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Wallisblok A sustainability case study of urban renewal and collective private commissioning


A sustainability case study of urban renewal and collective private commissioning

Franz Greenwood April 2010 AR0891 – Smart Architecture research paper

Table of Contents 1 introduction 1.1 context 1.2 roles 1.3 incentivization 1.4 logistics

7 8 11 12 13

2 issues

16 17 19 19 23

2.1 gentrification 2.2 top down vs. bottom up 2.3 reno vs. demo 2.4 heritage conservation

3 comparisson 3.1 hotel transvaal 3.2 the Woodwards district

25 26 28

4 assessment 4.1 people 4.2 planet 4.3 profit 4.4 architecture

31 32 35 36 37




fig 1. The Wallisblok inner courtyard, shared among residents.





1.1 Context

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the qualities of a housing block in the city of Rotterdam, the Wallisblok, as a new smart housing typology, combining urban renewal and collective private renovation. The many facets of this project have impacted the community and its residents in various ways, both sustainably and arguably otherwise and it is the measure of its success that this paper wishes to dissect in order to conclude whether such a project or aspects of it can have a cumulative positive impact on urban living in the Netherlands and abroad. The analysis will be broken up into several sections; a description of the Wallisblok’s stated purpose, the context required to warrant such a project, the breakdown of the planning and design process, an overview of perceived positive and negative aspects and a discussion of how these criteria accomplish the goals of sustainable development, people, planet, profit and architecture.

The project called The Poetic Freedom, less poetically the Wallisblok, has been described in various ways by the parties involved. Ineke Hulshoff, the project architect, began her paper on the topic by calling it “[a]n examp le of regeneration in practice, using internal expansion and the limits of zoning fully in order to create a new housing quality in a dilapidated neighborhood.”(Hulshof, 2008, pp.1) The city of Rotterdam has coined it ‘Gentripuncture.’ For each of these parties the purpose of the project is implicit in their labeling. The Wallisblok is a renovation of a housing block with the intention to instigate economic change in an area and more specifically an area in dire need of change, Spangen. The prior urban context in this case was the condition which gave rise to the project. Spangen is a neighborhood of 9000 people (87% immigrants) to the West of Rotterdam and a classic example of urban decay. Once an optimistic quarter of the city built to enhance the living conditions of people during the industrialization of Holland


fig 2. Spangen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

fig 3. North facade of the Wallisblok


it has since become one of the most notorious neighborhoods in the country. Crime, acutely drug activity, slum lording and prostitution were common, so much so that Rotterdam gave it the listing of ‘hot spot’, a neighborhood in line for municipal investment to improve living conditions. (BSHF, 2008) Some of the municipal investment the neighborhood saw was put into buying up housing blocks in order to displace the drug activity therein. One of these housing blocks was the Wallisblok. As Spangen was in need of revitalization so too was the architectural scale in the neighborhood. Over the course of prolonged neglect the Wallisblok had deteriorated significantly and due to mechanical work done nearby the pile foundation had begun to fail. Architecturally, the Wallisblok held some value as a typical example of pre-war Dutch residential architecture and though slated for demolition the promise that the building could be reused was leverage for its preservation. The building, product of the 1930’s, was originally conceived of as a 96 apartment residential block with a asphalt inner courtyard into which all the apartments looked. Not until recently have such buildings been considered of historical worth but as Paul Meur’s describes in his essay Segregated but United such examples of social housing are becoming the material of a new Dutch historical identity. (Meurs, 2004)


1.2 Roles

Ineke Hulshoff described the planning model for the Wallisblok as a bottom up project (Hulshof, I., personal communication, February 15, 2010). Bottom- up referring to an initiative instigated by a group of citizens rather than an authority or corporation. However, the development model is not so easily categorized and perhaps it would serve its elucidation to characterize the role and intentions of the various parties involved. The city of Rotterdam was the instigator for the project, first making the decision to give away the entire Wallisblok after having purchased it almost in its entirety. Why? “The city now actively markets itself as a good place for affluent residents and especially targets the so-called creative class (cf. Florida, 2005)...In language that hardly requires textual deconstruction, the government of Rotterdam declares that it aims to attract ‘desired households’ to ‘problem areas’.[...] A document produced by the top civil servants to define the communis opinio after Labor’s victory explicitly argues that gentrification needs to be enhanced” (Uitermark et al.,2007, p.129) Thus it perhaps comes as no surprise that the pseudonym ‘Gentripuncture’ is freely used to refer to the project and others like it. The Building and Social Housing Foundation in 2008 profiled the project as a finalist for the World Habitat Awards describing the project’s goals, or the city’s goals for the project, as the improvement of interest in and the appearance of Spangen, the attraction of ‘young urban professionals’ to Spangen, to provide affordable housing for young people otherwise deprived of the opportunity for home 11

