The previous chapter has examined the structural framework, in which urban planning is currently set and the parameters, in which the traditional players in the field are operating. This chapter introduces the concept of ‘pioneers’ as a resource and new player for urban development. It looks at the different motivations that make a temporary settlement attractive to pioneers and what they have to contribute to creating high quality neighborhoods. As analyzed in the previous chapter the physical quality of neighborhoods as defined by the quality of housing, design and physical infrastructure is only part of what makes neighborhoods attractive. Regarding the inhabitants as an important resource and value and designing enabling conditions for residents to invest their skills and assets in their neighborhood is the other part. In this respect pioneers inhabiting temporary settlements can add a whole new dimension.
In her essay “Living in Brabant” Irene Müller applies Bourdieus theories on economic, social, cultural and symbolic capital to urban development and argues that the quality of neighborhoods depends on a good balance between them.
In city planning a strong focus has developed on economic capital as main motor of development. In redevelopment areas attracting more affluent people (gentrification) has high priority, and new neighborhoods seem to be all about getting the financing together to build and sell high quality housing. In our approach we suggest to focus more on inspiring urban renewal and development by initiating a process where besides of the economic also other types of capital (cultural, social and symbolic) are generated and invested.
Temporary settlements counteract mono-cultured neighborhoods, they create more diversity and balance in terms of the kinds of contributions residents can make to their environment.
Counteracting Urban Decline
Newly built settlements that at the time were considered the best neighborhoods in town are prone to degradation and decline in a matter of a few decades. This is mostly due to the monoculture often encountered in new neighborhoods.
From the perspective of monetary value ‘living’ in houses and in neighborhoods is usually regarded as diminishing the capital value, as ‘using it up’. Like a product that is worth less when second hand, houses and neighborhoods are seen as becoming of lower value over time. Turning this perspective around and looking at inhabitants as investing rather than using value changes the perspective on urban planning and urban development. Then the question is not so much, where does housing need to be demolished and rebuilt in order to restructure deteriorated neighborhoods, but the question becomes, how can the value and the different sorts of capital of the residents in any given neighborhood be mobilized towards the upgrading of the area.
In post industrial society, the knowledge economy is gaining significance. Accessing resources like brains, know how and creativity is becoming crucial.
Tapping into new forms of talent reserves and knowledge capital can be a valid strategy to stimulate new economic development.
The process of ‘gentrification’ focuses mainly on physically up-grading neighborhoods and attracting residents with economic capital. However, when demolishing and rebuilding neighborhoods, a lot of social, cultural and symbolic capital is also destroyed. To preserve, attract and mobilize these other kinds of capital, a different, less physical, kind of urban development is needed. This involves a less state driven and paternalistic approach and more room for self help, self-governance and the investment and exchange of local capital.
A common criticism of newly built settlements is that they lack ‘soul’ and social contact, that people have to cover large distances for services, thus making traffic a major issue. Neighborhood life can only work if there are people around to inhabit public space. When neighborhoods include a diverse range of life situations, life phases and interests, the chances for presence and the investment of all forms of capital become higher.
A way to stimulate the balance of different forms of capital is to create ways of exchange between people with different contributions to offer. Urban planning then focuses on creating structures and opportunities for exchange. Temporary settlements are a way to create such structures, a way to bring people that have different needs and different assets into vicinity.
In the context of a newly built Vinex settlement temporary settlements take up the challenge of how to introduce diversity in a narrow market range, and how to create urban liveliness from scratch, literally on a green field.
Temporary settlements require people that are motivated to settle temporarily. These people we are calling pioneers. The concept of temporary settlements is built on the assumption that not everybody lives or wants to live in one place forever, that there are phases in people’s lives where temporary housing fits their life cycle and their motivation. This chapter looks at the characteristics and motivations of groups in society that qualify them as potential settlers of temporary settlements. Of course not every member of the groups we identify will be a potential pioneer. The people who actually make the move to settle in a temporary settlement will be motivated by a series of additional personal and psychological factors extending beyond the characteristics we describe in this chapter. What we do here, however, is to describe interests and motivations that make temporary settlements attractive and beneficial to different social groups, as well as potential contributions and investments arising from their social characteristics. Who has time, energy and interest in building community and building up something new? What assets and resources do pioneer groups bring to the process?
In our research we identified four motives as triggers for a temporary settlement. First and foremost is the access to affordable housing. Another major motive is the opportunity to build up a future. More personal motives like the opportunity to be creative and to do things yourself are also often mentioned.
Finally there are motives related to an interest in community and an attractive, lively environment.
