by Carlos Arroyo, architect, teacher, member of the Europan Scientific Committee (ES)
This debate will deal with the following questions:
- How can we trigger change and evolution –that is the DYNAMIC part of it;
- in a specific local context to create new links with larger economic and social systems –that is the URBAN part of it, i.e. the idea of connecting things at larger or smaller scales and having systems working together
- while opening the widest possible range of opportunities? – that is the PLATFORM part of it, thinking of the city not as a design object but as a place where things can happen.
In Don Benito's winning project (ES), “Don Benito’s Patio”, triggering change and evolution does not necessarily mean building; the idea of developing a city has been associated with the consumption of new land. But developing may also mean “seeing what to do with what is already there and even undoing some of the mistakes of the past and changing and evolving in an introspective kind of way”. The winning team does not build anything, they actually ‘’unbuild’’ a number of things and propose a way to manage the space that is left void within the urban grid. There is a classic plan where the real void becomes part of a pattern of mass and void that is integrated into the network. That is Dynamics.
Urban means linking and having different scales on the same site. In Wittenberge (DE), the Runner-up project –“Take part in Wittenberge”– draws connecting lines; they are not thinking about the land, the sizes of the allotments or the plots, but about how things can be connected and then providing a catalogue of possible actions that can be placed along this connecting lines
We see the idea of Platforms as something that opens a wide possible range of opportunities. The Runner-up project in Budapest (HU) –“Manual Towards a CLUMSY City”– proposes a wide variety, like a fragmented range of possible interventions where even the space itself can be fragmented and re-assembled in different ways, in a project that is very much about potential rather than final design.
We did a word count in the site briefs to see which words were most frequent, in order to reveal the main topics and concerns of the Europan 12 sites, and we found that the sites in the group “Dynamic Urban Platforms” are polarized around the words “local”, “neighbourhood”, “life”, “work” and “metropolis” on the one hand; and “attract”, “new residence”, “leisure”, “sports”, “nature” on the other. We can clearly identify the fact that, on one hand, there is a local population, an existing situation where something needs to be done, but we have people there; whilst on the other part, there are not enough people and you need to attract them.
We can already identify two possible different strategies in these two extremes, which we may need to be implemented depending on whether there are a lot of people on the site or not. But what intrigues me is that the other word oppositions are as follows: “life” vs. “leisure”, “work” vs. “sports”, and “metropolis” vs. “nature”. So there seems to be a feeling that when there are people, work, the connectivity of the metropolis and life becomes very important; whilst when we need to attract new residents the idea of leisure, sports and nature become very important.
We also see the idea of “Fields” – in a mathematical or physical sense – coming up as a recurrent theme, the idea that you have a kind of surface or a space that is available for things to happen. And the field may be punctuated by trees like in the winning proposal in Wittenberge (DE). It may be about expanses of water as in Schiedam (NL) with the idea that water can be a public space and the field, the surface, is continuous and not referenced, so that on the field you see people practising sport, running around, bicycling, skating in the winter, so the field is open for anything that anyone may want to do at any point in time.
We can see a powerful graphic device that introduces the idea of “narratives”. To trigger change and evolution you sometimes need to create a narrative, in some cases this is even a part of the whole story. For instance in Bitterfeld-Wolfen (DE) a former mine shaft was filled with water to turn it into a lake so there is a narrative of something that was industrial and now becomes a water site. Or a former industrial site needs to be readdressed, as in Aalborg (DK), the winning team uses a very powerful device: putting together something on the place and something somewhere else they are trying to build up our imagination, our inner vision of the site. In Bitterfeld-Wolfen (DE) the idea of narrative actually tries to look for the image of a village as an archetypical image of a cluster in the middle of an idealistic view of the countryside, with farmhouses. But in the winning proposal, “Vanished Villages – Collective City” the parts of the farm houses related to work are replaced by “leisure” and “sports”, there is now a place for a boat, for bicycles, for running areas or for hobbies. Because the work-related aspects are in a larger context, so the idea is to build a small community that feels like a village but is related to a larger context with opportunities for work and fast communication, fast connections with other places so it is like a cluster that is well connected so that you can work in a larger urban environment, keeping an idealistic sense of the community.
Narratives can also take the shape of “participation”, introducing the subjects, the people living in the place as the narrators, as the people who can build up imagery for themselves. And this is accompanied, in Runner-up project “A New Urban Village” in Marseille (FR), by a revision of the archetypical French village, with a soft transition between the countryside, the fields that are cultivated, the gardens that may be ornamental or cultivated for food, and then a soft transition into the houses and into the more private part of the houses.
