by Didier Rebois, architect teacher (FR) General Secretary Europan Europe
The theme of this debate is linked to a series of sites that often appear in Europan and bear specific characteristics: in general, these sites are large monofunctional zones often designed in the first half or the beginning of the second half of the 20th century as enclaves, “islands” of buildings, separated from the urban fabric by high-speed transport systems that cut them off and limit their access.
These sites might be wastelands that are partially or totally already out-of-date. They can beeither industrial in origin, just like the sites in Urretxu (ES), Marly (CH), Groningen (NL) or Kaiserslautern (DE). These large enclaves nowadays offer great potentialities for the development of the cities, but they also encounter major difficulties of reconversion because of their structure, not only their typology, but also their position in town, most of the time separated by major road networks. They are nevertheless being overtaken by the city around them and their revitalisation is therefore on the agenda.
But these might also be zones that are still active and represent a sort of “fortress island”; the site in Helsinki (FI) for example –a hospital in the nature, right the city centre– is an essentially monofunctional and insular structure of a very homogeneous shape.
How could these territories –that were once designed in a functionalist logic of zoning and specialized spaces – be nowadays re-inserted in a more urban and sustainable logic, i.e. a more compact city that spends less resources and turn towards nature? This main question that was aksed on these sites considered different scales, introducing the notion of time. The uses had to be considered – how to go from monofunctionality to a plurality of uses, and which method and temporality to adopt? Some cities also cannot afford an immediate general transformation and the question of the mutation process is essential for those districts.
A Europan 12 thematic family gathered this type of sites: how to transform a large single entity into a multitude of small elements? How can a monofunctional zone evolve to a mix of functions and uses? The idea is that a compound system of differentiated and smaller elements is relatively more flexible and capable of adaptation in time, whereas big urban machines –whether industrial or institutional– do not have the same flexibility. And as we have to keep them in the perspective of evolution in time, if one element breaks down it can wait for a change or replacement without affecting the whole area – multiplicity often allows partial evolution without starting a modification of the whole.
Four attitudes emerge from the teams that were rewarded on those sites.
A first set of projects preserves a large part of the area, injecting a new process of functional mixity in time. This process is called upcycling, and not recycling: instead of re-introducing what is kept into a new production cycle, they keep and recover the structure and elements and give them a new value – “re-introduce meaning re-using what is already there.”
At Urretxu (ES) the municipality wants to convert a plant that remains a strong mark in the memory of the place and re-use the empty buildings. The winning project “Piztutako Irimo” preserves the plant a maximum and introduces a new process through four relatively modest attitudes to allow mutation in time and transform the site into urban territory. They first open up the existing spaces to allow flexible uses; they then inject new services into the fabric, micro-scales to accommodate a wide range of uses; and finally some parts of the built structure are invaded by new additions that respect the specificities of the place and follow the progressive mutations of the existing. There is therefore no question here of a radical spatial upheaval, but a reinforcement of the value of what is already there by a targeted acupuncture.
At Kaiserslautern (DE) a large, closed industrial enclave is nowadays surrounded by the town and the university in particular. The Dutch winning team, “Pattern for Progress”, proposes to start from the structure and reinvest it: first create permeability and divide the struture so that it can absorb different initiatives that are not planified, yet in negotiation with the future inhabitants to let them free to fashion their own environment. What makes the difference is that although the structure is preserved at first it is gradually substituted until the end of the process.
The idea is here to “excavate” new urban axes within the thickness of the sites. At Heidelberg (DE) large barracks of almost 200 ha constitute a sort of obstacle closed by walls and difficult to cross, and this enclave is a major planning issue for the town. The German winning project “Startband” proposes to start with the creation of a strong new north-south axis within the structure of the barracks, with the qualities of open linear spaces reminding of a rambla. The military district will progressively evolve around this founding element and let projects emerge without prior planification, changing parts, densifying others, creating links between the ancient and the modern and finally offering a multiplicity of spaces and uses.
At Helsinki (FI) the hospital is a large monolithic entity in a park in the city center. The Finnish winning project "Asclepeion" proposes a new street at the centre of the hospital zone to give urbanity to a series of separated buildings, adding evolving mixed-uses: housing for elderly people, with medical care, space for mentally disabled…
Certain industrial structures result from the addition of a series of buildings that are not necessarily linked, therefore creating empty in-between spaces. In this case, the reflection can focus on the interstitial spaces, requalify them and make them partially public, creating multiple access and porosity within the structure that allow better connection with the surrounding spaces and re-using them.
The site of Siemensäcker in Wien (AT) used to be a sort of Siemens-City, with industrial buildings partially transformed into research buildings, industrial relics, vacant spaces and spatial hybridity interesting to conquer. The “Urban Software” project by the Spanish runner-up proposes different contextual strategies starting from the micro and creating porosities.
This attitude –close to the theme of Ecorhythms– focuses on nature to start a new urban process on those large territories.
The site in Graz (AT) is a marginal and isolated area between the railway, peripheral housing districts, semi-industrial zones and wasteland; a district therefore not presenting a lot of attractivity besides its accessibility. Although not exactly a large monofunctional entity, it lies in a post-industrial atmosphere linked to the railway and the city wants to turn this wasteland into a smart-city district. The Slovenian runner-up “Polyrythmic fields” approaches the site with hybridization between new buildings and “artificial” nature, re-creating planted typologies and with an idea of “green buildings”.
STARTING AN URBAN CYCLE BY CREATING A PRODUCTIVE LANDSCAPE
How to leave the enclavement and isolation of a monofunctional zone behind with a first founding action as a new transitory strategy calling on nature? It is all about focusing on the short term – changing the image of a closed territory opening it to its surroundings and preparing a long-term process with a starter.
The site in Groningen (NL) is an industrial zone that the city sees as a strategic reserve for development although the crisis prevented them from financing a masterplan from which to start a new district. The winning team “Prelude” was precisely interested in a starter strategy giving priority to a process to decenclave the district. They proposed the creation of a bridge across the canal linking the site where the plants had already been demolished to give the inhabitants accessibility to this large territory: the inhabitants could then have a walk there and change their vision of the site and the canal, which used to be an obstacle and now can be crossed thanks to the bridge. To make it attractive, the team developed a specific landscape approach, planting the whole territory with Miscanthus, a plant to be haversted and with which to make green concrete. Some months after the competition, a temporary bridge was implemented and will be replaced in time with a bridge made of green concrete. Time is therefore introduced in the project although not in the long-term.