Some respondents indicated an interest in only part time involvement in the temporary settlement.
The temporary settlement can attract people searching for affordable housing. Students, artists and refugees are in need of cheap housing. Especially for refugees the situation can be quite dramatic.
Many asylum seekers
after having become status holders remain for years in the asylum centers
because they cannot find housing. They are starters on the housing market and
as a consequence they do not have a good position on the waiting lists. They
depend on the housing corporations, because there are few private landlords who
will not require that a number of months get paid in advance as guarantee.
They cannot afford high rents in order not to lose rental subsidy. Even when
they have a medical indication it can take 5-6 years to be assigned housing.
“I am dying to get out of the center. After 4 years of insecurity and waiting I finally got a status. Imagine having to wait 3 years longer, and still not being able to start my life here. This creates a lot of stress, it is depressing. You want to start building your future in this country, but you are stuck.” (Refugee, Interview 5)
in the centers is not good, because it is not a ‘white’ address.
You cannot start a future in
“Anything would work to get me out of the center. A small room, anything to get me out.” (Refugee, Interview 11)
“It is difficult to live with 4 other refugees in one small space. They come from different countries with other cultures, other tastes in music, cooking, other levels of hygiene. You share a kitchen, a small refrigerator, a shower. If you have guests, it is not private, people come in and want to see what you are doing. They want to borrow your clothes, your things. Sometimes they are fundamentalists and want to engage in arguments with you. Others are tired and depressed and have interest in nothing. There is no privacy.” (Refugee, Interview 13)
“I have managed to find something, just recently. But it is not ideal. There is a lot of noise in the neighborhood, my neighbor upstairs works until , he puts on his music when he comes home. Also the house is old and not very clean. It is a run down area, a dirty apartment. My neighbor downstairs has to do with drugs. This is not how I like to live, but is my only option, the only choice I had to get out of the center.” (Refugee, Interview 8)
Even for migrants who have managed to find decent housing, the temporary settlement can be attractive as a way to save money. Rather than spending their money on rent they would prefer to save money in order to get their family over or to start a business. They would not mind living in modest conditions for a period of time if that would help them realize other priorities.
“What would interest me in a temporary settlement would be the possibility to adapt my expenses to my priorities, to my own personal calculation of what part of my budget I would like to spend on rent. If I could get cheaper rent in the settlement by repairing the house myself, or by taking care of the neighbors garden or any other need of the community, that would be attractive to me.” (Refugee, Interview 15)
Students also often have a hard time finding an affordable place to live, so that they either continue to live with their parents, although that would not be their preferred choice, they spend a lot of time traveling back and forth between where they have found housing and where they study, or they take very poor conditions into account.
“I live with my parents right now, but it is not ideal. I have to discuss all the time with my parents if I eat here or there. There is no real freedom. And I don’t get along that well with my step father.” (Student, Interview 3)
“I lived in a little house with three other roommates. It was not organized student housing, but a private owner, the conditions were very poor, the house was in a shabby state. Still the owner wanted to increase the rent ridiculously.” (Student, Interview 1)
Artists often have a need for large spaces. Their work tends to be space intensive, which mostly does not relate to the level of money they have in their budget to spend on rent. That makes them constantly on the look out for affordable space to fit their needs.
“I am an artist. I create. Therefore I need space. The kind of space I need is very hard to find.” (Artist, Interview 7)
A further group we identified as potential for the temporary settlement are young starting families. This group, who basically would like to live in a new neighborhood like Schuytgraaf, is less and less able to afford buying a house there. If not fitting the criteria for social housing they are in a difficult position because the availability of rental housing in the higher price categories is tight. As the housing quality of new settlements tends to be very high, housing in newly built neighborhoods tends to be expensive. Living for a period of time in a low cost temporary settlement can be a way for this group to be able to save enough money to access the housing market. In chapter 8 we explore the option for this group to access their dream by lowering their costs. In addition to saving rent by moving to the temporary settlement, participating in collective commissioning of their own house and in innovative saving schemes geared towards their future house are attractive options for this group.