ownership within city limits due to cost and the preservation of typical 1930s housing forms. These goals all seem to be clear in their intentions but why ‘young urban professionals’? BAVO, the team of urban critics Boie and Pauwels corroborate the opinion of Uitermark et al. They suggest this drive to attract such a demographic to the city is part of a greater motive to make Rotterdam the capital of creativity in the Netherlands (Boie & Pauwels, 2007). Beyond the city of Rotterdam, the other interest group involved in the project are the young urban professionals, the buyers.

1.3 Incentivization

The market demand was not great enough that to simply offer homes for sale within a crime ridden neighborhood would draw buyers in, large spaces or not.1 Rotterdam incentivized the project in a rather sensational way by giving the houses to a ‘buyers group’ for free. To create such a group needed more incentive however. Unofficially, of the 600 people who attended the initial information meeting, only 20 signed up as interested. Following this initial meeting followup calls were made based on an unknown set of criteria, resulting (coincidentally or not) in a group of people who, even before undertaking the process of designing and building, knew one another to some degree. (L. Weeber, personal communication, March 8, 2010) Thus the ‘club of like-minded people’ was brought together.2 The 1 At, the time, residents were moving away from the neighborhood at a greater rate than people were leaving it. 2 Used by the group to describe itself (Boie & Pauwels, 2008) 12

prospect of undertaking an experimental housing project in a rough neighborhood such as Spangen, free house included, was not enough to motivate many people to participate in the project. The knowledge that one would be among friends throughout the process and beyond appears to have been a crucial incentive.

1.4 Logistics

From the outset certain criteria were established by the city. First, though receiving the houses for free all tenants were to invest 1000EUR/m^2 into the upgrading of their unit to market standard within the first year of living there. Furthermore, all tenants were required to live in their homes for a minimum of two years without subletting or flipping presumably in order to foster some sort of community cohesion and ensure than those people involved were not simply investors. Of course, the ensuing laborious nature of the process was something that required a degree of commitment and involvement from all buyers, making the prospect of absentee investment unattractive, if not unfeasible.3 Though the top-down nature of the project’s initial stages gave evidence of city hall’s intention for urban renewal in Spangen, 3 Since the building has been completed only a couple of the 40 households have left the Wallisblok. Because of the nature of the ‘club’ mentality, newcomers to the project have encountered some resistance, especially in the case of a household of students.(L. Weeber, personal communication, March 8, 2010)


once the buyers were signed up a predominantly bottom-up initiative began. A developer could not be engaged in the project due to their lack of interest in large scale renovations (especially of a historically sensitive building) and the perceived commercial risk of investing into Spangen at the time. Thus the project was slated to be completed by the tenants themselves if they wished, or a small scale builder could be engaged to build pre-planned interiors. It might suffice to say that the entire process from beginning to end was focused on engaging all members of the buyer’s group and ensuring equity within that group. The cost of upgrading the structural problems of the building was divided proportionally among the buyers and each person was ensured some form of outdoor space either in the courtyard or up on the rooftops.4 Everyone in the group bore some responsibility. Those with construction and design knowledge involved themselves with the collective designing and building of all the apartments while others occupied themselves with the transformation of the asphalt courtyard into a collective garden5, negotiating financing with banks or other research. Ultimately what this participation created, though its arguable whether or not this existed before, is a group dynamic and the fostering of a community at the scale of the housing block.

4 The cost for the rooftop terraces were paid for by the buyers who had the benefit of a floor level garden space. 5 By virtue of tenants all being friends or at the least well acquainted the demarcation of privately owned space within the courtyard was never undertaken even though all ground floor residences owned a plot 7m deep abutting their homes.


fig 4. The agreed-upon partitioning of the block.




