CULTURE AND DEMOLITION

CHAPTER TWO

It is January 20 2014. Bram and his family were still living in Oud woensel where they have seen phase one of the demolition in which Weteringstraat along with the empty playground were turned into a building site. Apposed to what one might imagine in such a scenario, the neighbourhood changed in some very positive ways during this first phase. As the houses became empty five got taken over by the students from the DAE. In one of the houses a new room was forced upon it, with traces of the original home’s history to be found in every corner. An essence of the past and the feeling of how this home used to be could be heard upon entry. An other of the houses was turned into an indoor playground where the staircase became a slide and the kitchen a water park. Many other activities were performed with local children of the area, one of which was temporary graffiti on the walls of derelict houses in the area. All of these house transformations brought a new life to the neighbourhood. Very soon this cultural activity grabbed the attention of, initially, the local media and later the national media. It was not long before more creative people and groups were attracted to Oud Woensel. First local eindhoven graffiti artists came to leave their mark closely followed by KBTR a well known dutch graffiti artist. Blu, from Italy, made one of his infamous animations over 7 of the houses. Following this many more artists, designers and other activists start to participate in the neighbourhood making beauty out of that which will be destroyed. Several houses were turned into temporary pool halls, and miniature indoor football fields. Culturally the neighbourhood grew almost out of control over these early years of renewal. But slowly as phase three approached, at the start of 2015, more of the area became derelict turning into a mini ghetto. Many of the empty houses became squatted and the culture which had just been built up in the area got pushed out again. Street prostitution and drug pushing became very active in many parts of the neighbourhood. A lot of the vacant buildings became drug hots pots where the drug users, prostitutes and gang members hung out. Johan stopped parking his car in the neighbourhood. The dirt from a football hitting a wheel arch was a minor problem in compared to the deep scratches he found purposefully inflicted on his car, along with two slashed tires. He, along with the other Rabobank employees, did not dare to park their cars in the neighbourhood anymore. For several years they had to walk much longer distances in order to stop their cars from being damaged. However, even with all of this hassle Johan has signed a contract


CULTURE AND DEMOLITION

CHAPTER TWO

to live in the Woensel met Spice neighbourhood in 2018. Most of the children loved the freedom and emptiness of the neighbourhood all through the demolition period. Bram, who is aged 14 by 2015, still played football regularly with his mates. The could play football freely on the streets, in the demolished areas, and vacant houses. However he and his friends were forced to encounter a lot of the “harsh realities of life.� Interactions with street prostitutes and drug pushers became the norm for several years. Used needles were all over the place and several of the vacant houses became drug dens. Life on the streets was not so easy. In Jan 2016 Bram, his two younger brothers and mother finally moved out of the neighbourhood, hoping that when they return in 2019 a better life will lay ahead.


COMMUNITY GUERRILA GARDENING


COMMUNITY GUERILLA GARDENING

CHAPTER THREE

It is May 2020. Peak oil hit in 2015 and rapidly the affects of this are becoming visible in daily life. Cars are becoming few and far between and dependance on electric train networks is growing. A reliance on both solar and wind energy is also becoming a neccisisty. It has brought on the age of deconsumerism where banks are unwilling to give many loans, unemployment is soaring, international trade is in decline and people are resorting to a strange mix between modern technology and traditional local knowledge. Johan, the Rabobank employee moved to the new neighbourhood 2 years ago in 2018. He lives opposite of Bram and his family. He no longer drives a BMW as the cost to run it is too high. He walks to work. Bram, now aged 19, lives with his mother and his two younger brothers. Jonathan is aged 4 and Henk is aged 11. They grow a vegetable garden at the front of their house and they rely on 6 solar panels for most of their energy. They have seen many changes happen over the past years from the demolition of the old neighbourhood in Oud Woensel, to the decline of cars, to the birth of mass renewable energy and of mass urban gardening. In 2008 a project called The Cook, the Farmer, his Wife and their Neighbour was implemented in Amsterdam by a group called De Wilde Westen. “The purpose was to find new opportunities for the economic and structural growth of an area in decline.” In 2020, something similar is happening in Oud Woensel, among many other neighbourhoods through out the Netherlands. However what’s happening here also has a lot in common with, what was once known as, guerrilla gardening. “Guerrilla gardening is gardening on another person’s land without permission.” (Wikipedia) It is, in fact, a mixture of both. It is community guerrilla gardening initiated by the locals themselves out of a necessity to survive. They are planting vegetable gardens in semi-public space, namely the green areas in front of their houses. The specific location in which the gardening is happening in Oude Woensel, is the large central area between the houses called the “groene vingers” (the “green fingers). This is an area which was originally planned to be used as an open space for recreation. Green fingers summarises the problems that have started to happen. A greed for green. Space is scarce