The whole idea of urban life is about finding balances between the interests of different people and even the most remote elements of the territory are now shared too. In Donauwörth (DE) we have an existing community where the project is trying to deal precisely with the intermediate spaces and the large scale of a settlement with many buildings all around. In Wien (AT) we have a new community and a number of shared elements within the block and an adjoining block. So let’s say that Donauwörth (DE) would be “Sharing elements of a larger context” and the Wien project would be the shared spaces inside the façade of the construction. Among the Europan 12 projects, we have gradients from the patio to the streets in København (DK) and Marseille (FR), whilst in Wittenberge (DE) and Schiedam (NL) we have a larger territorial concern with river and water canals. This is the gradient between the smallest and the largest, the intimate and the most public, and also the idea of superimposing this gradient over an existing community or a new community.
Implementation Processes From Previous Sessions
DONAUWÖRTH (DE), EUROPAN 9
I would like to give you a summary of our last seven years of intensive work with the municipality and, more particularly, with the municipal architect, Mr. Wannick, and the different stakeholders in the project. We travelled there by train very frequently, and have covered a total of 80,000 km with the DB and the ÖBB in these last seven years. What became clear in the project as a whole was that there were too many interruptions, because of the decisions made by the different stakeholders – who has an interest in the project or not, who with, etc. In addition, when we gave feedback on the competition, we realised that we had not proposed a concrete project, but only a strategy. And what we had to cope with was, on the one hand, the competition, and on the other hand, in the operational phase, how to implement the project. And fundamentally, we remained in the same space and we used many of the ideas arising from the competition.
Donauwörth is a small provincial town in southern Bavaria with a population of 18,000. The town has one district, called Parkstadt, which houses 4500 people, i.e. one quarter of the population. Built in the late 1950s, this district developed in the 60s and 70s concurrently with the construction of a barracks. This part of the town had all the functions needed for a neighbourhood: a school, a creche, shops, a church, a district hall. However, there was absolutely no social life. In the 1990s, large numbers of Russian migrants moved in and there were a lot of social problems, including murder and violence in public areas. Along with the Bavarian government, therefore, the town began a programme called “The social city” with the aim of improving neighbourhood life. We decided to take part in Europan 9 on this site with a focus on three main themes: “recharging” public space in the central areas; long-term process; and the theme of “a backbone of activities”.
Located above the town, Parkstadt is separated by a motorway and we wanted to reinforce the neighbour’s unique character by drawing on an unexplored potential: the sloping topography of the middle. In our view, it was essential to renew the urban network and connections by means of green methods of mobility.
After the competition, we spent more than two years carrying out various studies for the municipality. The big challenge was the number of stakeholders we had to work with. Initially, we looked at our competition idea and analysed ways to transform the public spaces, including the street level areas and the tall residential buildings. Our intention was to demolish the ageing supermarket and build a new structure, while increasing the spatial density and combining these areas with residential dwellings and a social centre. After almost a year in which nothing happened, the municipality recontacted us to carry out the initial designs for the outdoor spaces and we proposed linking the central zones; the idea was to use a hill as a stage for events. Our goal was to link the church, the school and the supermarket, while attempting to restructure the space around the residential tower blocks.
Following a further break of around six months, the municipality came back to us with a programme for a creche that the evangelical church wanted to build in the neighbourhood. We therefore designed the creche and turned the community centre 90° to the side, exploiting the topography of the land to make it accessible to everyone. The creche is very well lit with a bright yellow floor. From the entrance through the corridor, to the kitchen where the children can work, that is why the upper level is higher – and on the right side the teachers. And on the right-hand side, the teachers. Below the community hall (which has a bright red floor and is also very well lit), the events room with its reception. What is special here is that this reception will be multifunctional (used by everyone with natural light in the rooms via an atrium, together with an open kitchen).
Since 2012, we have done further work on the outdoor spaces: we used the 2010 sketches, with the hill and the neighbourhood’s central square. And we are doing more work in the central areas and on this “backbone”, which has numerous programmatic functions. What was important to us was that all the residents (including older people) should be able to access the centre. At present, we are at the first stage, focusing solely on the central part. It is very important that the school and the church should ultimately be better connected to the public spaces.
Carlos Arroyo, Architect, Teacher, Scientific Committee (ES)
Urban projects indeed require the participation of very different agents, coordinating certainly takes time, but if you have a good team and you are working together – city and designers – you can really get far. Thank you for sharing the idea of the actual implementation and emphasizing the idea of linking, of connecting, which is a key element of the design; and even in the building itself with the two levels, the views and the function tie different parts of the space together. I want to emphasize the fact that many of the intentions in your design are about opening opportunities, turning public space into a platform where things can happen. And you are actually designing places where somebody might potentially want to do something, so all these steps down – you mentioned an auditorium, but places where people can sit down, places where people can play, where they can do things – can help dilute that very strong barrier, and what you are trying to do is to link but also empower people to be in the public space, make them feel that they can be there and do things, and then their presence would transform public space because when you have people there, then the perception of public space changes.