In the previous chapter we looked into the more theoretical aspects that shape the situation for this group on the market. Here are experiences of people who have to deal with this reality in their lives:
“We would like to live in Schuytgraaf, but we need to know the prices. Would it be possible to rent there? We do not have a house that we can sell in order to have enough money to buy in Schuytgraaf, and the prices are rather high to put up up-front.” (Starter family, Interview 10)
“My family has
been living in
Next to primary economic benefits the temporary settlement offers further rewards and opportunities for the target groups we have identified. Refugees and migrants most often cannot find work at the level of their qualifications or aspirations. They often work way under their educational and intellectual standards and feel that their talents and capacities are not made appropriate use of in the host society. For this group having a chance to unfold their potential, use their initiative and engage in rewarding activities in the temporary settlement is a strong motivator. Those that have to struggle the hardest to (re)build their lives often have the largest potential for building up something new. The largest segment of new entrepreneurs are found amongst the migrant population.
The temporary settlement involves a wide range of opportunities to create services and small businesses. It can create a protected environment and support structures that allow pioneers to start small, to try things out and to grow and expand gradually. Also for unemployed persons or people living on welfare the opportunities of the temporary settlement to create intermediary work and build up a future can be attractive. In the economic study (Chapter7) this aspect of the temporary settlement is explored in detail.
“The only jobs I can get are in cleaning or in the kitchen of restaurants. I am qualified as a hairdresser and beautician. For me the temporary settlement might offer opportunities to work in my profession.” (Refugee, Interview 22)
“I have done
some work with computers over here. I wanted to go to the
“I am desperately looking for work. My diplomas, I am economist, are not valid here, so I had to redo my education in a quicker program. I am now qualified as a bookkeeper but I cant find work. At home I had been working as a journalist. Of course I understand it is not realistic to find work as a journalist here, I am not a native speaker of Dutch and in journalism you have to be fluent of course. But I don’t understand why I get turned down all the time as a bookkeeper. It is a different excuse all the time and it is very frustrating. It is frustrating to be on welfare and not build up your life. I would very much welcome a chance to work on something with which I could build myself a future.” (Refugee, Interview 11)
“It could give me a chance. I am often underestimated, simply because I look foreign. People think I am unqualified, because I do not look Dutch.” (Refugee, Interview 13)
“I don’t want to be a bother and sit down with my arms crossed. I am a productive person but here I don’t produce anything. I could be, I could be a normal tax-payer, I am full of ideas for businesses.” (Refugee, Interview 20)
For students the temporary settlement can also be interesting in this respect. It can offer a range of opportunities to integrate practical experiences into their studies, for experimentation beyond the scope of what is possible in regular jobs, for personal and professional growth and development as well as for the realization of personal dreams. Artists as well are eager for challenges and opportunities for experimentation and innovation.
“In about 3 years I can take over my fathers shop. I would like to gain a lot of experience first. For me engaging in such a venture would work very well.” (Student, Interview 2)
“In art you have to move on and change. You need constant inspiration. A temporary settlement could provide that.” (Artist, Interview 6)
“It would be
good as an in between phase, doing something completely different. Instead of
“Opening up a restaurant is really a great dream of mine. The settlement would be a good opportunity. I think that the people who dare to live in the temporary settlement would also dare to eat in my restaurant. Because you will not know in advance what you will eat. There is no menu, you eat ‘“wat de pot schaft’ (whatever comes on to the table). There is a choice between vegetarian and non-vegetarian. And then there is food from different countries, so it would fit well. It would be exactly the right public.” (Student, Interview 9)
In our interviews many people expressed the lack of opportunities for doing things yourself, for trying out and applying skills outside of your profession. Especially in the field of housing and creating a home, many people express the wish to invest own ideas, to make things fit to their own wishes. Pioneers are people that like to create their own choices, that don’t like to stay confined to the choices and options offered to them.
“There is not
really a self help movement here, or at least not on a large scale.
