Part III: The Nest! Approach: Good Neighborhoods are not designed – they grow

 

 

 

The Physical

 

 

 

Chapter 6: The Temporary Settlement

 

 

 

I) Introduction

 

 

As we have laid out in part I and II of this book, in the temporary settlement the social and economical aspects are leading. The physical structures are an instrument to jumpstart a social process of urban development and in that sense are of a lower importance than the social aspects. This is true for the urban scale.

 

However, on the scale level of the individual dwellings the physical aspects of the temporary settlement are extremely important. The housing units are non subsidized and intended for people who are not very rich. Therefore good design and engineering work is required to get solutions that are as cheap as possible and still offer an acceptable level of quality.

 

In this chapter we examine how the physical aspects of the temporary settlement can be realized as cheap as possible. The options and requirements are reviewed and an inventory is made of both the housing units themselves as well as services and conditions of the location.

 

No decision has been taken on the execution of the project. Therefore it is not possible to draw up a program based on the requirements of inscribed pioneers. Instead, general typologies have been made about the housing units themselves and the requirements on the services and environment. The latter has resulted in three types of plots that are described further down in the chapter.

Further more, some examples are compared in order to give a review of elements required to make the Nest! function as a settlement.

 

The Requirements of here and now

Housing in the Nest! should not be compared to what is available on the regular housing market, because the target group has no access to the regular housing market.

The housing should be compared to the alternatives that are available here and now to the target group and that is not much. Imagine a student who travels hours back and forth to mum and dad, or sleeps on the sofa of a friend during the week. Or imagine a just divorced man who over-stretches his budget on hotel bills. From those perspectives alternatives are acceptable soon enough.

Compared to staying with friends the solutions may seem relatively expensive, they come not for free and they are not subsidized. On the other hand the units in the temporary settlement will be a lot cheaper than the €400 per month that refugees pay for a space in a four person room, if they stay in the asylum seeker center after they have received their status.

 

Target Group: Level of Acceptance

As we have discussed in the chapter on pioneer motivations (Chapter 3), one motive precedes all others in importance and urgency. This first requirement of the target group is that there is something to live in, and this ‘something’ must be there today. Space on the waiting list is not space you can sleep in. The next most important criteria to judge this ‘something’ is the price, which must be as low as possible.

 

The price is always important and Dutch have the reputation to be particularly keen on low prices. On this point the project is different from ‘normal’ housing projects. Normal is that an optimal price-quality balance has to be found where the quality is to be maximized. Here it is the other way around. The optimal price-quality balance is determined by the solution where the price is minimized. Therefore the optimal solution is the one which has a minimal price with a comfort level that is still acceptable.

 

What is considered an acceptable level of comfort depends on the target group. Obviously everybody needs a bed, heating and some storage space for personal belongings. For most an individual toilet, shower and cooking facility is also a requirement. Still, there are people who do not cook, or prefer saving on rent by sharing facilities. Space for activities like working, playing or studying are not important for everybody.

 

 

 

II) Housing Units suitable for the Nest!

 

 

This section describes the results that came out of the inventory that was made for the Nest! by Building Trend[62]. The bureau researched 54 possible units, of which 20 were looked at in more detail. They were classified according to their type of construction. Out of the total typology, eight very different representative units were selected to be compared under a number of relevant points. These were compared on aspects like price and usability, as well as on the ease with which they can be set up and dismantled. Flexibility in terms of functionality, movability and possibilities for linking and stacking the units were also considered. Finally the possibilities for re-use and remaining end value were taken into account.

 

 

Price of possible Housing Options

 

To make the prices comparable the table next to the examples does not only give the prices of one unit, but also the price per square meter. This rental price is only based on the price of the housing unit itself. The total rent will obviously also contain other components (land, taxes, overhead) The given rental price is therefore just an indication for the sake of comparison. A rather cautious base for the calculation has been chosen, resulting in slightly pessimistic prices: An exploitation period of only 5 years is presumed. In these listed prices the end value is presumed to be nil. In practice; wearing down the value to nothing in just five years, might be a realistic assumption only for the cheapest solution Pod and Dome.

These constructions are not well equipped to withstand the Dutch climate.

 

Tailor-made solutions are more expensive than mass produced units. The Su-Si and the Fred even exceed the price of normal permanent housing. Such units could be interesting to rent out as urban vacation bungalows, for those who wish to be part time pioneers and enjoy the atmosphere in the temporary settlement. They are taken up in the comparison also to show that temporary housing does not need to be an ugly boring box. Tailor-made solutions should not be ruled out beforehand fully on price motives.