WIEN (AT), EUROPAN 9
The site is in the North East of Vienna, in the 22nd district, a compact area of large monofunctionnal entities comprising commercial areas, infrastructural axes, 1960s and 1970s housing projects and also a carpet of allotment gardens.
Vienna is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe. This northern district is a large land reserve for new urban development through the conversion of both agricultural land and industrial areas. This is true of the Europan site, land which formerly belonged to the Austrian steel construction company Waagner Biro. There are several developments next to each other, providing a mix of uses such as housing, offices, commercial, a kindergarten, a medical centre, student housing and so on. The plan for the Europan 9 site is the construction of a housing project.
The question for this site was on two levels: on the urban level, the aim was to connect the new housing project both with the new neighbourhood but also with the traditional existing neighbourhood, with the introduction of green mobility and public space. The focus of the housing project was housing for the elderly, incorporating a care centre.
We proposed interpreting the insularity of the periphery as a new locality, to be characterised by different user types. For example the Centropist, a European intercity traveller, or the Islander, more a hyperlocal worker. These user types inform both the design of the housing project and a number of small scale interventions that we proposed for the surrounding urban space and as connections between the new area and the old area. We proposed to develop street furniture together with the neighbouring home depot market, or the conversion of an abandoned market area into a multifunctional space of market/playground/parking…
The housing project itself identified the issue of urban porosity as a primary objective and the layout of the project more or less follows the outlines of the site, but creates more public spaces between the surroundings and the project itself, while at the same time on the inside, a communal garden courtyard was developed through a second rear of the meandering block, dividing it into different zones, different atmospheres and functions. The ground floor level was set aside for a large number of public uses: we proposed a kindergarten, shops and so on, and as a second layer of public or semi-public space, a rooftop itinerary should connect all the different parts of the block and also be accompanied by a number of shared spaces for the inhabitants. This proposal for architectural hardware was accompanied by social software, a participatory process of activation that should start in the planning phase and run through the whole process until people move in and even beyond.
After we won the competition in 2008, everything went pretty fast and we had the first meetings with stakeholders such as the city’s real estate management company, Wien Holding, with the head of the housing cooperative, the head of the district and the Europan secretary. We discussed whether we should consider rezoning the area but we thought we could avoid this part of the process through a slight shift in the urban plan without losing many of the project’s qualities. It was decided that the project should be realised within the framework of Viennese Subsidised Housing, which meant that the site would have to be divided into 3 smaller parts and that another competition called “Bauträgerwettbewerb” should take a place where teams of architects and housing cooperatives would be involved in building on one of those sites. We were invited to build one part of this project.
In order to pursue our idea from the Europan competition, we brought in additional experts for landscape architecture and for citizen participation. Together, we formulated additional rules and regulations for the competition brief, to complement the existing zonings; these rules of course concerned the configuration of the whole project, but also the character of the garden courtyard, and the rooftop trail, several primary shared spaces in each part of the project, and also the housing cooperative would provide some funding for the participatory activation process.
We had two setbacks. One was that the number of ground floors and uses had to be reduced because the developer, Wien Holding, was developing a project on a neighbouring site that provided multiple different uses and didn’t want competition from our project. The second setback was that, for the public space, it was much harder to find the powerful actors you need for small-scale interventions; we had several meetings, but in the end it was too complicated to bring all those local stakeholders to one table. So at that stage there was not much development on this aspect of the project.
For the Bauträgerwettbewerb, we had to fulfil the quality criteria for subsidised housing and at the same time to incorporate the visions and ideas of the Europan competition into this framework. So at the end of this phase, there were three different teams with different focuses – ourselves and two other Austrian teams. For the housing projects – we maintained the inclusion of the elderly in our housing project; then one team on the northern part of the site experimented with housing, providing apartments ranging from small 30 sq.m units up to big shared apartments; and the third team in the South focused on young and urban housing with a lot of sports and leisure facilities inside the housing project.
Then we entered the implementation phase, which took about four years of planning and construction, and in this phase the biggest issue was to deal with the cost constraints of our client and the construction company’s costs. But at the same time, with regard to maintaining our overall ideas, the particular thread in this phase was this element of urban porosity, i.e. the connection points between the outside road, the surroundings, and the interior world of the housing project.