2.1 Gentrification

Gentrification is an externality associated with this project and in fact one of its stated objectives. In her 2003 paper ‘Gentrification and Social Mixing: Towards an Inclusive Urban Renaissance?’ Loretta Lees describes the housing policy in the Netherlands during the 1990s as one of intentional differentiation through the demolition of inexpensive dwellings and the refurbishment of others for sale. She goes on the explain why. “The motivation for promoting such policies is not about the social well-being of disadvantaged individuals, rather it is about the need to strengthen the economic position of Dutch cities overall.” (Lees, 2008, pp.2455) As Rotterdam was having a major problem with tenancy in the Spangen area, and housing differentiation is a proven method to increase property value, rental rates and thus fiscal returns for cities, could it be then assumed that this was done at the cost of the marginalized, the poor, and new immigrants (legal and illegal) in Spagen? Costs in the neighborhood were expected to rise by over 50%. (Boie & Pauwels, 2008) Besides the issue of cost as an externality of gentrification there is the problem of class distinction and exclusivity. In their criticism of the Poetic Freedom, BAVO describes the Wallisblok as an instance of social experimentation on the part of Rotterdam and a “subsidized way of installing and organizing a solidarity network among its creative participants through a collective and cooperative housing project.”(Boie & Pauwels, 2008, pp.9) and thus the project will never be a true part of the community due to this exclusivity. However, to blame the fostering of a social network for disunity in a neighborhood is somewhat presumptuous. It implies that the absence 17

of a support network for new middle class residents in a neighborhood would lead to better integration with the existing community. Lees claims this is not the case “[It] does not increase social cohesion, rather the contacts between low-income and higher income households tend to be superficial at best and downright hostile at worst.�(Lees, 2008, pp.2456) In such a case, as is apparent in the case of the Wallisblok the social network which has been fostered there is not so much a cause of disunity but a mechanism for the residents to create community despite the disunity which is an inherent fact of gentrification. In cases of wholesale gentrification social mixing is prevalent because a homogeneity of class is maintained whereas in isolated cases such as Gentripuncture the community forms as a microcosm within the community at large. Before condemning the Wallisblok as another irresponsible instance of gentrification it might be prudent to consider that benefits come along with gentrification. Crime has indeed dropped considerably since the implementation of the project. Rotterdam’s listing of the crime rate of Spangen on a scale of 1 to 10 dropped from a 7 to a 4. (BSHF, 2008) Furthermore, as the project was conducted on a small scale residents already living in the block were given priority to join the project 6 Furthermore the economic well being of the area is said to be improving. When balancing the positive and negative outcomes the comparison runs into difficulty when one tries to assess collective benefits with collective disadvantages. How many people saw their businesses improve? And yet, how many tenants were evicted because of precipitating rental increases? If these numbers were known, how could they possibly be judged? When asked about the potential for negative repercussions for the neighborhood Wallisblok tenant Laura 6 That said, the fee to sign up for the project appears to be prohibitive at 500 euros. However, such a cost bears little weight when compared to the cumulative cost for a buyer. 18

Weeber felt the onus for social cohesion was not on the residents of the Wallisblok, as it is but a single building in an entire neighborhood. She may indeed be right but it still bears to be seen how these eventual externalities can be dealt with, or how a different model for derelict building use can successfully reduce such things as criminality while increasing the well-being of the existing residents.

2.2 Top down vs. Bottom up

The distinction between bottom up and top down planning in relation to housing is a significant one. It is the difference between collective self-determinism and acquiescence to authoritarian planning. Bottomup is thus can be generalized as an equitable, socially sustainable process whereas top-down models present a greater likelihood of inequality. Bottom up housing planning is something seen all over the world in order to advance the financial standing of economically depressed people.

2.3 Reno vs Demo

The practice of renovation techniques, also called life-cycle extension, is perhaps the primary sustainable quality of the Wallisblok project. The outcome of such an approach being the prevention of wasted 19

