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>> In this context, self-building (re)emerges as an alternative

for developing Buiksloterham. Self-builders include private individuals and households, and collectives of about 15 – 50 people. Sometimes non-experts are at the wheel, often hiring architects, constructors, and consultants as needed. Oftentimes, architects initiate projects and allow for varying degrees of consultation and customisation. What drives people involved in self-building, how do they balance between individual and collective interests, and how do they deal with institutional stakeholders? In this contribution, we describe how the notion of hacking offers a productive frame to understand current developments in city-making.

WHAT DRIVES PEOPLE INVOLVED IN SELF-BUILDING? The stories that self-builders recount often sound like adventure quests. Cleverness, stamina, and sharing resources enable them to overcome the many obstacles along the road. Like hackers, self-builders are driven by strong motivation. Marjan de Blok, one of the initiator of Schoonschip - a project to realise housing on water - says: ‘I envisioned sustainable living on a housing boat. I went looking for a group of people sharing my ideals, and a good location. What I liked in Buiksloterham was that there weren’t too many rules and restrictions. I was really drawn to that openness.’ Many people feel that self-building is about identity. Who do you belong to, what ideas do you share? Collective identity shapes how services are organised differently. Can groups arrange services like water and energy themselves, based on trust, and who can join? Successful self-builders quickly mobilise institutions. ‘The former council of the borough Amsterdam-Noord did not want to develop the waterfront’, says De Blok. ‘We approached the Alderman who liked sustainability and citizen initiatives. He wrote a letter to the council, resulting in the tender we needed for our location.’


By engaging ‘adversaries’ in the right way they can become allies. ‘My house is on the south-side of the plot’, another self builder recounts. ‘According to the rules, meters have to be installed three metres from the front door. In my case, that meant in my living room! I started negotiating with the water and energy companies. Fortunately, I found helpful people in these organisations. I shared this with my neighbours so they too could benefit.’ Self-builders face steep learning curves. They share information via platforms like Facebook, Whatsapp, websites, conversations, and public or closed meetups, but much of it remains inside the heads of individuals. Consequently, self-builders keep reinventing the wheel. We found several knowledge gaps. One is between advanced and beginning self-builders. Another exists between self-builders and (semi-)professionals who have the vocabulary and understand the processes but rarely actually built a home from scratch themselves. A third gap exists between self-builders who engage in experiments and institutions who also experiment like the municipal Team Zelfbouw or public service companies.

WE ARE FACING SEVERAL KNOWLEDGE GAPS Based on this, we imagined better ‘flows’ between the specific contextual tacit knowledge frequently tied to individuals, a collective body of generic and explicit information, and the institutional rules and players involved. >>

Profile for Pakhuis de Zwijger

New Amsterdam #10  

New Democracy | 10 years Pakhuis de Zwijger | Maakplaats 021 | FabCity Movement | Global Parliament of Mayors | Equal Access | Humans of Ams...

New Amsterdam #10  

New Democracy | 10 years Pakhuis de Zwijger | Maakplaats 021 | FabCity Movement | Global Parliament of Mayors | Equal Access | Humans of Ams...