We were able to retain many of the competition proposal is in the implementation phase. The floor plan shows the layout of the inner courtyard with all the crossings and entries as defined in the urban plan. The block is broken up, making it possible to move through it. The second element we kept was the rooftop trail, with shared spaces, tenants flowerbeds, playroom for smaller children, a glass house, a summer kitchen and so on; and the rooftop trail is also connected to the ground floor area. What we were also able to keep was this multitude of common spaces, some of them dedicated to support a localised community in one part of the project, and some offering possibilities for people from all over the project. For example, there is a central space for celebration and play, which can be used by all the inhabitants; another is a smaller book box defined by the inhabitants, or a playroom for smaller children.
The project was finished and handed over to the inhabitants in Spring 2013; at that point 320 apartments were finished, 170 of them planned by us, and this was also the start of the planned participatory activation process. Since then, a team of neighbourhood creators, centrally located in a ground floor office, has managed the occupants of the common areas, open areas and inner spaces and they support the inhabitants in defining programs for smaller communal spaces, and were also involved in organizing different workshops and in the management of the flowerbeds.
Volkmar Pamer, Urban Developer (AT)
I am responsible for urban development in South Vienna and “Oase 22” is a very good example of how to learn from other projects; we are developing a big urban gardening house in the 23rd district, but today it is quite difficult to only say “let’s do urban gardening”. And we are researching alternatives to this model as we did with experiences like the “Oase 22” project. This project consists of about 190 apartments and every apartment is linked to urban gardening, each inhabitant has a loggia, planting pots, watering system. The goal is to provide appropriate spaces either for very small-scale gardening – e.g. planting herbs and chillis – or for larger scale cultivation, such as potatoes, which require deeper digging. So on the rooftop we have those community gardens with green houses, planting pots and beds. There are different greenhouses for different functions, used as community places, and also sustainably heated in winter time with the apartment bathrooms. The district will be the biggest of its kind in the world – 1,200 apartments, every apartment linked to urban gardening and urban farming – so for us this is the interlocking of life within and outside the project. We have three levels of urban farming: in the apartments, as mentioned before; on the roof terraces for the people from one apartment block; and from the neighbourhood, from the urban environment, people can participate in urban farming and urban gardening. We also see it as a social project, as a pedagogical project that brings people together, so that we do not create gated communities, but interlink this existing environment to the future project. And this is something we want to learn from projects like “Oase 22”, so for us this kind of innovative design is relevant for creating a better community there.
Carlos Arroyo, Architect, Teacher, Scientific Council (ES)
I am personally fascinated by the culture of shared facilities, the book box for example, the playroom; in some countries, for instance, a place for children to play can be considered illegal, whilst other shared facilities like swimming pools are perfectly legal, despite being much more dangerous. I think it is interesting to see that sharing things – although it may cover notions of sharing food and being good – is something that multiplies potential and actually multiplies our potential for happiness in the space as well.
But that is a dynamic that is difficult to develop, because you really have to build it up with examples, looking at what you are doing for sharing so that you can then compare. If we seek to achieve this potential, if it works and we can increase our potential, it is a very good example, with beautiful pictures and a beautiful book as well.
Julio de la Fuente, Architect, Technical Committe (ES)
In both cases the notion of sharing is used to build a community at the scale of the neighbourhood and they introduce the public space into the residential area and this public space is the backbone for the process. You talked about the notion of urban porosity, how this public space and the gradients from the private to the public happen at the scale of the neighbourhood. But at the same time, there is another notion of porosity in relation with the process: political porosity. How did those different actors coordinate? And how was the process kept alive, maintaining the coherence for this rooftop trail in the case of Vienna and, in the case of Donauwörth, this park with these facilities for multiple generations and the commons? My question for the municipalities and the parties involved is: what roles did you play in brokering trust between actors? These are success stories for site representatives from Europan 12 and 13, so what were the keys to keeping the process alive and involving all the stakeholders?
From the beginning, the Europan competition brief was divided into two parts: the public space and the housing project, and the processes of these two spheres were very different; for the housing project – and this was of course thanks to the whole Europan idea – we were able to talk to very important municipal players at a very high level from the beginning and they were also open to ideas that we brought in, like involving experts in landscape architecture and citizen participation, right at this very early point of the process. This was our initiative, but all the responsible actors at this phase were open to it, so it also depends on the personalities of the people you meet at this level. When we followed the project, we of course had different actors involved in every phase and they were talking about the rooftop trail, which involved the main actors with the three different housing cooperatives, which had to sign different contracts and deal with the responsibility. And for the other part, relating to public space, the main problem was that there is no agency for public space in Vienna. So we needed two meetings to coordinate all the actors concerned with the streets neighbouring the housing project, at least 25 people, responsible for lighting, plumbing and all the electrical installations, tree planting, in the municipality’s different departments...