fig 5. Conceptual collage to suggest possible division of space


material. Yet there is existing building material that must be removed in order for new material to be included. Ineke Hulshoff, the architect of the Wallisblok, reduced even this waste by reincorporating as much as possible into the refurbishment of the block. Along with the substantial renovation comes all the expected benefits in terms of greater thermal insulation and disposal of toxic materials in favor of sustainable alternatives7 Briefly referring back to the issue of gentrification, renovation has a role to play in mitigating its effects. Thomson et. al, in their 2004 comparative study Replacement or Reuse? state that one of the outcomes of renovation is a greater differentiation in the housing stock available. The BSHF claims that very characteristic inherent in the Spagen neighborhood now, encouraged by further such developments as the Wallisblok, will prevent the sort of rapid gentrification that would occur if there was a homogenous housing typology. (BSHF, 2008). Continuing, the draw back for this kind of project is its reliance on the decay of existing buildings whose supply can be unreliable and considerably finite. However, the trend in the Netherlands, as in the rest of Europe, actually favors this type of housing plan. Demolition in the Netherlands has increased by almost 100% between 2000-2006 (presumably still on the increase), 75% of those being rental units and all of those being social housing. As the housing stock in the country is incrementally decreasing as well this implies a shortage of affordable housing in general. Motives for such demolitions can be categorized as follows 7 This was attempted in most cases but certain budgetary constraints voiced by the residents prevented the use of sustainably harvested wood etc. Nevertheless, as a model it is possible, but means have to be resolved. 21

structural deficiencies (30%) - typical of buildings built prior to 1966 insufficient market demand (23%) - typical of buildings built after 1966 functional deficiencies (20%) motives related to urban planning (16%) other (20%) (Thomson et. al, 2008) Given this percentile breakdown it becomes apparent that qualities of the Wallisblok model have the potential to mitigate a large degree of the demolition happening in the Netherlands if implemented on a larger scale, in the following ways: • collective sharing of repair costs are absorbed by the buyers. Structural problems are thus not a financial liability for the previous owner or developer. • Insufficient market demand is rectified through the donation of the housing to the buyers. This of course is only feasible in certain circumstances, most notably when the following criterion, motives related to urban planning, is involved. • Functional deficiencies can be met through renovation. Though new buildings are more likely able to meet the demands of the modern market, renovation, as in the case of the Wallisblok, is able to give buyers relative freedom to reinvent built forms within certain constraints. • Renovation suits a specific niche of urban planning, especially one of urban renewal. Rotterdam has used renovation successfully in order to achieve the goal of limited gentrification while retaining the character of the existing neighborhood.


Realistically there are limits to these opportunities. Structural problems can become so acute that the cost margin falls in favor of demolition, regardless of who is liable to pay for it. Likewise the market demand stirred by the development of a historical 1930s housing block, versus a 25 story 1980s social housing block, will not compare well regardless of how lavishly it is pimped up. Thus the degree of structural deterioration, the year the building was built, the overall style and quality of the existing building, have fundamental effects on the likelihood of a successful renovation. Most significantly, a municipality needs to invest money into such an endeavor. Rotterdam spent 4,700,000 EUR on the Wallisblok project, 79% of which was spent to acquire the building. Despite this cost the BSHF claims that though the comparative cost of renovation was 400,000EUR more than new building, it was considered to be worthwhile to preserve the historical building.(BSHF, 2008) Thus, beyond all considerations, historical significance may be the one aspect of a building that may slate it for potential renovation.

2.4 Heritage Conservation

In his paper Segregated but United, Paul Meurs confronts the waning relevance of historical conservation in the Netherlands with the proposal that conservation should be redefined. “The true golden age of the Netherlands dawned with the founding of the welfare state and the myth of the socially engineered, ‘make-able’ society. From that perspective, the most important monuments are not to be found in the old city centers but around them. Who we are, where we live and how 23

we relate to the outside world can be seen in the suburbs and along the motorways.� (Meurs, 2004, pp.7) Following this line of thought it is possible that the conservation argument utilized to intervene on the demolition of the Wallisblok may be used on a national level to not only preserve architectural history in a country but to redefine it. This extends the purpose of the Wallisblok beyond simply an engine for urban renewal, but simultaneously historical renewal. The dilemma for architecture and history in general lies in the shifting demographic and the increasing number of citizens who, coming from other countries, bear no association with the exploits of their new home country. Coincidentally, Spagen is one such neighborhood where the immigrant population is considerably high, making it an ideal staging ground on which a new Dutch history can test its worth.


3. Comparison

The merits and drawbacks of the Wallisblok model are varied. Its leverage to change a neighborhood has been seen over it lifetime in Spangen though the impact on people displaced is likewise difficult to ascertain. Its consideration of sustainable principles does not appear to have been of prime importance but it was implemented at a basic level. What other projects might have something to contribute to the Wallisblok model? Which other projects might be a better alternative even?

