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Practice of Urbanism AR1U110

Back to Plan: what renewal of Hoogvliet and Western garden cities share in common? by Aleksandrs Feltins 4188810 tutor Verena Balz, Maurits de Hoog

Delft 2012


Back to Plan Western Garden Cities in Amsterdam and Hoogvliet are hardly comparable places. Their form, relation to the greater urban whole and current appearance shows differences rather than similarities in historical, planning and social aspects. More strikingly differences between two big Dutch cities can be seen comparing two examples. Western Garden Cities were initially conceived as a part of pre-war extension plan by Van Eestern in 1935. The plan was based to some extent on re jected plan from 1926: zoning followed general trends of the time, housing would gradually move to the new neighbourhoods in the periphery, traffic problems were supposed to be solved by new ring-roads. The thorough survey of topography, hydrology and demographics served as a profound base for the plan; nevertheless the eventual plan did not represent design free translation of survey data nor two dimensional zoning scheme. Quite the contrary, it was a complete urban composition, though it possessed a decidedly modern stamp, it was rooted in the evolution of the urbanism as a discipline [1, 301] The plan epitomized the idea of »functional city« with great emphasis on open air recreation for functional man.

Green structure of Western garden cities today

Hoogvliet was designed in the late 1940s according to the principles of the English New Towns near London. It is located 12 km away from the centre, though it was connected to it by first Dutch metro line in 1968. [2, 189] In comparison with Western Garden Cities, Hoogvliet replaced medieval village from which only church remains till present day. The approach experience to Hoogvliet on a metro is remarkable: the city, gradually dissolved to the rural scenery after crossing the river suddenly re-appears with high-rise slab blocks. New Town of Hoogvliet to large extent owing its existence to Shell, which settled in the area and attracted workers, both from Rotterdam and from Southern provinces of the Netherlands. Close bonds with shell and contemporary town planning ideas made Hoogvliet rather introverted New Town. However these two urban areas share in common challenges they had been confronting in last three decades. Deep economic recession which started in 1979 was followed by spectacular recovery. Transition from industrial society to service-oriented was coupled with profound change from welfare state — all of these influenced deeply both Hoogvliet and Western Garden Cities. Young Urbanism discipline, which started to take shape with Van Eestern's plan should have responded to challenges of new societal and economical condition. It is surprisingly, that in both instances the solutions have lead to simillar conclusions — namely the re-discovery of the qualities of the initial urban plans from 1930s and 1940s.

Green structure of Hoogvliet today

In Hoogvliet social problems were aggravated with environmental danger caused by Shell. Initial idea of self-contained New Town soon enough turned to dystopia of alienation and social segregation. Pre-emigrant society which formed Hoogvliet in early years was not so coherent as well, however: dockers from Rotterdam found it hard to live with rural migrants from Zeeland [2, 191]. The division became even more stronger when immigrants flocked to the high-rise apartment buildings located on the Northern side of the town. Situation in the beginning of 1990s was reflected and promoted as a disaster in a media, thus granting very negative image for the area on the national scale. In Western Garden Cities conditions never were so aggravating whatsoever; the main challenge was to accustom to the changing economical conditions and housing market. Unlike Hoogvliet, which lacks most of the accessibility options, Western Garden Cities are favourably located even under current


conditions: between historical core of Amsterdam and airport city Schiphol. In both Hoogvliet and Western Garden Cities large scale demolition works took place in order to get rid of »problematic« residential high rises. This had been done differently, but the approach marks prevailing idea of solving the problems of post-war housing estates: to introduce more expensive apartments thus granting »better« residents. This is usually followed by removal of collective green space, replacing it with new housing developments. This aspect makes both examples remarkable: green space initially intended as collective (especially in Hoogvliet) gained new importance in renewal planning process. Thus in Hoogvliet, green structure of belt and parkways together with selfcontained character became first of all, a legal plan (LOGICA) and later served as a base for negotiation among actors involved. In Western Garden Cities, green structure conceived in plans by Van Eestern dating back to 1930s, is elevated to the level of heritage and main value of the area, in other words, the virtue of the plan is still maintaining positive public image of the area and its name as »garden cities«. As mentioned above, Hoogvliet faced not only challenges posed by changing economy, but aggravating public image. Here, the input of Crimson architectural historians is quite remarkable. They argued that quality of the area and its public image, should be maintained both from spatial and social perspective. Identity of the neighbourhood should have been re-invented. This had been done by addressing both existing residents and attracting new. Measures taken were closely linked with initial planning ideas which shaped Hoogvliet — namely collectivity. Thus new residents were attracted with possibility to form new community, where benefits of suburban environment could be combined with shared facilities, which resulted in emergence of musician community.

Use of green spaces and its relationship with architecture in Hoogvliet: informal and isolated

To conclude, regardless great differences between Hogvliet and Garden Cities, one remarkable aspect of both renewal projects can be distinguished. The value of the initial plan, though in some cases utopian and proved as not working, had been risen to the high level of importance. In Hoogvliet, the anthropological and historical research, which had coined out the values of existing forms of use of the neighbourhood is especially remarkable. Hence these two projects signify the prevailing trend in (Dutch) urban design: identity and places. It is quite understandable, that the places such as post-war neighbourhoods are shaped by single plan. Therefore it is important for urban designer which tackles renewal projects to study the initial plans. Secondly the balance between existing residents who probably to some extent admire their living environment and newcomers should be reached: hence urban designer should obtain some skills to listen and understand both. References [1] Cor Wagenaar, Town Planning in the Netherlands since 1800. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2011. [2] M. Provoost, “Happy Hoogvliet,” in Happy : cities and public happiness in post-war Europe, Cor Wagenaar, Ed. Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2004.

Use of green spaces and its relationship with architecture in Western Garden Cities: interwoven with architecture and designated


Back to Plan: essay for practice of urbanism course