COMMUNITY GUERILLA GARDENING

CHAPTER THREE

and people are plenty. An argument about a football hitting a parked car now seems trivial. Neighbours are fighting over who can plant their vegetables on the better plots of land, or who destroyed their plants or solar panel with a football. There are even some teenagers who offer the service of protecting your plants, for a small fee of course. They stop people taking your ripe vegetables, however they are probably the same ones who take them if you do not offer the small protection fee. None of the land which the locals are gardening on is actually owned by them. They are all gardening on a piece of land without permission. This is why it is hard to report any stolen vegetables as, officially they were not anyone’s in the first place. For this reason guerilla gardening, in its traditional form, is something which no longer can exist as this describes how everyone is planting their gardens. Control over space is becoming near impossible. The fight between public and private space is constant. As previously mentioned, inhabitants have had to resort to paying for protection in order to keep their plants and food safe. People are forced to create innovative ideas in order to define their outdoor private space and their possible gardening area. Bram has managed to take control over a relatively large piece of land for his gardening. He grows carrot, potatoes, broccoli, courgette and several other vegetables. He has, in fact, pushed the boundaries forward in front of his house taking some space from the front of his neighbour, Johan’s, house. His younger brother, Henk plays football on the streets or in the car parks which now mostly lay empty. Since peak oil people do not seem to be so worried about their cars anymore, as electric transport, is the only affordable means of travel for most. This leaves the neighbourhood mostly car free. It is Wednesday, May 27th, at 6 o’clock in the afternoon. Johan is walking back home from work only to see Bram moving his boundary even further forward taking an other row from in front of his house. Henk and his friends are playing football on the street fifty meters away. Johan, loosing his temper, shouts at Bram as he approaches the house, “You can’t do this to me again, you already took one third of my space!” Bram responds calmly, “This is not your space my friend, nor is it mine. I am merely using.” “You know exactly what I mean, Bram. This is not the first time you have taken the land I have been


COMMUNITY GUERILLA GARDENING

CHAPTER THREE

growing my vegetables on.” “If you mean those vegetables,” Bram says, completely straight faced, pointing at a neat pile of fresh courgettes and carrots on Johan’s front door step, “they have been there all day. I got up only to find a piece of vacant land in front of my house, so I did what anyone of us would do, I made use of it.” At that moment a football comes flying from the road, bounces off one of Johan’s solar panels and lands right on top of his largest courgette plant. “Oh for goodness sake. Now don’t try to tell me that your brother accidentally hit my roof. You are like beasts. You only agitate your...” “Hey, hey,” Bram interrupts, “don’t get angry at my little brother, he’s just having a bit of fun, the same way I did back in the old neighbourhood, when you made sure problems like this could no longer happen.” Johan, a man who does not like conflict which he cannot control, gives up with little resistance, turns around and walks towards his front door. He opens it as if nothing has just happened and closes it behind him. Bram fetches the football from Johan’s broken courgette plant and throws it back to his little brother. He continues playing with his friends on the street. Bram grabs his spade and continues to plant some new vegetables in his newly acquired piece of land. Life in the new Oude Woensel is indeed very green, however maybe not in the way that was initially intended. How well has the integration of old and new inhabitants worked out? Will more of this sort of confrontation take place, or is this a unique circumstance? How will the future be for Bram and his family? How will the future be for Johan and his family? Will this community guerilla gardening continue or will other solutions be made?


SOURCES

http://www.wonenmetspice.nl/html/ http://www.t-huis.info/Nederlands/

http://www.koffiehuisvredesplein.nl/

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2010/06/28/krugman-the-third-depression/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtIvh-UVaTs&feature=player_embedded “The Age of Deconsummerism” report by Canadian Government http://www.luciababina.net/publications.html#info1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guerrilla_gardening “On Guerilla Gardening” by Richard Reynolds http://www.guerrillagardening.org/

A Landscape of Change  

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