3.1 Hotel Transvaal

The Hotel Transvaal has been characterized by Lugosi et. al in the 2010 paper Hospitality, Culture and Regeneration as guerrilla hospitality and rightly so. Instead of trying to counteract urban decay the hotel, unconventionally, embraces the quality of such urban conditions and exploits them in order to provide a service to clientele and opportunity for local business owners and artists/designers. The hotel occupies rooms in soon to be demolished buildings or new buildings prior to full occupation. These rooms are not necessarily all in the same building, but are situated to fill in vacancies and empty space in a certain locality. They may even be situated in vacant rooms in occupied apartments and homes. The programmatic components of the 26

fig 6. Hotel Transvaal location

fig 7. an example of the artst led interventions on the select rooms


hotel are likewise strewn throughout the surrounding neighborhood. The check-in desk may be the cashier at the local grocer; the hotel restaurant the local diner. “Guerrilla hospitality reflects entrepreneurial cultures that thrive by exploiting their physical and social ecology and by mobilizing local networks and resources.” (Lugosi, 2010) Considering the impact that potential gentrification can have on a neighborhood the hotel model provides an alternative by allowing ‘new residents’ to be fleeting contributors to the local economy while still improving the perceptions of a neighborhood. On the other hand, the guerrilla aspect of the business creates a truly bottom-up initiative, bringing together entrepreneurial initiative, be it artistic or economic, in a community. The community thus sees more business, and more residents yet without the potential for displacement.

3.2 Vancouver: East Hastings and the Woodward’s District

The downtown east side of the city of Vancouver is popularly considered the poorest postal code in Canada and represents a nation’s parallel to Spagen in terms of social and urban decline. Redevelopment of the neighborhood has been considered for decades but efforts have yielded little but the failed implementation of nearly 1.3 billion dollars of public money. The firm of Enriquez and Partners were commissioned by the city of Vancouver to design a project in the heart of this ‘nogo’ area that would combine not only 300 market units but also 200 units for the homeless in the area. Besides these provisions a branch of Simon Fraser University, a community/media center, a grocery store and other commercial spaces were incorporated into the project, all decisions informed by extensive consultation with the community, 28

fig 8. The Woodward's District inner court. The mural is a reminder of the Gastown riots of 1971, sparked by drug related arrests in the community

fig 9. Streetside, East Hastings Street, Vancouver, Canada


as is typical of Vancouver planning decisions of this magnitude. One particularly unique aspect of the project was the developer’s decision to hire Jim Green, a community lobbyist and former politician, to verify that all promises made to the community were upheld, namely the training and employment of local residents in the construction of the building, in the businesses therein and to verifying that those businesses source what they can locally, both in goods and employees. (Carrigg, 2009) Green is also ensuring that property owners in the area are prevented from exploiting their tenants. Thus, the Woodward’s building, in three distinct ways went beyond fulfilling the needs of a market clientele to make itself relevant to the community at large and thus managing its externalities. Admittedly the Wallisblok is not the same developer driven enterprise and perhaps does not bear the same burden of public expectation and scrutiny however they both serve the same ends, to intentionally renew a neighborhood in decay and both share the same potential to bring with them the rising rental costs that will drive the poorest from the neighborhood. Woodward’s not only has made provisions to house such a demographic, but to provide them with training, jobs and to advocate on their behalf to keep rents down. All qualities that projects that Rotterdam might be able to learn from when considering further urban renewal.


4. Assessment

In order to evaluate whether the Wallisblok model is indeed a Smart process for urban renewal and collective private renovation its characteristics can first be subdivided into subject headings based on the 3P sustainability model. Namely, is it smart for people, planet and profit (and in this case a 4th criteria, Architecture)? The criteria for people will be assessed first:

4.1 People

he positive outcome of the Wallisblok for the community and for the residents are several and though the negative qualities are at a 2:1 ratio to the positive they are circumstantial. As has been discussed earlier in the paper the exclusive ‘club of like- minded people,’ though criticized, does not necessarily have a detrimental effect on the community. In her rebuttal to this critique Laura Weeber, Wallisblok resident and architect, surmises that all groups in the neighborhood have their own degree of exclusivity. One can walk down the street and greet a passerby, but to expect that everyone will be well acquainted and associated, she claims, is absurd and utopian. Regarding the negative externalities of gentrification it has also been previously discussed that though class differentiation may occur through this form of housing development the general differentiation in the housing typology of Spangen helps to moderate the process and thus the negative outcomes. In future 32