Implementation Processes From Previous Sessions
POIO (ES), EUROPAN 9
The site is located outside the town of Pontevedra in Galicia; it is a rural site with great real estate pressure and for which a plan was designed –the Plan general de ordenación municipal– but could not be implemented due to its complexity.
We started the competition phase by reading and analyzing the territory to find a consistant working base that starts from the territory and the traces left by the occupation of the site. The strategy was to find a matrix, something that would be recognizable and could generate a coherent positioning with the existing elements on-site. This is how we acknowledged the existence of a truly rural structure characteristic of the zone, with scattered occupation yet with a certain recognizable coherence too. The whole project is generated from this matrix and produces the whole road network, the new public spaces, the circulation and finally, the architecture. In the end, our idea was to cross two realities: a rural one, which was part of the site and gave it its identity; and a new urban one capable of generating or maintaining social relations on-site.
After the competition, the clients –the municipality of Poio and the Galician Institute Housing and Soils– asked us to develop the project, essentially in two phases. We first had to change the existing rule approved by Poio’s Plan general de ordenación municipal presenting a system of closed blocks without connection to the surroundings; and we had to consider a way to mix this desire for a certain –almost urban– density with the rural undeveloped reality on the background. So we had to try to produce a larger environment that creates links and, in a certain way, gives meaning to the project.
The proposal maintained the competition strategy but it was densified a little bit and, in a certain way, it was designed from elements that we considered as more important: the matrix that was first created, with the road network, the pedestrian system and the free public spaces, and the system of green spaces that we proposed to use as vegetable gardens. After discussions, the municipality kept our proposals, which was very good news for us. The project was so specific that there was no ruling allowing to implement the buildings or the vegetable gardens, so that we were starting from zero and had to define almost everything, especially specific rules on vegetable gardens and the new green spaces management system.
We also had to stick to the Land Law and housing standards although we were dealing with a specific urban plan. In the end, we had to define a road giving access to the centre of the polygon and maintain the pedestrian network on a smaller, closer scale that favours the existing social relations on-site. We wanted to create a transition between the less built and less densified zone to the more densified one on the south. We also had to define a whole new system for the buildings and the architecture from the Galician housing standards because in the competition phase, we were proposing taller buildings –some taller, some less– to open up for more density. Finally, we proposed to transfrom the car-friendly open spaces into a car-free district where people can walk and have a permeable relation to the environmant and the rural complexity of the open landscape.
In the end, I think we were able to maintain the most important principles of the competition phase and this is what the site needed. The punctual modification of the general plan is now under public consultation and then the second part will start, with the development of the urban planning project.
WIEN (AT), EUROPAN 10
What we proposed at the beginning of this project in Wien (AT) was a tissue with a theory to build a support, a structure of gardens, which should create a regular grid on this site. But the structure actually presented huge irregularities, so we wanted to allow building around the gardens to be able to have a huge range of possibilities and to open it up to many actors. We proposed a very homogeneous reading with a couple of irregularities, protected building, and they asked for a school.
When we came to Wien after the competition, the city told us we had to more than double the density of the competition. Most of the time, it is quite difficult to double the density of a project; so we had a crisis meeting in the office and we tested the limits of this system to overload it with more buildings, and then at one point we saw that we also needed to change the system a little bit. And we proposed buildings that go out of the system –without a garden– and that would be a little bit bigger, and this would increase the density. This has in fact been the policy of the city of Wien for the last 10 years – density as well as ecological values. You cannot keep on doing cities with 0,35 –that is the surroundings of Madrid for instance– in which there is a huge expand in infrastructure, in energy and so on; so we had to reach the magic number of density 1 –one built square meter per ground square meter–, which meant we needed around 100,000 sqm. Again, we went through workshops, we enriched the project, and we are really proud of what we got as a final proposal… We said that we “transformed the white rice into a paella”.
We mainly developed the process around three topics.
The SUPPORT – The whole area was surrounded by small allotment gardens full of garden norms. We liked that very much and we took that scale just to realize that our really thin buildings surrounding a garden proved to be inefficient: you cannot do a whole neighbourhood with buildings 6 meters wide, so we had to rethink the whole thing. And in the end we came up with a more complex system with two typologies: the original garden was too big for one-family houses and too small for a group of 10 houses, so we did two sizes of garden. And we kept big buildings without a garden, which are useful to give a use to all the in-between space.
The TYPES – At the beginning we had only “small houses”, one to six units in each building. We then began to think in sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL. So we could change from an initial project, which wanted an extreme diversity only out of the process, and induce diversity –we have a process in each of those types. This question always remained since the competition: who build which of those types? We are interested in having different inhabitants, but the very important thing is that we want to have different producers of the city. We do not want just one person to build the whole thing, we would really like to leave place for cooperatives, even for independents, to be able to produce here, to build, to assign, and also to make some money out of this investment.
The COMMONS – There was a huge amount of in-between spaces and it became one of the most important identity issues in the development of the process. This was again a little bit a naive reflexion to imagine living a park and considering all the in-between as a park. The drawings were very nice, but the concept was a little bit naïve. And then we went to a very nuanced situation of different free spaces, we discovered this interesting concept we use a lot of the commons – this communal land that can be appropriated and needs a management structure, where you have private gardens but also surfaces for infrastructure. Those in-between spaces become nuanced and they displaced this situation between the private and the public.
At last the process also began in a little bit of a naïve way, it was a very nice idea to imagine making the build ability interchangeable –like in Manhattan: you can buy land or you can buy built square meter. The process would have been like mushrooms that grow in a field wherever they want, whenever they want. That was one of the most criticized things by the client in the beginning and we were asked to think in terms of process: who begins to build there? Who pays for the first street?
Actually, we were thinking of an urban process on a relatively big scale –10 ha–, and our client said: “That could be very nice, but we are going to build this at once; so we have the money or we will have the investors to build this at once, so let’s not make a fake process”, and the process thinking went a little bit further into the actors scenario rather than in thinking that it might grow over time. If it starts in 2016 it will already be almost ready in a couple of years. So we focussed on the process of typologies, that supposes a division of potential stages through the infrastructure, which is the one that tells you in the end which stage has to come first and which one after.
