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Column Adriaan Mout | Fine small cities

23 October 2018

Cobouw adriaan mout 181118 kleine fijne steden

During a discussion in the ABC architecture center in Haarlem last week, Hans Tijl, director of Spatial Planning at the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, argued that inner-city building is cheaper than building out-of-town buildings. It was also a passionate plea for the preservation and strengthening of what he called our 'small fine cities', as a counterpart to the major metropolises elsewhere in the world.

The pressure to boost housing construction is leading to renewed initiatives to fumble at the borders of the Dutch ‘green heart’ in order to give an impulse to the out-of-town building. But the quality of the compact city will be diluted if the surrounding landscape becomes a suburban sprawl.

Fine small cities such as Eindhoven, Leiden, Haarlem, Amsterdam and The Hague are currently developing various plans for inner-city construction in the form of ever-higher towers. The sky often seems to be the limit, and that quickly leads to heated discussions such as the Sluisbuurt in Amsterdam and recently in Leiden, where inner-city construction is almost doubled with ambitious plans for residential towers.

Not only the spatial consequences of this form of inner-city building are large and deserve full attention. If mobility issues are not resolved, we will not live up to this enormous condensation. This applies to inner-city building just as well as for out-of-town construction. Because the quality of our compact cities is that you are also quickly outside in the surrounding landscape.

That is why we must cherish and further condense our fine small cities, and we also need towers for that. At least if they are part of well-considered visions, innovative living concepts and, above all, an integral approach. And precisely this is what we as Dutch designers can do well, from the entire width of spatial planning to the last carpenter's nail. That is why inner city building and also building those towers will be really fine.

November 2018,