developments this aspect will no doubt require significant oversight and consideration. Nevertheless, on the scale of the Wallisblok itself, 30% of the block were already empty, 20% of the remaining residents joined the project and the remaining group was paid for their homes and had their relocation provided for by the city. Thus, is it smart for people? Yes, though its outcome is somewhat conflicted. Its is smart for people in ways that A: help them adjust to their role as passive facilitators of urban redevelopment in a potentially hostile environment and B: provides such facilitators with attractive incentives. It may not go so far as to respond to prominent social needs in a community or deal with drug activity in the responsible manner but one may also ask to what extent a housing block can be held responsible for such tasks. It can at least be said for certain that for the people living in the Wallisblok it is indeed smart and that the community that they now live in is significantly safer than it was before.


People (community)



Initiates neighborhood improvement and development in zones of urban decay

Improvement in the form of development risks rising rental costs and hence the displacement of poor Rights fought for tend to be in the interest of middle-class and not the poor

Makes neighborhoods safer

Neighborhood gains more home owners who possess a greater ability to fight for neighborhood rights and services

People (housing block)

Displaces criminality

Stems the flow of people wanting to leave the community Public perception of neighborhood and its residents improving Increases amount of green space via communal garden Provides affordable route for prospective home buyers Provides opportunity to develop home on city Process is time consuming site while being free to choose its form and and labor intensive. Not spatial qualities all people found it easy to invest the time needed. Working together to produce home Has been criticized for collectively encouraged strong social being exclusive and cohesiveness insular Social network provides residents with security in community which at first was considered dangerous By working first hand on the project all residents have gained experience in management, design and building. Costs for structural and landscape development were equitably divided amongst the residents. Time was taken to situate all residents


4.2 Planet



Increase in green space One home to be purchased as a bike shelter for the residents Sustainably harvested timber to be utilized in building Most of materials stripped from building reused in the renovation New insulation of the building exceeded current Dutch standards Re-use of existing building prevented considerable waste Discourages urban sprawl, especially for large families who find it difficult to find large-scale space in the city

Cons Cost overruns prevented implementation of plan Cost overruns prevented implementation of plan

Cost 400,000 EUR more than to demolish and build new.

Though the aspects that are positive for the environment are genuine, the building falls short of being legitimately sustainable. Beyond waste from the renovation process no consideration was apparently given to the other streams of waste coming from the building, nor were its sources of energy or water. Though, as Laura Weeber had mentioned, many tenants over extended themselves financially in order to participate in the project so that even the consideration of sustainable sourcing of wood, though wanted by the majority, was nonetheless turned down. One might consider this a win for the good for people aspect of the project as the group considered the financial situation of all people involved and decided accordingly. Optimistically, further


sustainable additions to such a project will thus be decided through the same sort of deliberation and thus for the ability to jointly facilitate the development of sustainable measures the Wallisblok and a model is thus smart for the planet.

4.3 Profit



Cons Rotterdam deemed buyers too profitable and thus will charge a fee in future rather than dispensing homes freely

City income increased from increased residency. Creates climate safe for investment Though property value rises for owners, costs may rise for renters. Increases range of economic opportunity as area improves Banks worked with residents to develop equitable financing plan

The benefits for profit are those typical of urban redevelopment. Cities, as Loretta Lees previously critiqued, engage in these kinds of projects not necessarily for the good of people but to increase their own income. Despite this, people do profit; too much according to the city of Rotterdam, who will be charging a fee for any further houses it dispenses with. Nevertheless it would appear the market, municipalities and the public consider it to be mutually profitable as further projects 36

are being initiated across the Netherlands, most notably a 125 unit project in Den Haag. Again there is the question of property values and thus rental rates rising. Considering this it is difficult to say that there is financial equity on an urban level but again, whether this degree of equity is necessarily the responsibility of a small group of home owners or the government is debatable. What is not debatable however is that city hall has a greater ability to regulate the housing rates and systems of financial inequality than do architects and home buyers. Is it a smart profit producing mechanism for all stake holders? It seems to have no detractors.