Volkmar Pamer, Urban Developer, Wien (AT)
Implementing this type of project is always quite a challenge: first because to put this into a legal framework, you need to try to keep the spirit of the project; on the other hand, we have to present this to the public, to the neighbours, and this is the main problem we have had throughout urban planning projects in Wien or anywhere else in the world, as you always have citizens initiatives against anything or everything. Here we had one very soon, but fortunately people and the representatives of the allotment gardens were not opposing the project and there was a discussion and we presented the project to the public, and the discussions were fruitfull. And at the very end we said: “Ok, we have to change the project in some ways, but not in the way that the whole project and the spirit of the project is killed”. Lucky enough we had a very good interaction with our friends and colleagues in Spain, and they perfectly adapted the plan to the questions and concerns of the neighbouring people. And so, as you can see the red dots are the things we had to change, we shifted some buildings and the supermarket, and changed the porosity a little bit as well as the parking spaces and so on. And finally, we had something that –I would say– most of the people accepted; there are still citizens initiatives, but they have declined dramatically, and the one that promoted everything against this project is now in a very bad situation. I think we can put this through and it will hopefully be approved by the City Council in the next few months.
Something I also have to mention is that density is one thing that we had to increase. We wanted to have a high density because it is easier to provide affordable housing for people. And another thing that was also quite important to promote the project was that we could not make any promotion on the working title “Virus Disease Research Center”, so we had to change it and to make it a nice title – it is now the name of well-known scientist. In fact, the project was granted the Holcim award a couple of weeks ago, and I think that the city of Wien can be really proud to have this project.
Didier Rebois, Architect, Secretary General Europan Europe (FR)
These two projects, although quite different in terms of architecture, have some interesting similarities regarding the theme of Multi-Mix, especially on the “multi” aspect because both try to find a much smaller unity even though more density was required between the competition project and the implementation one.
And if the projects changed within constraints or precise local parameter, they did it from an original plan that was some kind of a vision referring to a new way of living in a residential district, integrating built items of more fragmented scales, finding spaces for the inhabitants to appropriate, and considering the notion of public space.
Both projects also ask the question of the process: rule Vs. negotiation. In Poio (ES) the process from competition to implementation had to integrate a whole set of regulations, whether urban or housing, etc. In Wien (AT), the negotiated process goes through a lot of different actors, almot too many! You did not mention the actors in Poio (ES), although we assume you had to discuss with different actors on the basis of the idea; in Wien (AT), the client agreed with the idea, but you had to negotiate with the inhabitants and involve them in the implementation, so the projects evolved thoroughly, yet trying not to betray the original idea.
The process was very long and there were mainly 2 actors: the municipality of Poio and the Galician Institue Housing and Soils. There were major negotiation times with the municipality because they are the ones that will have to deal with the area and the whole planning. For the first two years approximately, the municipality of Poio had a great influence because they were busy dealing with the setting of the new free spaces we proposed and the topic of the new green spaces. We discussed these issues a lot and in the end, all the time spent in discussion was actually quite good for the process, because it gave the municipality time to put themselves into the project and they realized our proposal made sense. They also asked important questions, for example on the issue of the vegetable gardens –what if it doesn’t work out?– or on the flexibility of the space uses. In the end we proposed a rule clarifying how to use the areas and what to do in the last resort if it does not work –make gardens or integrate a new and different use. All these issues were discussed together, I think we reached an agreement and the municipality answered very positively on the final planning approved.
There is a difference between the competition and the process afterwards. I would like to tell especially to the representatives of municipalities and also to the architects that when you do a competition, you should not do a project, you should really bring an idea through. I think it is really good if you reduce some layers of complexity in order to intensify others. The problem is when you believe that it is a project and you deal with a city. If you are doing a little house maybe you can completely define what you want, but when you treat such a complex organism as a city, you can just bring an idea, which will begin a process. You have to repeat that to yourself every morning in front of the mirror. This was always in our mind.
I am very skeptical about what is called participation or workshops to legitimize political processes through involvement of people who are just informed or let them play with colours, papers and so on. Our project tried to always be very participative in itself, it means: “We let the people have an influence in the”; we did it and we changed many things. For us it is very important that the project itself is opened to the participation of a broad amount of people in the production; that is the place where nobody usually allows people already in the investments, at least in the cities I know in Europe, it always goes to bigger and bigger slides, in Spain if you are not a big company, you cannot build almost because you cannot get plots to build 200 housing units; that is why we wanted to open.
Volkmar Pamer, Urban Developer, Wien (AT)
I would call this a participation process as much as an information process for the neighbourhood, to inform the people and reduce the concerns because, if the concerns are too important, then probably the problems become too big and prevent from implementing the project, so it is more information and reducing the concerns and not participation process.
Trying to find common attitudes in your projects and also in the Europan 12 projects, in many cases you are dealing with the notion of “Multi-Mix” creating flexible systems that –as you show– are very useful, but you are also working with the notion of porosity at three levels: at the political level, as you showed and in Wien (AT) especially, with the porosity between one actor and the other groups of actors; at the social level, creating the feeling of the community; but the third level is a very physical level, and it was in both cases –including the backbone of the process– the layer of public space.
Didier Rebois, Architect, Secretary General Europan Europe (FR)
This last topic is very important: “How to integrate public space in residential district?” because we very often have experiences with the concept of “open islands” for example: it means that there is porosity, it is a very interesting goal, but very often either the clients or the inhabitants want the spaces to be closed: they agree for a public street but not for the in-between fragmented space. So how do you deal with that?
