Team Representative: Arie Gruijters (NL) – architect Associates: Ryosuke Yago (JP) – architect, Mircea Munteanu (RO) – urbanist architect
R. Gruijters, M. Munteanu & A. Gruijters
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1. How did you form the team for the competition?
The team is a collaboration between Kunst-Wet and Metapolis, two Brussels based practices sharing a co-working platform together with other creative industry professionals. Kunst-Wet was established in 2015, following a common background of the two founders in the Netherlands and Brussels. Metapolis was established in 2013 by successfully teaming-up for Europan 12 Marly (CH). The collaboration between the two offices emerged out of a common affinity for this year’s theme and the chosen site.
2. How do you define the main issue of your project, and how did you answer on this session main topic: the place of productive activities within the city?
In our view, the questions for the site are: how can it evolve beyond the current mono-functional neighbourhood, which is the consequence of the CIAM-inspired materialization of the social welfare system in the Netherlands at the time, and snap out of this deadlock, achieve more urbanity, and attract new flows of activities and people, all of this while working with the underlying potentials, not denying certain qualities of the existing facilities.
We see this piece of Bijlmermeer as a territory of experimentation today, having the space to envision a radical shift from mono-functionalism towards a re-integration of creativity and production and life in the city. For our project, we took the split between the different modes of transportation as a starting point, the critical mass of housing units as a potential and proposed containers to house a myriad of functions as an additional, as a necessary ingredient to facilitate mixed use, and to populate beyond the project site, into the adjacent mono-functional business district Amstel III.
3. How did this issue and the questions raised by the site mutation meet?
Our aim was to create a strategy of providing what is missing: containers with spaces for production and entrepreneurship and housing units for students and middle-incomes households, intended to create diversity and go beyond the aging welfare-state structures (the seventies believe that architecture could build and shape a society). Our intention is to provide true flexible shelters for local development.
The proposed mutation - a clear spatial definition in dialogue with the existing generous green open space of this territory - provides the urban structure for a system of new platforms for local circular economies. These take advantage of the rich mix of people in Amsterdam and their knowledge, the existing entrepreneurial initiatives on site, in combination with new flexible and generous spaces for small and large, individual and shared infrastructures, linking cycles of production, logistics, services and waste management.
4. Have you treated this issue previously? What were the reference projects that inspired yours?
Bringing a rich mix of functions in order to create the conditions for urbanity has been a recurrent theme in our projects. It is only natural that we add production to the mix. The ethical and ecological concerns regarding today’s production flows demand that they are brought back in sight and in check. Atelier Bow-Wow showed us already years ago that such a mix exists and created fascinating typologies in ‘Made in Tokyo’, while Lacaton&Vassal’s large, flexible and affordable infrastructure-buildings point to how such mixes could be hosted spatially smarter. Looking at it from a very different perspective, Andrea Branzi pushes the mix and flexibility of production and living in a radical way, reminding of the artificiality of such traditionally standalone constructs as city/nature/agriculture/production, and can be seen as a criticism of the (then emerging) consumerist society. In the light of our project it could be applied as a criticism of the paternalistic state, which hand in hand with the CIAM principals and economy of scale, resulted in a drifting apart from the mixed city.
5. Urban-architectural projects like the ones in Europan can only be implemented together with the actors through a negotiated process and in time. How did you consider this issue in your project?
Our project works on different scales and as such it engages with different sets of actors across these scales. From the policy level (breaking down the silos or resolving the problem of departments often operating autonomously within one and the same municipality), going through the specific groups formed around clear targets (such as designing a local closed cycle of production), to the co-creation with local inhabitants or entrepreneurs who are on-board from the beginning (and are not faced with the project at the end only) to put together further pieces of the puzzle. All are catalyzed and mediated by the strong but flexible spatial vision, of which they eventually take ownership. The owner-occupied housing units and rentable spaces were all added with the idea of appropriation.
6. Is it the first time you have been awarded a prize at Europan? How could this help you in your professional career?
The winning of Europan Marly (CH) in 2013 represented a welcome professional confirmation for Metapolis and it was an experience on which we have built ever since. In 2017, we are happy to receive this honour again, this time with Kunst-Wet, giving it the opportunity to leap forward its practice, ’go back to its roots in the Netherlands’, and engage in ambitious projects.