4.4 Architecture

Architecture Pros


Maintains continuity in neighborhood typology despite new development Brings historical architecture to prominence as potential housing stock Acts as leverage for the preservation of historically significant architecture that may not yet be listed as a monument Scale of renovation allows for old housing stock to suit contemporary lifestyles. Familiarizes the public with the process of architectural design and the planning process

If one were to describe one aspect of this model as being particularly bottom-up in nature it is its association with architecture itself. People experience the process of creating and designing first hand, a process which ultimately results in their ‘dream home.’ Such 37

an experience has, according to the World Habitat organization, encouraged residents to connect with other people wishing to instigate their own projects, divorced from the oversight of developers and housing organizations. Furthermore, as a method of development it graciously lacks the obscene boldness characteristic of developer run projects; buildings as advertisements for those who build them. Instead the process manifests itself modestly, with respect for the context and the architecture. At first glance there may not be anything innovative about the Wallisblok but it is what one can’t see that makes this project unique. Beginning with the former state of the neighborhood, of the building itself, the cooperative to change that state, the architecture’s ensuing transformation and all the various steps taken to accomplish that are perhaps not unique on their own but together they form a project with has inspired a change not only in a neighborhood but in perception too. In the introduction this project was characterized as a two fold project. On the one hand it is a bottom-up home building initiative (collective private commissionership) and on the other a top-down city instigated urban renewal project (Gentripuncture). Throughout this assessment it is predominantly the methodology of the urban renewal of Spangen that has been most questionable. As a housing scheme the positive aspects seem generously available, backed up by the public interest and growing waiting lists. It has been seen that other projects have made the effort in various ways to go beyond their initial obligations (as housing or hotels) to their beneficiaries to engage and enhance their surrounding context, beyond simply relying on increased investment or the displacement of marginalized aspects of society. From this comparison it can then be concluded that as a communal housing project it is indeed smart, however at the level of urban regeneration, though successful in its stated goal, more will have to be done to make such an endeavor truly smart. 38


Boie, G., & Pauwels, M. (aka. BAVO) (2008). Take this fucking free house you creative idiot!. Retrieved from Boie, G., & Pauwels, M. (aka. BAVO) (2007). The murder of creativity in Rotterdam: From total creative environments to gentripunctural injections. Retrieved from Boonstra, E. (2008). Evaluatierapport Wallisblok Experiment. Retrieved from Bossink, B., Brouwers, H., van Kessel, R. (1996, October) Financial Consequences of Construction Waste. Paper presented at CIB W89 Beijing International Conference, Beijing, China. Retrieved from Building and Social Housing Foundation. (2008). De Dichterlijke Vrijheid (DDV). Retrieved from Carrigg, D. (2009, October 6). Woodward’s tipped to turn downtown eastside around by 2012. The Province. Retrieved from


Davis, M. (2007). Planet of Slums. London: Verso. Gilhuis, H., & Volbeda, S. (1992). Self Help Housing in Brazil. Delft: Delft University Press Hotel Transvaal (2010). Retrieved from Hulshof, I. (2008, September) De Dichterlijke Vrijheid: Poetic Freedom. Paper presented at 44th ISOCARP Congress, Dalian, China. Retrieved from Lees, Loretta. (2008) Gentrification and social mixing: towards an inclusive urban renaissance?, Urban Studies, 45, pp.2449-2470 Lugosi, P., & Bell, D., Lugosi, K. (2010) Hospitality, culture and regeneration: Urban decay, entrepreneurship and the “ruin� bars of Budapest, Urban Studies, 47, to be published in December. Meurs, P.(2004) Segregated but united: Memory in the city of tomorrow. In J. Seijdel & L. Melis (Eds.), Open 7: (no) memory, storing and recalling in contemporary art and culture (pp. 174-181). Rotterdam: NAI Publishers. Thomson, A., van der Flier, K. (2008, July) Replacement of reuse? The choice between demolition and life cycle extension from a 40

sustainable viewpoint. Paper presented at ENHR International Research Conference, Dublin, Ireland. Retrieved from Uitermark, J., Duyvendak, J. and Kleinhans, R. (2007) Gentrification as a governmental strategy: social control and social cohesion in Hoogvliet, Rotterdam, Environment and Planning A, 39(1), pp.125-141 Photo credits fig 1. fig 2. fig 3. Taken by author, 2011 fig 4. fig 5. fig 6. fig 7. fig 8. fig 9.

1. Introduction. (all) 2. Issues 3. Comparison. 4. Assessment.



A sustainability case study of urban renewal and collective private commissioning


A sustainability case study of urban renewal and collective private commissioning