It became a central issue in our project. In the competition, it was an issue, yet more general, and the question was: “What is in-between?” That was the big question and actually we managed to break a wrong dualism and in your question it is implicit and I think in our all European –let’s say post-capitalist– minds it is a prejudice to divide the world into public and private. So this is quite a new structure. Thomas Moor wonders about the fencing of whole England in the 16th century, so not many centuries ago, the usual structure of land was the commons and then, there were also private enclaves and public enclaves, but the common is really a concept we have to work on and recover. We tried to use it here and to change this kind of in-betweens for the commons. I think that the concept of porosity is very important, I don’t want to sound populistic but we cannot build cities for humans only. I was very proud to find out that our project allows the existing ecosystem there, with valuable and protected insects, little hamsters and so on. It allows them to live there and it perfectly respects their continuity. If you go to India there are highly contaminated cities, but they are extremely respectful, you cross any road and you may meet 15 different animal species. Try to count how many animal species you can find in our European cities. I think this is an issue, which in the Western world is not yet completely solved and we have to make footprints that are worldly, in a most literal way, really porous and allow the existing ecosystems to survive.
Volkmar Pamer, Urban Developer, Wien (AT)
During a plan, you think about public space, semipublic space and private spaces, but a plan itself is not the reality so far and the fact that in France they fenced the private and semi-private places, well it would be the same in Wien, so we try to work against that, because a zoning plan can never have all the intentions you have during the planning process. But we want to have and we do have a quality management afterwards: all the relevant stakeholders are watching and controlling the implementation process. And the investor has to sign a letter of intent for the qualities to be implemented. And afterwards we control that it is done. So there is a permanent interaction and discussion until the time when the people move into the apartments and further; so after two or three years, when people are living, then it turns out that something works or not, and then people start to fence the areas that had not been fenced before, which contradicts the idea of porosity. So we had a project in Wien where we had those problems: we thought of a porous quarter and afterwards they started with “we want the fences, we don’t want to have people in there”, so we had to fight pretty hard and to convince the people that this is against the spirit of the project. So in this stage we can have the idea, but the implementation afterwards is crucial, and you always have to watch after it and to discuss about that.
The issue of public/private in Poio was really a challenge for us because there were two major moments: the first would be the use of green spaces as vegetable gardens; and the other, the desire to make the area as free from building as possible to allow the desired porosity on the site. Private property should be reduced to the sole buildings, event though it could not be as such on the legal point of view. So we defined the built perimeter crossing a bit the private space with the public one, mainly on the ground level; when you walk, you should not feel that you are either on a private or public property. This is what we tried to do from the beginning.
Furthermore –and to illustrate how mentalities can change– we were told during the first meeting with the municipality that vegetable gardens were a very good idea, although it could not be implement that way and there would be some gardens and that was it. We did not agree on that and wanted to fight for the vegetable gardens because we believed in those spaces. After two years, the municipality confirmed she wanted vegetable gardens based on the system we were proposing. I think that in the end it is good to feel mentalities changes and we all agree in the end, this is very positive.
Socrates Stratis, Architect, Teacher (CY), Scientific Council
I was member of the jury in Austria when Luis Basabe and his team won, and I think what is very important and that we realize more and more is that this issue of commons is a dynamic process and the negotiated project in fact goes on forever, even after the winners of Europan end up with their role. But did you find any way in the very rich kind of practices of the Wien municipality that allowed you to change your ideas –which were not so naive at the beginning, they were really tacticful– in order to win the project?
The process induced the concept. We used it in another Europan project. And then we found a very good example of how this works especially in the agricultural structure of the Austrian Alpine world, with land that is used not by ownership but by a kind of membership; so you belong to a community, and they are normally linked to the municipality, and therefore you are allowed to use it. It was a very enriching thing we learnt in the discussion and we were able to implement it somehow as an idea. Then the big problem is that legal structures are made in terms of property –I think it is the deepest structure of the contemporary urbanity and to break that or enrich it was not easy. People are very open in Wien and I suggest to export this tool from Wien: you cannot do everything just with the planning. And then there are these quality management regulations and agreements, which have to be signed by the client, so there are private contracts, but they are really binding rules, which allow you to work with other things that are not just the planning laws. And planning in a more integral way opened a lot of doors, more than just defining the physical borders.
Volkmar Pamer, Urban Developer, Wien (AT)
The letter of intent we mentioned earlier is not an illegal tool, it is more a moral tool, it is something that we sign and we stick to. But if they probably sell the property and the next one is not interested in this letter of intent and says they can’t do anything, well we will probably put pressure on it, but it is not an illegal tool.
Europan 12 Implementation Processes
HANINGE (SE), EUROPAN 12
Christian Scott Rasmusson and Björn Ingridsson, Architects (SE) – Winner, “Parklife”
Haninge is a suburb right outside Stockholm, the commuting distance is about 30 minutes from the city center, this a quite common site for the modernist planning, with a double road that runs through this municipality and which used to be essential in transporting people. Now it has been rerouted around, so this function is as essential not anymore as it used to.
Quite early, we decided to use a strategy that may be not as common in neo-urban planning, that you embrace the car and the structure of it, and the parking, that is sort of a vast unused landscape today. The first situation is a road that does not communicate either to the right or to the left; the next one is a sort of utopical picture of how the streetscape could be activated with parking and housing. Our vision about a vibrant city uses the old domains of this parking landscape in order to activate some urbanity on top of it.
The city is a bit less than 100,000 inhabitants, but it is still quite a big society in Stockholm, it has a lot of services, but it is planned quite scatteredly. So we thought of making a software that bakes this together to make it all more flexible and to have the surface around them. So we thought we should take these functions, mix them a little bit and make a very flexible masterplan. A masterplan that is not very designed: it is open and if something happens you can still rearrange it. But we need to give some rules in order to create the sort of community we want to have. But we are not interested in the design of particular buildings or specifics in it.
The rules of buildings are the main part of our project. it works a bit like a suduko game: you start on one side and then the planning develops, but somebody has to start. The first thing is the exploitation: each square contains a few numbers –that can be maximum 20 in our rules. If you build one building that is 9, then that determines the height of the next one, and the next one and so on and so forth. This will regulate some variations. The second one is also about the size of the plots: that is I would not say problematic but challenging sometimes in Sweden when you have quite big actors that buy a lot of the plots and they can hold on to it for a long time; small actors cannot wait for some of the planning processes, so we thought of making the plots a little bit smaller in order to find a variety of stakeholders to implement and to develop this land. A third one is just planning rules for accessibility: you need a few meters behind the buildings. But this can move in conjunction to each other: so if one moves one meter, then the other one has to move in correlation to the first one. So this is implied to the general masterplan, but it cannot be developed at the first stage, it needs to take place in a process. The fourth rule is give and take: We did this matrix but we said that in order for the small stakeholders to invest and develop, we can only build two houses together.