Europan 12 Implementation Processes
KØBENHAVN (DK), EUROPAN 12
Rune Bundgaard, Architect (DK) – Winner, “Our Courtyards in the Streets”
The project was executed at three scales, focusing on the main topics: what can we share and sustainability. The first scale is the master plan, with local rainwater strategy, traffic and a general green strategy for the street space. On the second scale, we worked with the main street, characterized by very high density, very narrow backyards, courtyards and very small apartments, so the need for outdoor spaces was quite high. We proposed turning the main street into a common green backyard in the public space, we worked on the existing housing with a focus on energy, renovating the existing buildings and finding additional surface area for living in the attics and in the basements. How were we going to make this work? All the streets of course belong of the city of Copenhagen and the buildings are owned by private owners, associations, so there is a clash of authority and interests. So our project is also a strategy on how to do it.
In the first step the owners’ associations create new apartments within the individual associations, individual building blocks, for subsequent sale by the associations asattics and basements. In Copenhagen there is no tradition of living in basements; it is actually illegal. So we tried to show that it is possible to create healthy, high quality apartments that are partially underground, though of course with natural light. In the next step, the money from selling the new apartments is reinvested into a local strategy for handling rainwater like plant beds, fascines to delay rain flow and pluviometry drains. With the building block now controlling rainwater and its evacuation, we can help the municipality to reduce the cost of handling private rainwater. The city of Copenhagen has quite an old drain system, and within a few years will be forced to replace the entire drainage, sewage and rainwater system, unless they can find another way of disposing of rainwater. Danish engineer Michael Tornberg calculated that if the city can get people to handle their own rainwater, it will be able to save €1.3 billion. That is of course a lot of money and would be quite a good idea for everyone.
Since the municipality saves money as a result of a citizen initiative, they give some of the money back and invest it in the area, taking control of the main street, allowing the residents to semi-occupy the public space for uses such as urban gardening in the street, common housing, common dining, temporary shops or galleries and so on. There will of course be some redirection of traffic. Another bonus would be the upgrading of the street; the new basement apartments will increase in value and of course attract new inhabitants to the area. The refurbishment of the public space should come from the residents themselves and since we have a great tradition of having workshops with residents, actually we are not really planning anything, trying to work with that transition from private housing to a public space and maybe transforming that public space into a semi public space. Of course it is still open to the general public, it is not gated, it is intended to be shared by everyone, yet under the control of specific residents.
Tina Saaby, Architect of the city (DK)
What we normally try to do when we work on urban planning in the city is to try to work at three scales: we try to work on the large scale, citywide strategies for the whole city; then we try to go very precisely to the medium scale, where we work with the site specific plans; and then we try to work on the small scale, with specific projects but also with local initiatives and how to get a lot of dialogue with the citizens and how to get possible processes.
Large scale – We have quite a lot of strategies but four of them are more important: the first is a bike strategy and it is quite important in this area because a main bike trail runs by it. So making these shortcuts in the city changed the geography and the infrastructure of the city in general and this area is a part of that. Then we have an architecture policy, and we want to work with young architects, which is one of the reasons why we participated to Europan. The third approach is that we have a specific focus on urban space and how we deal with city life. Our politicians decided on a strategy in 2009, saying that we want to design urban life before urban space and urban space before buildings. The fourth approach is that we have an urban renewal program, programs that are about providing green areas or green yards in the city. Those programs are paid for half by the state, half by the city. Today, private residents have to pay for 2/3 of the various changes and this has to be based on democracy, so they have to organize themselves, they have to take care of the area and maintain it afterwards.
Medium scale – The Europan competition is a long process. When we worked with Europan, we combined the project with neighbourhood improvement, and two or three years ago we worked on the area and established a green strategy.
Small scale – Small-scale projects have to do with this green strategy. This is a STREET that we have just changed that focuses on the position of the sun, to make a pedestrian area, because we want people to stay outside, so there can be tables and chairs, with a small restaurant out in the street, so the people will stay longer, one of the goals in our city life strategy.
We tried to work very strategically with the edge zones, trying to understand how buildings and city life connect in the urban space, which means that we have to have connect drawings done by architects with those a one by landscape architects, which is not easy.
This work on neighbourhood improvement areas also has a lot to do with new processes. The area is part of the project that won in 2010 and now we are changing it into an area with a permanent focus on climate change.
