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Column Adriaan Mout - Vision or stopgap measure?

29 September 2020

LEVS Adriaan Mout 200917 Visie of lapmiddel1 min

Government involvement in spatial planning is back. The recently presented National Environmental Vision is full of nice objectives and sharp policy choices that we will implement together, as one government, together with society. Is this merely a means of loosening the stagnant (housing) production, or is it really a vision?

In the early 1990's there was also a major government intervention: the Vinex of 1991, partly intended to kick-start production. Coincidence or not, but in that period there was also a real revival of typological research on both urban scale and building level. Research that actually resulted in a large harvest of innovative neighborhoods with typologically rich buildings. With great diversity of neighborhoods and exciting housing types. Plans that were a joy to design. In my area, the Eastern Docklands in Amsterdam, not a Vinex, with neighborhoods like Java Island, KNSM, Borneo Sporenburg and Funen are typical examples. Here also came iconic residential buildings full of ingenuity and experimentation. They are very popular residential neighborhoods that have only gotten better, where young and old still want to live and where architecture tourists roam daily.

When I look at the new neighborhoods of this era in that same Amsterdam, you wonder what went wrong. There is usually not a lot wrong with the architecture. Challenging volumes, spectacular facades. But the urban planning lacks vision and daring and the content of the buildings is often a huge repetition of boring and predictable typologies and housing units. The substantive conversation seems to be limited to a gross-net discussion and a lamentation of regulatory pressure.

It's time for big visions and intelligent urbanism that binds older people, families and young people. Fuelled by research where experimentation and pleasure in housing typology and housing plans returns. And where energy and circularity are truly part of the design challenge. Let the National Environmental Vision not be a stopgap measure, but an occasion for renewal.

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