The first element is the properties; the second one is the heights and how the variation of housing heights can be developed; the third one is just one possible outcome of this. We want to insert small squares to get an identity so that it could be sports, a café, some sort of urban situation… The main thing is that you mix economy in everything, so that everything should be in a 24/7 environnement, and to be able to get that we need to mix uses, which can be seen in the sections: parking, shopping, housing. We worked both two-dimensional and three-dimensional.
We use the old premises as boundaries and we connect them to the urban fabric that we build on top of it. Because there needs to be a link between them, so we thought of maybe having the big departements –maybe a commercial store– at the bottom, and then at the small local scale the top, a corresponding showroom. The links could be an elevator for the people living in the building, a transport elevator for commercial business, but at least it needs to reflect what is going on at the street and on the top level.
We do not want to teach people how to live, we want them to live as they want. Of course the competition project is a little bit utopian, so now we try to implement it. We worked with the municipality, with the strategies for the masterplan on one area, and after this, we talked with the different owners and all stakeholders of the sites, which for most of them are private. And then there is the plot: all the houses are owned by one community of stakeholders, and how we tried to address them and show them what they will gain, both economically, social, parking, etc. This is the communication. Next step for us is to talk with developers and contractors –we actually have a few of them, and we try to address the stakeholders, the owners, to get this go further.
HELSINKI (FI), EUROPAN 12
Jonna Taegen, Architect (FI) – Winner, “Asclepeion”
The site is located in the city centre of Helsinki, it consists of two hospital areas: one part was a tuberculosis hospital and the other a psychiatric hospital, and both have been fenced, so it was an isolated part of the city structure. The theme of the project was to change the mono-large function to a multi-mix one, and in our case we interpreted that the mono-function of the hospital is turned to a wellness park with different functions: housing, services, rehabilitation, green areas and healthcare.
Our main idea was to make a clear access from this main road to the hospital. Starting from the original hospital form the 1920’s, we continue the same structure to the main road. This is a kind of a platform, or like a game that you can put parts into this structure or you can keep parts away, but all the functions are close to these axis. We have some healthcare functions and then it is turning to housing and senior city and so on. The same structure is also on the other side, on the psychiatric hospital side, that might turn to housing area in future. This structure also functions in healthcare services, as well as in housing and apartments. Between the two hospital areas, continuing from the city center up to the northern part of Helsinki, it is a very important recreation and green area for the citizens in the future. Next to the main acces, we create connections between the two areas, spaces and places between the buildings, car-free areas with parking under the new buildings. The aim is to open those public spaces to pedestrians.
Jarmo Raveala, Architect SAFA, Head of project planning, Helsinki (FI)
I am representing the owner department of the city of Helsinki and I am very grateful to Europan because I was a winner in Europan 3, runner-up in Europan 4, and I had an implementation built… and finally I am here as a client.
The whole area and situation is very complex one from a lot of viewpoints and stakeholders. The old structure is very stiff and using every square meter of both hospital areas, and it is not flexible nor effective. Our goal is to get a flexible solution that allows shifting functions from one side to the other and even to open up the area for different forms of housing. We want to tear down the walls and open the area which has been closed for generations. We want to recognize the critical points, the limitations, and create drivers that would engage all the actors and stakeholders into a positive mode for the project in order to get a win-win situation.
But there are the users: on one side, “the hardware”, the ones that produce the services; and on other side, the people who uses the services, you could say “the software”. In a way as it was said before, I am the greedy client, but we nevertheless have to think about the money because we cannot realize the project without it. For the next coming five years we have about 70 million euros programmed, and without the competition, we would just have repaired the buildings as they are; but now with the competition we want to consider how to use the money more wisely and it seems that we of course can do that. The site has some historical values, with the wall around the area, which closed it for generations, or the middle park between the areas, which was built before World War II and used in the Olympic Games for horse riding. And then the latest addition, which is the bicycle bridge over this riding area.
But it was finally decided last week to go to bigger units in healthcare, which means that we will have one of the very few larger healthcare stations, between 15 to 20,000 sqm and altogether we have about 100,000, so lots of square meters left for housing unfortunately.
The town planning office and the traffic planning office are negotiating with us about creating a new road and bus stops, with bicycle routes network through the central park. The main problem is that the owner of the land, the city and the owner of the buildings are different. Although this is the same city of Helsinki, it is still very complex and we have many stakeholders; the political process is very complex, so we will have a lot of steps. And we decided to use Europan as a tool to engage all the stakeholders to the project, to get this positive mode. We started with a kick-off seminar in which we did not have the politicians yet, we only had the departments of the city and the clients, and we managed to create a very positive start for the project. We have already identified “absolute” and flexible factors. For example the building protection: the building protectors authority seems to think that it is an absolute value that cannot be negotiated, and we are trying to get them to a more flexible mode and it seems that we succeeded. And then we will go further to a preliminary masterplan and to the real project and try to prioritize which are the first starter projects. We already know that we will start with the healthcare station. I think that this will take more than five years. For instance, this huge building is supposed to be demolished because it is in very bad conditions and I think it useless to restore it. Our idea was first to have the healthcare station here, but now we are thinking about shifting it to the public, and this solution allows it.
ALMADA - PORTO BRANDÃO (PT), EUROPAN 12
David Vecchi, Architect (IT) – Winner, “Porto Novo”
In Dante’s “Purgatory”, there is a thought that summers up our argument for the competition and that could briefly be translated as such: “The more we are to say “ours”, so much more each of us possesses.”
We looked up for Porto Brandão’s most typical, characteristic aspects to turn them into development factors guaranteeing the identity of the place. Porto Brandão is divided into a lower part, the historical village with white-façade houses and the informal district of Lazareto that is now home for illegal citizens; and a higher part, which is more important, with an industrial zone with fuel silos. In the 1930’s neither the informal district nor the silos existed of course and the place was full of fields of trees and grapes. The informal district –illegally built– and the industrial silos completely corrupted the unicity of the place.