Everything is organized already. So if everything is there already, why do
things yourself? What remains of things to do yourself
is very small scaled in
“Things should not be too finished. I like the idea of having the freedom of designing my own house.” (Student, Interview 1)
“I would love to be involved in a project like that. To be surrounded by inspiring and creative people and to be able actually to do something with my ideas.” (Artist, Interview 25)
“I like working with my hands, I like to make things. I would like to live in an environment where I could apply my skills, where I could add something to the neighborhood. When everybody puts their skills together, you can go real far, you can realize a lot. If you can make everything yourself, then money is not so important, it is second place. Maybe one person can build a wall, the other can do carpentry, and you can help one another. You can do things for each other. Because there is not enough communication between people, it has become more that everybody lives for themselves. These things are missing. I would make a playfield for kids, where they can play, with castles and everything. Those are the things I would like to do. Children are the future. If they have a good time, people stay in the neighborhood and that forms a good community. So if people add their skills, they add something to the environment.” (Student, Interview 16)
“It would be nice to grow into a place. First with a mobile home and later maybe you build a house. If you look for a house now you look and see what is free, just what is available, what is already there. It would be nice to make it exactly as you like it to be. You can have your bathroom exactly where you want it to be, the window exactly where it is right, shaping your house and your environment.” (Student, Interview 3)
“The problem is mainly money for buying the materials, because you have always friends who know to do things that you don’t know how to do yourself. That is more attractive than paying high rent for a place that is all fixed and set. It becomes really your own thing. It gives you the idea that it is really yours.” (Starter family, Interview 21)
“For me it would be attractive that there would be a structure but also some room to change and shape and make it your own. Flexible elements maybe, that you can determine yourself. Something left up to peoples own creativity. Like an outside place, a courtyard, a garden. A public area maybe, where everyone can contribute their ideas. That is also a good idea to get to know each other.” (Student, Interview 1)
“In the plans it always is a nice picture, but in real life it is different. Like the park in my neighborhood. On the plan it looks nice, but nobody uses it, because there are so many ducks and geese and dogs that make so much shit, that you can’t really sit on the grass. But nobody does anything about it either, because you wait for the municipality to do something about it.” (Student, Interview 16)
don’t like in the
“If there would be possibilities to develop something I really like, space to develop my own ideas. Not everything structured beforehand or by the community, but that there would be space for me to do my own thing, that would be attractive to me.” (Student, Interview 1)
“I like new things. It would be nice to try, just to see how it works. It is also nice to know it is temporary. So I can try it out. It is nice to know that I can move on when I don’t like it anymore, like nomads, I like that idea. A certain freedom.” (Artist, Interview 7)
Pioneer energy is also generated by the wish for community and a diverse and lively environment. The majority of the people we interviewed found their neighborhoods lacking in social contact. More contact and communication between neighbors proved to be an appealing aspect of the temporary settlement.
“Where I live there is little contact with the neighbors, we greet and that is it. If I need advice or help I go to my friends, not to the neighbors. There is not much contact here. People don’t visit one another. For me the most important thing in a neighborhood is communication. Where I come from if you come somewhere new then all the neighbors come over to you with presents. Also when you have a problem everybody comes by. That might not help you solve the problem, but at least everybody shows that they are with you. Here you don’t have that. I have visitors only form outside the neighborhood. The contacts here are not deep. The social atmosphere is rather cold.” (Refugee, Interview 11)
“When you live in an apartment in town, you do not have much contact. I know my neighbors to the right of me. The rest I don’t know. There is no social contact. You don’t look at each other. When you are in an elevator, you all look to the other side, wait till it is your floor and then quickly out of it.” (Student, Interview 16)
“I like people, the idea of meeting people. For me there needs to be some outside force for me to make contacts. If I have to do it myself, I shut myself up more. So I would like places where I am forced to meet other people, so that I am forced to learn about being with people. That way I can learn. A structure that forces me to be more outgoing is good for me.” (Starter family, Interview 21)
“I think it is nice and interesting such a settlement. When there are other creative people around, that gives much energy. A nice mix. It could be very exciting. I imagine it to be like a student house on a larger scale. There would be many people from all different kinds of directions, doing different things. You could learn so much from one another. You would have to be outdoors more if you are smaller housed. If somebody comes home crying from a bad examination you know exactly how it feels, because we have all had that and that way you can support and that is also very inspiring.” (Student, Interview 23)
“I went to public school. The majority of students were from foreign countries. I got to know a lot of things in that school from other countries. I enjoyed that. I would like a diverse community like that.” (Student, Interview 9)
“It could be like the camping feeling. At home you never talk to your neighbor, but you do on the camping. You talk to people you would normally never talk to. You meet people. You are more free.” (Student, Interview 3)
“In the Mediterranean cultures there is more of a public culture. Imagine for example peeling the potatoes in front of the door. It gives another social constellation. Where I live it is difficult because of the cars, but if there was space I would sit out with a beer or so.” (Student, Interview 16)
“I need inspiration, need to be where the action is. I learn from communication, so a temporary settlement like that could be interesting for me under that aspect. Anything that brings new stories is interesting. I need to be exposed to new experiences, new inspirations.” (Refugee, Interview 13)
“Something simple would do. Contact and communication are the most important for me. I would rather live in a tent with neighbors than in a palace with no people.”
(Refugee, Interview 11)
Some of the people we interviewed clearly identified themselves as non-pioneers, or went for the option of ‘part time pioneer’. The entrepreneur spirit does not appeal to everybody, nor does the prospect of involvement in collective projects. Some respondents clearly had other priorities and options for their life and for others the location of Schuytgraaf did not seem urban enough and too far from the city center.