But there is a new change of processes in general: the change of zoning and private/public understanding. The green yards in this area are closed yards so they are private, for the community inside only; in some cases, however, they could be semipublic, depending on the location of the site. But here, we are close to the main station and it is good that the yards should be semi-private, otherwise there would be way too many drug dealers in there. It means that people can remain in the site with their kids.
One of the last changes is that we focus on housing in a different way, on the connection between inside and outside, with bigger windows to bring more daylight into the buildings.
The project that won here also focuses very specifically on how to get daylight into the old existing apartments, connecting inside and outside by using full-length windows, to improve eye contact between people outside and people inside. This is an urban renewal project where there is a new focus on the community, half private on the roof, but in a community together. The winning project talks about the change of urban nature, the change of climate, enhancing density. This is also an urban renewal project where we have an urban farm that we just opened on top of the roof, and the winning project was also inspiring in the way that it talked about how we can change nature and climate, and about making and producing for ourselves.
So, there are a lot of challenges to tackle. In Denmark we have very strict EU rules so we cannot sign contracts with the competition winners, or only very small contracts, and that is a big challenge. It is private money when you are going into the neighbourhood improvement areas, so we have to talk to individuals because they are putting their own private money into the projects. The urban renewal program is also a little old-fashioned in Denmark, so it is difficult to put the fantastic winning Europan project into the urban renewal program, because there is this private/public ownership; the roads are public and the yards are half private, and the building is totally private, so the need to balance the different ownerships makes it very difficult.
MARSEILLE PLAN D’AOU (FR), EUROPAN 12
Nicolas Binet, Directeur GIP Marseille Rénovation Urbaine (FR)
The site is in the north, on a plateau, about 10 km from the old port of Marseille; around 1000 social housing units were built on the plateau between 1970 and 1973, i.e. very quickly. This site, with its rather poor connections to the city, very soon became a place of exclusion, a social ghetto for populations who lacked the possibility of migrating to other areas. For 10 years, there was a substantial public program that led to the demolition of almost all the existing 900 dwellings and the gradual reintroduction of urban diversity.
The aspiration is to make a city for everyone, attracting activities of all kinds; previously, we were monofunctional, 100% rented social housing for the poorest populations, but we want to introduce business activities and private housing. Today, we have rehoused everyone who wanted it, either in situ or elsewhere; we have built new public amenities. The objective now, however, is to have evolving, adaptable and innovative projects, with a diversity of urban forms and uses, which will attract a diversity of population to this area; in other words to create value, attractiveness, to encourage the inhabitants of other areas to move into a district which is still very strongly associated with drug trafficking and delinquency. To produce an attractive habitat in very difficult economic conditions, for people who are going to buy – this is no longer rented social housing – and to turn this area into an urban place which gives guarantees of safety, mobility, and where the laws of the Republic apply as they do in other neighbourhoods: those are the ingredients and our aspirations for the adaptable city, because the project must be manageable over time, by local authorities which have few resources and in these conditions of powerful, conflictual and particularly difficult social confrontations.
In our project, we envisioned a “New Urban Village” that was designed for two reasons: in reference to the historical French village, with its ability to create and support community; and of course the natural scenery. This was also inspired by the Danish example of a structural framework that could support community life or everyday life.
The idea was mainly to create a masterplan or a spatial framework that supports the social life of the community, a Danish translation of the French village with the soft transition between public, semi public, semi private and private spaces. This is how we envisioned the backbone of the area connecting all the public spaces and private housing. This is where life disperses out into the alleys where you have sub-communities around a building that sits on the edge of the plateau, with a really beautiful view from the area. This is what we called the “yards”: a place for private and semi private life, again maybe with a sort of Danish approach to the soft transition between private and public life. This is also what we called the “bluff”: we have to develop this area so that it could then connect into the rest of the region as a natural habitat.
This is the first phase of the proposal, “Place d’Aou”, which is the social epicentre; it is the living room for the existing area. As a phasing strategy for the future, the Place d’Aou would start this whole process, with on one side a more sectorial approach to development, and on another side a more organic approach. And then, evolving on the edge, we propose to build inhabited enclaves.
From the competition proposal to implemention, every institutional resource will need to be intensified through dialogue, and and of course through connection with professional resources, not just Arki_lab, but also local architects and associations. And of course, the third side of this triangle of resources is the inhabitants of the area and newcomers.