We proposed to improve communication with the place by creating passages and connections –road, pedestrian, shipping…– following the natural inclination of the territory and through pragmatical choices of simple implementations and minimal interventions. In this way, we put forward the reintroduction of vineyards on this territory with a strong wine tradition to improve the local economy and extend agriculture to the surroundings in order to produce a sort of agricultural system, with a management cooperative for the whole.
Nevertheless, taking the silos away from the plateau would cost much more than leaving them there. On the other hand, we participated there to a conference on viticulture with many specialists and local poducers to study the feasibility of the project and the way this culture became part of the identity of the place. We wanted to link the Lazareto to the existing city because this informal district actually more or less follows the caracteristics of the town, even if today it is much more different.
The former building of the Lazareto could host the Faculty of Biology. The vineyards would act as landmarks and a sign of identity, but would also facilitate communication with Lisbon because Almada’s Faculty is located at the end of the main road axis, through the new hexagonal harbour, close to which we integrated student residences. And everything we planned around –the amphitheatre, the Faculty of Biology, the vineyards– should ensure the general improvement of Porto Brandão’s current conditions, which is nowadays almost deserted in its central part.
Pedro Brandão, Secretary Europan Portugal (PT)
The Almada municipality is in fact a good client of Europan: it is the second time that it has been in the competition, and from the first time there were commissions that came out of the competition for the winning teams. And again the contributions of the E12 winning teams are very highly envisioned by the municipality. They had the initiative to make a workshop with the winner, the runner-up and the special mention. Those three teams were doing an exercise on immediate possibility of intervention on this territory. It is out of the site of the competition, on the university campus, one mile away from the river. How to create an entrance to the campus? The university wants to make more of an urban place, nearer to public transportation, more pedestrian, friendlier with urban atmosphere. The university is a specific partner, that came only after the competition and it is now up to the municipality to decide to work together on this solution for the entrance of the university.
The municipality also considers doing something similar with the area close to the river, which is not ruled by the city but by the port authority. For all the oil tanks and port areas, the municipality can also make a partnership with the port authority and from that some other things could appear. The area where the winning team proposed wine plantations is now the property of a big developer fond; it is not one specific private individual, but a financial organization for development. They are unfortunately rather considering transforming the old building into a hotel and developing something touristic, but the municipality has not spoken to them about their potential interest in wine production.
The actual process after the competition is quite different from the brief that was in the competition. And because the municipality wants to work with the three teams, they asked Europan to be some kind of helper, or facilitator, to organize some tasks that can be done by one of these teams.
Didier Rebois, Architect, Secretary General Europan Europe (FR)
So we have here three situations –with the hospital as a “big machine” in Helsinki (FI), the shrinking village in need of new development in Porto Brandão (PT), and the commercial district in Haninge (SE)– and we realize that if we want to achieve Multi-Mix in those situations, we first have to thoroughly consider a mix of uses. And this can already be read in the competition briefs: the actors not only want new forms, but also a strategic programmatic reflection. From this request, we have to wonder what flexibility to give the participants in order to receive strategic answers in projects presenting this type of mixity.
Because in the different follow-up evolutions that have just been presented, the programs proposed by the teams will not necessarily be able to allow the changes to start on-site. So how could the opening of a programmatic reflection after competition be useful? How could those programmatic proposals be stimulating, even if they are partially adopted and have to go through negotiations with the actors?
In Haninge (SE), the winning project proposes rules rather than objects: if they of course present an idea for the morphology, they rather focus on rules allowing its generation in time withoug necessarily doing urban design, but giving flexibility to the different actors in time. So how to make this morphological reflection –to lead in parallel to a programmatic reflection– operational in reality? Because we have the feeling that those rules, once put into practice, were bit-by-bit put aside. For the implementation of their Europan 3 project in Zaanstad (NL), the winning team did not want to build everything on their own, so they hired other architects to implement an important operation in which the team set the rules and the morphology they wanted, yet giving the other architects room for manoeuvre.
In fact, those two levels of reflection –programmatic and morphological– are not as much contrary than complementary. In the Europan competition, and specifically around the theme of the Adaptable City, this thematic cross is quite strategic: it does not define the object, but rather the rules of the morphological game that will allow the project –and hence the uses– to evolve in time. But do the cities and clients see any interest in this?
Jarmo Raveala, Architect SAFA, Head of project planning (FI) – Helsinki (FI)
Our context is very complex with a bureaucratic background, where the departments are separated, they are like the states of America, very different… In this stage, this Europan way of thinking appeared to be a very useful tool, and when we come to the political decision making –which is even more complex– we cannot suggest one solution. We must have this undefined, a bit open, flexible system that allows the decisions makers to make their decisions. In this way they all engage in bringing this forward. I think that is the main reason we cannot have a traditional detailed program. For instance, there is a building that was initially proposed to keep in the competition but that we have just decided to demolish because it is in very bad conditions. Those kinds of things happen all the time along the process!
The healthcare reform in process in Finland is also a challenge and the program for the evolution of the hospital is quite open at the moment. And even if the main decisions are made, hopefully during this year, we tried to have this kind of solution that makes it possible to have both housing and healthcare services in the structure. This creates the possibility to have polyclinics or houses in the same zone. At the moment it still quite flexible because we do not have an exact program, we had some estimations in the Europan competition and we did the proposal based on those, but now during the next months the exact program will be more detailed, we will get the information of how much housing and healthcare functions the city wants to put on the area; it still quite flexible and opened.
I think to be able to have a long-term and adaptable city you need to address more things than there are in common; you have to address economic and social structures much more openly, in a way that allows changes all the time. The truth now might not be the truth in 50 years, so if you have a long-term adaptable city, you need to address all different stages of life and society. The main problem is of course if you propose a dense situation that would not be flexible on this specific point. But it is flexible in terms of adapting the Modern City to new ways of life.
Julio de la Fuente, Architect, Technical Committe (ES)
You of course have to deal with the context in every project, but in your case you have strong actors like the hospital, the owners of the shopping mall, and the port authority or university and I do not know if this group of actors will be an opportunity or a problem. How do you deal with this type of strong actor, which does not have the practise of adaptability?
I would say that the challenge is difficult because the different actors also have their own interests, which may not be the same.