“I think I am not someone to start my own business. I think I need more safety. I would not like to have too much risk. I want to have a job for safety reasons. My own business, you need to organize so much things, I don’t like to have to organize so much things. Next to my job I want to do my own things like traveling. I need space and time to do that.” (Student, Interview 4)
“I want to work in my field, find a job, make money, get a position in the work world. I don’t know how to place that in a community. What is my role, my position there? How would I earn my money? I want a job in my profession. What would people expect of me, when I come home from work? I also like the safety of a job.” (Starter Family, Interview 12)
“I want my freedom to find out what I want. I don’t want to join anything for the time being. I am still finding myself out. And when I do know what my thing is, I think I will be determined to follow through on it. And I don’t know if there is a place for the kind of freedom I need and community together. I want to learn to do things on my own, to be able to do things myself. It is necessary for me to learn to manage things alone. If I want things, to learn how do I manage to get it. I basically want to learn to be somebody on my own.” (Student, Interview 17)
“I like the idea and the inspiring environment it will create. The problem is that I am in a confusing period of my life right now. The temporality and active involvement in such a project at this moment does not attract me. I have got to start thinking about what I want with my life. I need my own permanent place and a solid job. Three years ago I would have been very enthusiastic, but now participating in something like that would simply take too much of my energy. I am the type of person that invests in other people when I do things and while doing I forget about myself. For me it is hard to find a balance. For me it would only be interesting if the project would offer me a place to live for at least six or seven years, so I could create my own place and see the long term results of what I invest into the project.” (Artist, Interview 26)
The ‘part time pioneers’ were mainly attracted by the entrepreneur spirit, but they had housing of sufficiently quality to not be interested in living in the settlement. The option of part time pioneer brings a further group to the temporary settlement: people who like the idea and want to contribute actively by working the land, building, planning an event or starting a business, while not joining as a permanent inhabitant. Another interesting group for the option of part-time pioneer are seniors who enjoy the liveliness and level of services in the temporary settlement and live there periodically.
“For me such a project could be interesting as something I join when I retire, which is coming up soon. I still have a lot of energy. I might not want to buy a house there, but I could imagine renting one of the cottages there in the summer, spending my summers in an inspiring environment.” (Senior, Interview 27)
“I would like to come there some times, not live there always, but maybe in summer, join things in summer, be out in nature in summer. So I would be a pioneer on a part time basis. That would interest me, take part in some projects, but not the whole thing.” (Student, Interview 2)
“I actually like the idea not so much for living there, but for the activities. Is it possible also to join as a part time pioneer?” (Artist, Interview 6)
“I am attracted to the many services that a temporary settlement could offer. At the moment I don’t need them, but I can foresee a time, where I would like to have the option of living at a location where neighborhood services are readily available. And maybe there could also be options for more luxurious units in the temporary settlement.” (Senior, Interview 28)
The temporary aspect of the settlement can be attractive for people who like adventures, change and mobility, for people in intermediary stages in their lives or for people who have few other options and see the settlement as a welcome stepping stone, a chance to get started. For others a more long term perspective is of major concern.
“Moving is the worst thing there is, I hate it. So if I move to something, it should not be temporary.” (Starter Family, Interview 10)
“What I don’t like about the project is the temporary part of it. You are not a pioneer by nature, but because you have goals that go beyond the project. If I would do something like that, I would like to be sure that it is a permanent thing. Building a settlement from social structures, not from physical or economical structures appeals to me. But I would like to know that it is connected to a long term future. I like to contribute to building a community, if it is not a temporary thing, not if what you build up dies after a few years. It is your home, you have built it, it is your nest, it is part of you. So if a contractor decides to do something else with it, it is like a nest fallen off a tree.” (Student, Interview 1)
As much as a greater sense of community, more contact and social cohesion was mentioned as desirable in almost all interviews, a major concern was that this should not exclude individuality and privacy.