We handed in our submission on June 28th, 2013. In December we heard that we were joint runners-up; we then presented in Marseille on February 14th, 2014, then did a lot of waiting, and last week we presented our proposal to the local stakeholders in Marseille, the urban renewal and housing associations. Now with regard to how to proceed, we imagine that there a great deal of dialogue will be needed and we envision setting-up, not just an info box, but rather an arki_lab “bureau” in Marseille, to start this process of co-creation in close proximity to the site through the establishment of an actual Urban Lab. In order to develop an adaptable process of implementation, we envisage the phasing as being divided into prequalifications: we would of course create diversity and human scale on the site. As a Danish team, we might be worried by the language issue but we actually know that most of the inhabitants on the site do not speak French, so we think it is not a matter of language but perhaps more about inventing a third language, using the language of architecture process of co-creation to break down the barriers between the professionals and the inhabitants. This may be a challenge but also a focus for the future.
Jean Rodet, Architecte (FR) – Runner-up, “Concomitance”
Our project “Concomitance” was also a runner-up in Marseille. We think that adaptability is an extremely interesting response to the systemic crisis we face. There have already been attempts to achieve this adaptability, all of which have more or less ended in failure, and we thought that adaptability needed to be considered not only from the perspective of architecture, but in terms of the hidden side of urban planning which is the land factor. We therefore worked on two operations. First, across the whole site, we developed a matrix to free ourselves of the fixed picture of the city provided by the land register. And we propose a system of leases under which the land would remain the property of the landowner and the occupant would simply purchase the use of it for a given time, thereby allowing for adaptability to the different conditions on the site which may arise in the future. On the basis of these two land-use systems, we introduced a “architectural fabric” which generates horizontal density on the site, so that it can exist in relation to the different buildings there and share the sublime view that the site offers. We therefore worked on this density in order to create a city that combines the intensity of a metropolis with the intimacy of the finer rhythms of the everyday.
Nicolas Binet, Directeur GIP Marseille Rénovation Urbaine
The idea of separating landownership from real estate ownership is interesting, with regard to all the issues to do with clarifying the status and management of these spaces in relation to possible future changes. We will get away from a situation of absolute rigidity and the ideas that you have just heard our way of saying “Let’s try to do something that allows us to take the first steps immediately, a few more in five years and no doubt yet more in a further 20 years”.
WITTENBERGE (DE), EUROPAN 12
This site is in a very interesting location, opposite the historical centre of the town and on the bank of the river. When we saw a photo of the site, our response was “Wow, that’s perfect! What a fantastic place! What is there to do there? Everything is already there!” The historical presence of the granaries, symbols of the town, and the possibility of working in such conditions was very interesting for us, we thought that since everything was already there, there would probably be less to do. The most difficult point then was to identify the urban materials to highlight. We tried to remove everything and work only on the primary elements: the three industrial heritage buildings. We worked in a slightly forced way, particularly in morphological terms, allowing for the layout of the volumes, making the preexistent fabric the key element around which all the new buildings would be structured. So it is a process typical of minimalist art, the process of taking a gesture and repeating it; in other words, the process lies in the repetition of a simple act.
The other element we worked on was empty space, the landscape. Wittenberge is located 100 km north of Berlin and the environment is characterised by two typical environmental situations, farmland and woodland. We therefore decided to use these two materials already in place to design big gardens, big parks, which would link the project area to the centre of the town, through these two elements: a woodland area and an area of completely open parkland.
Then, around May 2014, the municipality invited us for a workshop, where attention was focused on just one part of the Europan project area, and it was suggested that we should work only on that part since it is the only one where transformation will be made. It proved to be a fairly intense brainstorming experience, because we worked for a day with the representatives of the municipality, the inhabitants and investors. Then we were literally shut up for a few hours in the site’s small tower designing plans, schemes, all kinds of new documents to start a debate. The idea then was to work with the same process introduced in the competition project and to modify it completely, without nevertheless changing its basic elements, which were the morphology of the existing fabric and work on empty space. We therefore envisaged an initial urban housing operation, based in away on the same process, giving more force to the buildings and, over time, creating a new line of empty space which would form a promenade down to the river. And therefore to work on the elements perpendicular to the river in exactly the same way, from a topographical point of view, as do the existing buildings, and so to try and construct a dialogue between the existing and the new fabric.
To sum up our approach: we try to identify urban materials that have the potential to be used, the elements that characterise the empty space and what historically preexists. Then, we try to construct relations between different objects that are not in dialogue, between urbanism and the capacity of constructing architectural objects. And finally, we design the urban development.
Petra Lutke, Head of Urban Planning Department (DE)
In May 2014, a few months after the competition results, we ran a workshop with the winning, runner-up and special mention teams. We continued to work from their ideas. What came out of this process is that we had a major structure at the heart of our project: the warehouse. As a small town, it is difficult for us to find a use for this big warehouse. However, this changed their ideas and the municipality took the initiative to preserve the building, which initially we had planned to demolish. The building has now been saved by the town and the roofs have been renovated. We are now looking at initial possibilities for using this warehouse and we also discussed it during the workshop. On the ground floor, we considered using part of the available surface area as an exhibition space, with the goal of opening up the warehouse to the residents (the place belongs to the municipality) while still trying to market, sell and use the spaces for different exhibitions. The real potential for new development was transferred to other, smaller buildings, where new users have a real interest and have proposed potential uses for the buildings, which now belong to the municipality. They are now available for conversion by the winning Europan teams.
