Revamp the post-war neighborhoods and you'll get a million more homes, says this architect

Revamp the post-war neighborhoods and you’ll get a million more homes, says this architect

While one on the edge of Rotterdam’s sixties neighborhood Het Lage Land sees an expired gas station, architect Reimar von Meding sees a good location for 150 new homes. “The Netherlands has 850 of these types of petrol pumps in and near residential areas. If everyone drives electric in ten years, they will be gone. You can build a city the size of Almere on the freed up space.”

Or take the spacious single-family corner houses elsewhere in the district. Many of the residents are elderly people who would rather live in a smaller house, but cannot find a suitable home, Von Meding knows. His architectural firm, KAW architects in Rotterdam, conducted research into the possibilities of housing construction in post-war neighbourhoods. “So they stay in their oversized, poorly insulated house. If you expand those homes and then divide them, you don’t get one house of 120 square meters, but two energy-efficient and comfortable homes of 90 square meters. In one, the original inhabitants can continue to live in their own neighbourhood, the other is ideal for a young family.”

Like Het Lage Land, there are at least 1,800 neighborhoods in the Netherlands: built between 1945 and 1980 to cope with the population growth. What characterizes these often spacious neighborhoods: there is enough space to build many new homes. KAW’s own research – under the heading ‘Sufficient space for the new city’ – even mentions a million new homes.

“That is more than enough for the coming decades to meet the total Dutch housing need,” von Meding declares. “And then for practical reasons we only looked at housing association homes, because they are easier to tackle as a whole. If you are building in post-war neighbourhoods, then building in a green environment – ​​which everyone is talking about – is not necessary at all.” The national shortage is currently around 280,000 homes, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) calculated this summer.

aerial bike ride

For Von Meding it is clear where the opportunities lie. But Friso de Zeeuw, before his emeritus professor of area development at TU Delft, thinks the ideas of KAW are air cycling. “Every little bit helps, and there is quite a bit of space in the post-war neighbourhoods. Renewing the housing supply, making the neighborhoods greener and making them climate-proof: it is all necessary. But one million more homes in these neighborhoods alone? That is insane and completely out of touch with reality. You can be happy if you can realize a hundred thousand homes there.”

De Zeeuw also points out the practical objections. “It is expensive and difficult to build in existing neighborhoods. Experience has shown that residents are massively resisting additional homes in their neighbourhood, disappearing greenery and what they see as damage to their living environment. This results in lengthy legal proceedings. And think of the infrastructure for all those extra homes. That costs a lot of money.”

He thinks that the idea of ​​building houses on the site of superfluous petrol pumps is nice, but there is also a considerable remediation task involved. “Nobody knows exactly what’s in the ground there.”

De Zeeuw notes that it is fashionable among architects and urban planners to seek a solution to the housing crisis in the existing city. “And it is true that the city still offers space. But you can’t and shouldn’t want to cram everything into it. It’s not Columbus’ egg. Building in greenery remains necessary.”

Also read: How the government itself created the housing shortage

For the record: Von Meding does not advocate filling every nook and cranny in the post-war neighborhoods with houses. He also considers large-scale demolition unnecessary. “You do have to densify and demolish a bit here and there,” he says, but the solution mainly lies in better use of the available space, building other types of housing and adapting existing homes. “Expanding, dividing, topping up and renewing will take you very far.”

Beautiful memories

Von Meding shows the possibilities in Het Lage Land. In the district, single-family homes and low-rise flats alternate, renting and buying. In between is a lot of green in the form of lawns and groves. A shopping center, a care center, two churches and some undefined buildings. The district was designed by Lotte Stam-Beese, more or less the primordial mother of Dutch reconstruction architecture.

Hildegard van Baardewijk-Stahl (81) addresses the architect in the street. She had a wonderful time in Het Lage Land as a young mother. “The neighborhood was new, we all came from elsewhere, there were few facilities at first and we were all dependent on each other. The houses were spacious and beautiful and the children could play everywhere. I have such beautiful memories!”

Von Meding listens with a smile. When she has continued on her way, he confirms: “The Low Land was once the perfect living environment for the families with children for which these kinds of neighborhoods were designed.” But, he adds, what worked then doesn’t work anymore. “Society has changed and these kinds of neighborhoods are no longer in line with it. Today, for example, there are many more single and two-family households than families with children, and there is far too little housing available for them.”

In addition, the post-war neighborhoods must also become climate-proof and, for example, be able to cope with more frequent heavy downpours. Pointing to an impossibly wide sidewalk under a ten-storey apartment building: “This was laid out so that the children could play. The housewife was able to keep an eye on things from the kitchen. But today’s children are sitting at home behind their tablets and the housewife has become a working mother. That wide sidewalk no longer has a function. You can redesign a large part of it as really good landscaping and water collection. That makes the neighborhood more beautiful, and it is necessary to absorb the consequences of climate change.”

Vitality back

Modernization, greening and the addition of hundreds of thousands of homes will change the appearance and character of the post-war neighbourhoods, Von Meding knows. “But is that bad? Not in our view. Neighborhoods like this only get better and better. Renewal and new construction also attract new residents, who give the district back its vitality.”

But when he sends his ideas out into the world, he meets a lot of resistance from cultural historians, architects and urban planners. They believe that innovation affects the museum value of the reconstruction architecture. “And so you shouldn’t change anything about it,” mutters von Meding. “But you can’t live in a museum. You have to innovate to preserve the post-war neighborhoods and make them future-proof.”

Revamp the post-war neighborhoods and you’ll get a million more homes, says this architect
Source link Revamp the post-war neighborhoods and you’ll get a million more homes, says this architect

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