“There should be an area, where you can be private. If you want to be private, you can go there. And then there is a part where you can expose yourself, when you want contact with your neighbors, that is the place where you can find them and make contact. So maybe a little area outside. A social space, maybe in nature, but also an inside place.” (Student, Interview 3)
“I think the ideal situation is when people know each other a little bit. Not too much. Not that everyone knows everything about you, or that everyone wants to have a say in your life. People should be able to do as they like.” (Student, Interview 23)
“Sharing a toilet, the shower or the kitchen, I don’t like that. When you want to have it clean, it is dirty, when you don’t feel like cleaning, the other person has visitors and it needs to be cleaned. What I like is sharing outside space, like a big terrace, a patio, a garden or a courtyard. Outside you can share everything, inside it should be private.” (Student, Interview 16)
One of the aspects
that makes the temporary settlement attractive for
pioneers, is the diversity that is associated with it. However, that is also
a cause of concern, about how to deal with differences and potential
conflicts. The fact that different groups were identified that share a common
set of motivations does not automatically guarantee harmony between these
groups. On many other levels their life styles, interests and motives can
differ. How to create an open, non-normative atmosphere, how to prevent
segregation into different sub-groups, how to create agreements and rules
that work for all involved, are issues that need to be addressed in the
temporary settlement, to which concrete experiences and suggestions were also
“I like the idea of having different kinds of people. But there can also be conflicts. It takes a lot of communication. And you also need time for such a process.”
(Student, Interview 2)
“I don’t feel comfortable sometimes with the foreign people living in my neighborhood. Their culture is a bit strange to me, they speak very loud on the street. We don’t speak with each other, I do not understand the language they speak in and it is not what I am used to. I try to understand the different habits, I think it is important to understand what is around you, so there would need to be an exchange and mutual understanding. If there would be people who give feed back, who invest in each other, who are interested to contribute and communicate, that would be good.” (Student, Interview 24)
“In neighborhoods there is always things that cause conflict. Noise, cleanliness, different habits and life styles. It would be good to have some conflict mediation available.” (Starter family, Interview 21)
“There needs to be a starting point, some project, some activity, where people can get to know each other. People change how they perceive things when they get to know each other. The Dutch people start getting more comfortable with people from different cultures and the refugees also start adapting to their new environment. They learn that things that worked at home don’t work in the new environment and they lighten up, they become more open too.” (Refugee, Interview 18)
“Will there be any guidance or process for the people that want to live there? Because it is something really new. So I need some kind of guidance to help me start, some kind of activity I can join, some kind of process that is laid out, that makes it easier to participate.” (Student, Interview 3)
“To prevent problems you need to put in a negotiation structure. You can create committees in which everyone can have his or her say and within which consensus can be reached. You can also have representatives who keep an eye on everything and if there are conflicts look for a solution based on common sense. This is done in some ‘living-working’ communities. It works.” (Artist, Interview 26)
Another issue concerns the amount of involvement that is expected in the settlement. For most respondents it was important that this be spelled out clearly and that there be a wide range of options from just living in the settlement to participating fully in the organization and management of the settlement and its activities. The freedom to choose the kind and intensity of involvement was strongly stressed.
“It would be a problem if one would be obliged to do something. If that would be expected of you. A project like that will only work when you do it with fun, when you contribute voluntarily and what you are good at. When you can do things you like. You need to choose for something like this.” (Student, Interview 16)
“I would need for it to be free, what you contribute. Not just because you did a good job of being the disc jockey at the party, you are expected to do that every time from then on. The atmosphere should not make you feel pressed down by duties.” (Student, Interview 3)
An important issue people were concerned with was the issue of staying a part of overall society, not becoming a closed shop, an isolated island with no links to the surrounding environment. The attraction of the temporary settlement was seen in being something for ‘regular’ people, not only for an ‘alternative scene’. Making sure it stays in contact with mainstream values and perspectives was emphasized.
“There has to be a link to what is outside, it should not be a closed society. The temporary settlement should function as part of the whole, something like an integrated outsider. It has to fit to what is around it.” (Student, Interview 23)
“There needs to be integration between the settlement and the others, there should be things one does together. There should be things that will attract people from outside the settlement, like a good restaurant or attractive activities.” (Student, Interview 2)
“It should not get too alternative, too extreme, not a complete world in itself, where newcomers would not fit in. Not a bunch of crazy people outside of society.” (Starter family, Interview 21)
“I do think the settlement could work, but it would have to mingle with the citizens around. If not you get a clique of people that are considered strange and different. It could work because the activities and services will allow people to see for themselves what it is all about and that it is very different from what they might have thought before, that they would lose any prejudices.” (Student, Interview 1)
The image coming out of the interviews of the ideal neighborhood can be summarized as ‘a village in the city’: a mixture of the social cohesion still common in rural areas and the individuality available in more urban contexts, a combination of green and close to nature and action and urban activities. The diversity of a metropolitan center, linked to a smaller and more comfortable scale. We see the Nest! as having a lot potential to come close to this dream.