Jarmo Raveala, Architect SAFA, Head of project planning (FI) – Helsinki (FI)
Yes, it is really challenging, but I am starting to think about the flexibility, and it is as if little by little we have to define what we fix of the solution. So it is a library structure and gradually parts of that become as this little part that we decided to demolish: that is a fixed solution and little by little we come to bigger and bigger parts that are fixed and then the flexible structure is in the end limited to the internal functions.
In our case, the strongest actor might surprisingly be the Building Protection inside the city Planning Department, and then the Healthcare Board. The Healthcare network of the city of Helsinki (FI) was a result of a big fight: the left side wanted to have a very scattered network which is very expensive according to the right side, and nobody could predict the result. And we are happy with the decision they made and this was just a small part of those steps that will go further.
The key for us right now is that the municipality is supposed to give us a kind of trust, towards the stakeholders or towards the developers. But in fact the situation is the contrary and we ourselves are involved in the search for investors! It is a big thing for us to have this over our shoulders. Now the shopping mall is owned by a group of big developers from France, called Grosvenor, and they need to know how to go forward. But our main problem right now is to find other investors and contractors in Sweden to address the developers. And even if this process is of course interesting, the challenge is to find our own role in it, even if we suggest this, we need to be in control by suggesting our partners; we need to develop a web of communication and of contacts.
Speaking about the morphology of this fractalized strategy, it corresponds to the entrepreneurs of Haninge, because Haninge is a sort of city on the border, it is close to Stockholm but it is not absolutely obvious that everyone wants to build there tomorrow. Haninge has a few local entrepreneurs that contact the planning office quite often to ask about the process, so the scale that we are using is sort of adapted to the size of the entrepreneurs. Therefore we think that it is quite a wide strategy to spread around after we leave the scene – it is like we decided of a theme, but the variations could be multiplied throughout the whole Haninge, not just on the competition site, because it is the scale of the entrepreneurs.
Pedro Brandão, Secretary Europan Portugal (PT)
About the reflexion on programmatic and strategic orientations, I remember that when we brought this site and saw how beautiful the place was, we discovered that very few people go there even if Lisbon is just on the other side of the river and there is a boat. In the past there were some restaurants and it was a kind of weekend place, but nowadays it is a place where only lovers go. Even if it could seem poetic that this abandoned area is mainly dedicated to lovers, there are some strategic options for the client and the municipality written on the brief of the competition as objectives, although they do not have the power on the whole territory: better connexions between the river and the university; better connexions to Lisbon; better connexions to the hills; access by car, to the road that do not exist to the hills on both sides; the informal quarter on the hill-side, which has a lot of problems –it is too dense and the fire car cannot get there, nor can the ambulance, so it is dangerous; etc., etc.
But the question is that, for those objectives, we could of course imagine some kind of a strategic plan, even without any rules yet, because we do not know the owners or the possible business that would appear there in the future. But we know that there are specific stakeholders that in fact were not involved in the competition; so nobody knows what their plans are. I have a list of ten relevant potential stakeholders, besides the university and the municipality, which were in the competition; there are also the port authority, the Fond that wants to develop tourism, the heritage as authority of the monuments, the boats company, the bus company taking people to the university, the population of course, the owners of some old buildings that could somehow be used, and also the metro line. Those are relevant for the option, so if the first task is to speak to them and see what their own plans are, it is already a good start to make an idea of a strategy. Because if we start to make an idea of a strategy as something abstract, this is going to be useless, and then I would prefer the lovers to go on coming there.
MARLY (CH), EUROPAN 12
Mircea Munteanu, Architect (RO) – Winner, “Le parc des falaises”
I represent the winning team on the site of Marly, together with Cristian Panaité. Marly is a small settlement just outside the city of Fribourg, which is a university city similar to Pavia in a way but with a different topography. The site is in front of barracks that used to host a factory just after the bridge in the early 1930’s. In a way this site is very strategic both for Marly as it is its entrance along the route de Fribourg, but also for Fribourg itself as this is a potential extension for the centre. The railway station is very close so there is a potential to shift from what Marly is today –a typical car-based suburb– to new modes of more sustainable development based on public transport – Marly will actually soon be reinforced with a new bus stop.
We looked for the main features of the site that are worth being valorized. The site is a plateau on top of a beautiful valley, but with porosity. In Switzerland it is not really a problem to have an open space left open, that is actually a valuable thing. We wanted to preserve this porosity, bring it onto the site and break it open introducing a new element that crosses it until the back of the site, which is a district that people might disregard or consider as of a lower quality, although in fact it does have a high quality, it just needs to be integrated in a more coherent way. So what we were looking for was really to bridge the gap between the route de Fribourg –which should became an urban boulevard– with more mixed functions towards the road. We will also have a technical school for logistics, which was not supposed to be a part of the site in the beginning.
After the competition we went to Marly, we discovered that the main actor in the phase of the competition was the Municipality, and that different private owners own the land. Different developers have tried to propose projects for the past ten years but the Municipality was never satisfied, and that is why the administration decided to participate to Europan, to somehow also to make it a positive step towards the development of the site. So we were requested to prepare a meeting with all the owners, to try to make a platform for discussion and see where this project could go. We made a model for the follow-up and luckily the different owners –especially the strategic ones– were positive about the project. We also had to densify the site, which is very close to the city and could really become a district that is does not so much depend on cars. Furthermore, after a couple of months we got in contact with one of the owners that surprisly was moving quite fast, he was starting to talk to the other ones, trying to see how to unify some parcels. But we thought that we had to discuss with the school, which is somehow a potential function that could participate much more in the scheme; the idea is that the park would become the aggregator for all the functions: in this way, it is not just a park in a traditional meaning of the green infrastructure with ecological issues, but rather a catalyser for all the functions, with of course a heavier gravity point in the station area. So we did a feasibility study for the school: how they could move closer to the station and how they would become part of a multi-mix uses buildings, and again this was successful and everybody agreed to do this. For us, the strong element for the project today is the open-space structure, with porosity and the park as an aggregator. And on top of this, there is the question of how to increase the density. What may be interesting here is that the park receives a couple of pockets of more specific programs, like a mineral square with a higher density of programs.
It has been quite an intensive six months process and we have the municipality and some of the owners supporting the project. But we are now somehow intending to expand the network of actors as the municipality has another project in parallel, and the Canton requires rethinking about the general plan of the municipality. The other issue is of course expanding the network of actors to the vicinity and to the Saint-Sacrement site, which has the potential to be part of this rhythm of more public functions –the school offices, the church and other public functions that could become a part of this axis.
