The Bijlmermeer neighbourhood, which today houses almost 100,000 people of over 150 nationalities, was designed as a single project. The original neighbourhood was designed as a series of nearly identical high-rise buildings laid out in a hexagonal grid. The apartments were meant to attract a suburban set, rather like condominium housing. The buildings have several features that distinguish them from traditional Dutch high-rise flats, such as tubular walkways connecting the flats and garages. The blocks are separated by large green areas planted with grass and trees. Each flat has its own garage where cars can be parked.
The Bijlmer was designed with two levels of traffic. Cars drive on the top level, the decks of which fly over the lower level’s pedestrian avenues and bicycle paths. This separation of fast and slow moving traffic is beneficial to traffic safety. However, in recent years, the roads are once again being flattened, so pedestrians, cycles and cars travel alongside each other. This is a move to lessen the effects of the ‘inhuman’ scale of some of the Bijlmer’s designs. It is felt a direct line of sight will also improve safety from muggers.
If I am allowed the privilege of a metaphor, it may point out one of the problems we all face as architects.
- An artist who carries out a predetermined plan or formula is never considered a true artist but merely a draughtsman. The artist must be prepared to relinquish his initial ideas to those demands that call out from the relationships that begin to establish themselves in a work. Deference is as importance as will in the creative act.
- It is precisely this art that has been lost in the making and thinking of architecture. To begin to bring back this art we must begin to question the privileged position that the architect believes he possesses. The belief that the architect can solve problems is part of that privileged position.
- To bring back the art means being responsive. But at such a scale to what are we responding? Are we responding to furniture or to the automobile? If we cannot know to what situation we are responding then how can we pretend to solve anything?
- I am not sure that architecture can exist beyond the level of an absolutely specific condition (i.e. present a specific need and not a general premise). If this is true then the field of planning, and specifically urban planning, must be questioned.
- We must also remain aware of the grey line where architecture drops away and politics takes over. If we follow Tafuri’s argument we must know that architecture is always in danger of supporting as well as concealing the hidden agendas of the prevailing power structure. In response to “what can architecture offer to the Bijlmermeer,” we must acknowledge that this is equally, if not more, a political problem.
IN 2004, the International Journal of Housing policy had this to say about the Netherlands new policies of urban regeneration.
Recently, the Netherlands has been pursuing a new policy of urban renewal. Old urban renewal concentrated on pre-war urban districts and had a technical orientation. The predominant shift in tenure was from commercial to social rented housing. New urban renewal focuses on post-war urban districts and tries to solve the mismatch between a differentiated demand for housing and a one-sided supply. The shift in tenure is now mainly from social rented housing to owner-occupied housing. The physical agenda is combined with social, economic and safety issues………. These recommendations are geared to the current situation in the Netherlands, but they may also be relevant for other countries in and outside Europe.