“I like when it is busy and alive and there is contact, when there are children as well as elderly, when it is very diverse, when there are always people sitting outside and a lot of activity going on. I don’t like it when people do their social activities and working activities somewhere else. I think a community should have all aspects integrated. That makes it more interesting to live there. There must be chances for a lot of contact, for social activities, so that I would not have to go elsewhere.” (Student, Interview 1)
“In a way a mixture of where I come from (a small village) and the city. Some green, some nature as well as spaces to meet. That you can live on your own, but in a good social climate. So that the people who live there do not shut themselves off. A bunch of people with different backgrounds, different ways of thinking, different life styles, but living with each other, not just next to each other.” (Student, Interview 16)
“I love to stand on my balcony and look at what is happening outside and which people are passing by. It is very lively. The only thing I miss is green. A park or a simple grassfield surrounded by trees where people can lay down to enjoy the weather in summer. A place to hang out and meet each other. Although there is a community center in the neighborhood, the area in my opinion lacks nice meeting places. In such a settlement you could really have both, a lively atmosphere and nature. I really like the idea and the freedom it brings.” (Artist, Interview 25)
“I like variety. There should be park, water, a big space to meet. And the houses should not all look the same. If you go by bike it is depressing if everything looks the same. There should be variety in architecture as well as the kind of people living there.” (Student, Interview 9)
“It needs to have a bit of everything. Central, busy, contact and people to talk to, but also peace, green, say an oasis in the midst of a busy area.” (Student, Interview 24)
“I want green and quiet, but I want to live near where the action is, where I can go there by bike, only 10 minutes away. There needs to be choices. I don’t want to sit on the couch every evening enjoying the nature around me. I want to be able to go out and be able to meet people easily, be a part of life.” (Starter family, Interview 21)
“I think it is bad for a neighborhood if one place is only for living, and in the middle of the living area there is a big space, and this is for shopping. I don’t like that. I like the idea that shops and cafes are mixed in, then you really have a living street. Otherwise the streets in the residential areas get dead.” (Student, Interview 3)
“In the city the contrast between your own private space and public space is too big. There should be a midway between it. A part of your personal area that is also a public area. An area where you sit, close to home, but that also can be occupied by other people. A social part in your area, and then also a larger public space.
That is a good way to create community, that there are spaces in the neighborhood where you meet and face each other and make contact.” (Student, Interview 1)
“Not like everybody knows and controls you, where you feel bad if you open your door or your window shades 5 minutes late, but also not like the anonymous and impersonal atmosphere of big apartment houses. That you know people you can talk to or that can help you. More like a village inside a city. That people know each other without poking their nose in your life. Where people recognize you, where you have a face, but where you also can feel free to be who you are, and where people can be diverse and different.” (Student, Interview 16)
“Maybe a courtyard, a place where it is easy to make contact. Small parks, small things you could share, like a tennis court or something. I love privacy, but I also like communication with people. And that is missing the most. It is not balanced in most places where people live.” (Student, Interview 2)
“Much of the criticism of new settlements and high rises have to do with the scale of it all. It is so big that you as an individual become unimportant, you are just a number. It is important that you are not a zero in your neighborhood, that you stay a person, the person from next door or whatever.” (Refugee, Interview 11)
The temporary settlement opens up opportunities and structures for blocked potential in society. Key motivations of the pioneers groups we identified are linked to the fact, that they do not find regular channels in society to apply their interests and their skills. The qualification system that rules out competencies and skills that are not formally certified, the labor market that tends to be biased against migrants, hierarchical structures that limit the scope of self-expression and self determination in professional fields, can function as blockages towards resources and assets of those who get excluded by these systems. This creates a loss of talent and energy for society. The Nest! suggests to make better use of untapped talent and potential, by offering opportunities for it to enter society.
Asylum seekers are often the elite, the thinkers, the writers and the entrepreneurs of the countries they come from. They often have high qualifications, that however are not recognized by the qualification system of the host country. They also often are the ones with initiative and a lot of energy. It takes courage and determination to leave ones home country and to be willing to start anew.
Scarcity and lack of choices can spark off initiative, creativity and the willingness to invest extra time and energy. Poor neighborhoods are often vibrant with economic activities. Young people and artists often have surplus ideas and energy that do not find channels of expression through regular structures and circuits.
“I want to think about my future, I want to build up a professional future here. I taught myself Dutch on my own, at night, with a book, when I had time. I did not have the time to go to the language courses during day time. I got my certificate, I passed the exam, I made three documentary films in the time I was in the asylum seeker center, which have been shown on Dutch TV. I have made a lot of contacts, I want to get somewhere in this country. But we are only offered the lowest, most unattractive jobs.