BUDAPEST (HU), EUROPAN 12
Romain Granoux, Architecte (FR) – Winner, “Manual Towards a CLUMSY City”
The site in Budapest is a very interesting site of 6 kilometers long and that represent many different contexts. We proposed an urban planning manual to the competition, a toolbox with tools to make the city. This planning manual is addressed to institutions for classical projects on the long term, more expensive projects that have more impact on the city; but it also proposes to deal with short-term projects and is also therefore addressed to the inhabitants themselves, with projects that might be financed in a different way than usual and with alternative economies.
We created nine categories of tools with nine programmatic themes, all based on different scales to correspond to the actors, and following different temporalities. We tried to define one goal and one set of rules per tool, that allow to place it on a given territory and –in the case of more important tools– to call on traditional actors, investors and institutions.
But the question we may ask ourselves now is how to implement a concept during the current economic crisis, which is actually also a crisis of the democracy? This is the reason why we introduced tools for a smaller scale, which allow beginning an urban project from tomorrow on with, for example, mobile services, meetings around the project. Our team is convinced that the urban project begins with smaller things and above all with a dialogue. This is how we can implement a project on the long term and with ambition, yet with few resources. The inhabitants can begin to use these tools very quickly and without an important budget. Those smalle-scale projects come under Civic Economy; there are many local actors, associations and inhabitants, there is D.I.Y., self-financing, and with all this, we can set up a project.
Three examples to illustrate this: a local arts & crafts museum in England that allows people to work and sell the products directly; a very well-know bridge in the Netherlands that was mainly crowdfunded; and a small urban event in the South of France that was organised by the inhabitants and that already allows them to recentre their views on the district and the project’s future dynamic. But another question arises: how to stimulate the dialogue between the inhabitants, the actors, the investors and the representatives?
So our proposal was a process –how to implement an urban project–, it was this idea of an incremental project that begins from the smaller scale, that experiments things on-site and that tries to create a chain reaction to stimulate the people and recentre the energies, whichever those are.
What is, according to us, the role of the architect in this kind of project? It is first –after analysing the site and the needs, after a meeting with the inhabitants and understanding the local issues– to give the first impulse to a dynamic and a new glance on the site. The architect then also acts as a coordinator between the private investors and the public ones, what we call a Civic Economy and the inhabitants of the district. And finally, the architect makes sure of the overall cohesion and tries to ensure confidence, because we now realise that in many experimental citizen projects there is actually not much confidence between the inhabitants, the representatives and the architects; we actually consider this issue as the key that the architect has to keep.
Didier Rebois, Architect, Secretary General Europan Europe (FR)
The last two projects have extremely opposite directions, although there can be some connections: on the one hand, the idea is to work on a large unifying public space and on the other hand, it is a bit the contraty, the approach of the city is focused on elements –most of the time programmatic elements– that will appear according to contextual logics, not physical contexts but rather contexts of actors, of requests, financing, economical parameters, etc.
For Marly, as the site is in Switzerland, there is still a little bit of money… But a more general question is to know whether it is stragical today to begin with a large public space that will become the element on which the programs will turn. But I wanted to ask the opposite question to the team in Budapest: is the city just a series of programmatic platforms and doesn’t public space dissapear from your project?
The fact that the client has been trying for ten years to make a project on this site and that it never worked out motivated the town to look for a real promising project in terms of space to integrate it into the local landscape. So they did not want to chose a too generic project, but rather have concrete ideas to begin with. Still, the realities of public space in Switzerland nowadays are different from the ones in Barcelona or Madrid; people have different public lifestyles, you could not consider implementing a rambla because public space is not used the same way, because the density of population is just not the same as in large cities of southern Europe. It was for us a good exercise to understand how the Swiss public space and buildings work, and why for example so much flexibility and adaptability is asked for in Europe when in Switzerland there has been since the last century a sort of continuity in the architectural language and the way to design public space. They have principles and there is not so much adaptability, but they are strong in creating heritage. In Switzerland, they are still looking for architects to design the projects, not to design their use at first, this comes later on, as layers, as multifunctionalities that gradually come on top of each other.
Rodolphe Luscher, Président Europan Suisse (CH)
What attracted the jury’s attention in this project was the open space that the authors called “park” and that met the underlying idea of extending the existing. But there was another problem we mentioned and the architects worked on during a second step: the density was too low – it was of 0.6 for the competition and it was clear that it should be increased to compensate for the park. The first version of the re-designed project presented a density of 1.2 / 1.3 and everyone was happy with it. Now, in the latest version, the density is of 1.7. Of course the owner is happier with this, but it also means you had to work under pressure and I think that at one moment, you have to be able to say stop. Before, the park was limited by a very clear strip and the rest was not the park; it was the outside of the park, it was housing, private or semi-private, it was the improvement of what was built in relation to nature. But you have to say that to the client and mention all this space around that will never be a park because they cannot afford it, it will just be plantations or parkings lots. And you can already see it behind: if you just look at what is built, there is only sort of a park in the middle and the rest is just grass and emptiness of which nobody knows what to do. You have to keep in mind what makes the quality of the project: a built strip with houses, then a park strip in the middle, and then another strip for densification / housing / neighbourhood relationships and others.
We completely take on the generic character of our manual. Nevertheless, the tools we propose are absolutely adapted to the site and there are tools that are extremely specific to it. For example, there are high electric pylons every 200 m. on the 6 kilometre of the site; those pylons create the identity of the place and we use them as tools and transform them into observatories. Thoses tools are for us absolutely contextual and they become even more contextual –despite their slightly generic character– when applied on-site and hybridized with the existing.
We did not put aside the issue of the public space, but we rather considered it as something resulting from a succession of tools. There is one tool for example that focuses on the tramway installations: we proposed to amplify the tramway stops so that they become large urban pavilions where things happen and integrate functions which are a little bit different. For us, this is the way public space is built, at least on this site, that is to say as the result of the multiplication of this network of tools. Then, there are also tools reserved to institutions, tools we place in the “Landscape” category and also participate to the creation of a public space that makes sense for us and creates coherence.