Initially, the municipality thought that there was strong potential for exploiting the outdoor spaces, that there would be a lot of building and high density. Thanks to the vision of the Europan teams, however, we became aware of the quality of these outdoor spaces, their openness to the water, and a process began to rethink and enhance the outdoor spaces of which the historical buildings form a part. This means that a change is taking place in our open strategies.
SCHIEDAM (NL), EUROPAN 12
Patrick van’t Loo, Program Manager (NL)
The difficulty was to understand the theme of adaptability and how we can practice it in our city. Looking back in history at pictures of the Koemark location we came to the conclusion that the place has always been suited to the context. Through and over time, this location has basically been overdesigned, and this is basically how the location looks at the time with traffic junction, parking… It is an entrance to the historical city, with brownfields that function very well. So it needs to be redesigned and we need to think of a new program on the VROM terrain. We received 48 submissions on this site, some very good, and we were presented with two runners-up. So the jury gave us quite a dilemma because we had to choose one team to get the assignment; we could either follow through on one plan by cherry picking or follow a fragmented site model by putting two plans together, and again who would be our contact or would we just cancel the whole operation because we did not know which of the two plans to present to the city? But after about six months, last summer, both teams – very intelligent and adaptable – together presented us with a single plan and a single strategy. And we were quite happy with the idea and this is just a possible view of the future. So now we have a very good idea and a basic framework, with subtasks, we have a group of very intelligent and passionate architects and we have a new starting point. And we have some money to continue, which is quite good!
Next step: we assigned a project leader, the team for the municipality that the client will appoint; and we will develop communication. Again co-creation, it is not like a masterplan that will be rolled out; it needs to be done in concert with all stakeholders in the immediate environment. This is why we initially decided to design an adaptable masterplan, but a masterplan feels like a blueprint that will be executed as it stands, but here the essence is to be adaptable. So we will build the framework, relations with the city, a concept phasing plan, business case, how to work with sustainability and again the communication and the participation of the city and stakeholders.
Petar Zaklanovic, Architect (NL) – Runner-up, “A New Start With Old Genes”
We connected both runners-up teams, actually divided into three teams that now work as one: Studio Komma, FELIXX and Basic City A+U. We were increasingly convinced that the regeneration of European cities is both an extremely complex and necessary task.
Schiedam – I happened to have lived there for four and a half years – suffers from a sort of invisibility because of the presence on one side of an economically hugely important harbour, and on the other side the historically relevant and very famous town of Delft; and then the sheer sides of Rotterdam. We basically had to tackle the entrance to city, and also a site that currently connects the very old city centre with a still very vibrant and functional industrial zone. We wanted to use this place to restitch the city, to connect Schiedam with its northern neighbourhoods, which together function as one separate city: the old city – I talked about the neighbourhoods in the south of this site – with some incredible pieces of architecture represented by the famous Dutch modernist architects; and the functional industrial area.
We were selected together with another team and it was essentially important to be able to synthesise our approaches in order to continue. This actually happened to be not so difficult because we all shared pretty much the same values. We talked about the need to use the river Schie as a backbone and to place our development within the framework of all the projects planned by the city along the river, as a kind of larger regeneration project. We all agreed on introducing a number of small and sometimes possible temporary interventions along the river. Another thing that we share is the need for plans with the capacity to get all the relevant stakeholders on board. And of course we all share a passion for maintaining the liveliness of this industrial area!
And in further pursuit of our common beliefs, what we did was to come up with a schedule with prescriptions assigned to certain critical spaces in the plan; those prescriptions in a way defined our ambitions, which were not only to do with spatial or infrastructural complexities, but also with the need to direct and organize future stakeholders in those projects. But of course this adaptable masterplan, even though it comes late, needs to be communicated in the process of project development, so we had to illustrate it as one possible option, one illustrative scenario that could be introduced. In fact, it was presented to the City Council and approved with great enthusiasm. This meant that we could advance further and actually formulate an action plan, which was just recently approved, and we are now just about to start the production of this plan. This whole process is as much a result of the very clear and precise guidelines provided by the city as of our own efforts, so perhaps we have arrived at a kind of ultimate alliance for addressing the complexity of those projects, the kind of attitude that every party to the process needs to adopt.