I have 11 years of experience in TV production, also in audio and visual techniques, in sound and light, a lot of specialized knowledge, but this society is not interested.” (Refugee, Interview 13)
“All I want is the space and opportunity to do my thing!” (Artist, Interview 6)
“My neighbor is
Pioneers have developed skills from different areas of their lives, from their education and qualifications, from job experiences (also in the informal sector), from voluntary activities, from work in the family and the community, from living in different countries, from cultural traditions, from building their own houses and doing all maintenance chores themselves, from engaging in sports or creative arts.
We envision a large range of services and small businesses serving the temporary settlement itself, the newly developed community at large, as well as adjacent neighborhoods. These services are provided by pioneer groups that target gaps in general services and special needs, for instance of elderly or of task combiners. Often regular services that support the combining of work and family responsibilities are not flexible enough, are located too far away or are too expensive. A range of additional close to home services could include services like baby sitting at irregular times, supervised playgrounds, dog walking, cleaning and maintenance, car washing, janitor and repair services, elder care, laundry and ironing services, health and sport services, body and beauty care, projects for youth, as well as second hand shops, a plant shop for easy to grow garden plants, restaurants, entertainment, tailor shops, interior design and other building related businesses.
“I could organize and manage a youth organization, a soccer club. Or I could organize summer camps, or cleaning up the environment events. I am very good with youngsters.” (Student, Interview 3)
“I like nature. I could do nature excursions. The Schuytgraaf area is very lush and beautiful. Marvelous nature has developed there. I could lead people around and show them the beauties of their environment.” (Starter Family, Interview 10)
“I like to organize things. I could talk to people, check on their ideas and draw up business plans. I could organize activities and events. I could also use my IT background and teach children how to use a computer.” (Refugee, Interview 19)
“We had a big garden at home, I know a lot about gardening. I would like to do something with that. Maybe organize a public garden, or grow seedlings to sell, or create a service to help people with their gardens, if they do not have enough time to tend to them.” (Refugee, 15)
“In my country I worked with street children as a volunteer. You can help them a lot by talking with them, by listening to them and by simply being with them. It is just great to work with children, whatever their background is.
I would like to pick up that kind of activity again, do something with young people” (Refugee, Interview 20)
“At home I cooked for big family celebrations and other large occasions. I am very good at that. I also took care of an elderly uncle for years. I am good with elder people. I could use a lot of skills from working in our large family. It is what I am good at and what I like to do.” (Refugee, Interview 8)
“There is a
services-cluster in our neighborhood, where all child-related functions are
clustered together. That is practical, but for most people it is far away. As
a result people have to use cars to bring their kids to school. This gives
traffic jams and everybody gets irritated and people shout. So the city says
that we should be more environmentally friendly and not use cars. If you have
only one child you can take the bike, but most people have two or three so
they use their cars. It would be better to have services closer by.” (Inhabitant of town
extension project Leidsche Rijn
The social quality of a neighborhood depends on people who have time and presence to invest into their environment. Time and presence are resources that are often overlooked as important assets and aspects of social capital. Presence is a crucial prerequisite contributing to the safety of neighborhoods. Social contact depends on people being both physically and psychologically available, being there and having time. For neighborhoods to be secure and alive, there need to be people living there that have some degree of time and willingness to spend time in their neighborhood. The pioneers inhabiting the temporary settlement can play an important balancing role in this respect as newly built neighborhoods tend to be populated by people who spend very little time in their neighborhood.
“People who have time, make people feel at home in a neighborhood” (Starter family, Interview 10)
“When I know my neighbors and when I know people in my neighborhood, I feel safe.” (Student, Interview 24)
“People want safety especially for their children, but they often do not know how to provide it all by their own small family unit. In this sense, it is important to have neighbors and people on the streets that can keep an eye on things.” (Starter Family, Interview 21)
An important contribution to make a location well-known, attractive and alive are cultural and art events, fun and entertainment. Pioneers with creative talents and energy are looking for opportunities to apply their skills, to find an audience. The settlement could attract such potential and become a focal point for interesting cultural events. Space that can be used temporarily is very interesting for experimental art as well as for festivals, circuses, theatre performances and music events. Such events can be a strong factor in creating a positive image for the new neighborhood as the place to go, the place where things happen.
“We are always looking for occasions to have exhibitions. Why not in the Nest? It would be interesting to do something there in public space, to get into dialogue with inhabitants, to do something different.” (Artist, Interview 7)