The ‘parasites’ of bureau KSAR[63] prove that designed temporary units can be both attractive and affordable. Once the Nest! Project gets realized, a solution may be designed specifically fit for the project. Such a tailor made solution would need to allow for a large amount of self help building, to compensate for the architectural fee.

 

Caravans have a bad score on price in regard to the price per square meter. It should be taken into consideration though that they are fully furnished and that the lay-out is so compact that not as many square meters are needed. Because of their popularity, a large market of second hand caravans exists.

 

 

Category

Single house

Collective house

TYPE

The Dome

The Pod

Single cabin

SU-SI house

Extending Construction FRED house

Caravan

Mobile

Bungalow

Collective cabins

8 bed rooms

Dismantable

COA house

5 bed rooms

Unit Price Є/piece

 

7192-11252

Є/piece

2899-6559

Є/piece

52500 (30m2)

Є/piece

33000

Є/piece

12.165

Є/piece

34500

Є/piece

97581

Є/piece

 

5680-7303 Є/piece

(1house)

 

Purchase
price per m2

 

182 – 285

Є/m2

 

66 – 150

Є/m2

 

1750

Є/m2

 

1834

Є/m2

 

1028

Є/m2

 

917

Є/m2

 

 

518

Є/m2

 

70 – 90

Є/m2

Rent per unit per month

120-188

Є/month

 

48 –109

Є/month

875 (30m2)

Є/month

550

Є/month

203

Є/month

575

Є/month

2204 Є/month

95 - 122 Є/month (1house)

Rent per m2 per month

3 5 Є/m2

1 - 3 Є/m2

30 Є/m2

31 Є/m2

18 Є/m2

16 Є/m2

12 Є/m2

1- 2 Є/m2

Transport costs

shipped by courier

max. Є522 per dome in the USA

shipped by courier

max. Є757 per pod

in the USA

Є 2800

Є 94 per m2

< Є 2800

< Є94/m2

by car

 

 

Є 20/m2

(for 1 cabin) Є14/m2

(for 2 cabins)

25 – 35 /m2

Setting up price or time

8hours 3 to 4persons

without floor

6-8 hours 4-6 persons

5 hours

2 hours by crane

non

Vary

Є 122 per cab.

 

 

 

Size compared to Household Size

 

The following table summarizes the sizes of the units. The smallest units, Caravan and Fred, are so compact in their lay-out that although they do offer the possibility for two sleeping spaces, for a prolonged period, they are only suitable for single person households. The larger types can be used by a couple or a small family. The two collective units are suitable for larger households or groups of individuals.

 

 

 

Single house

Collective house

 

The Dome

The Pod

Single cabin

SU-SI house

Extending Constructions

FRED house

Caravan

Mobile

bungalow

Collective cabins

8 bed rooms

Dismantable

COA house

5 bed rooms

Width (m)

 

 

3.0-3.5

3.0

2.6

3.5/ 7.0

12.3

7.8

Length (m)

 

 

10-14

3.0(*2)

5.6

7.3/ 3.5

15.4

10.4

Radius (m)

3.7

4.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

Height (m)

4.3

4.9

3

3.0

2.3

 

2.9

2.5

Surface (m2)

39.5

43.9

30 -50

18

11.8

37.6

190

81.1

 

 

Judging the size of the units should be done in the perspective of the settlement as a whole. The housing units in the Nest! are part of a settlement that contains many of the facilities that constitute a ‘normal’ house as collective spaces. For example students will in many cases study in the Neighborhood Academy library, eat in the mensa and watch TV with a group in the pub. Communal spaces and services are needed to be able to cope with the limited space each pioneers has individually. In a temporary settlement the use of space becomes different too. The housing unit a safe base for venturing out to a much larger realm. Because the pioneers spend more time in public then others, the privacy requirements to the individual housing unit are large as well.

 

 

 

Single house

Collective house

 

The Dome

The Pod

Single cabin SU-SI house

Extending : FRED house

Caravan

Mobile bungalow

Collective cabins

Dismantable COA house

House

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Office

X

X

X

 

 

X

X

X

Storage

 

X

 

 

 

 

X

 

Studio

X

X

X

 

 

X

X

 

Academy

X

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

Exhibition space

X

X

X

 

 

X

X

 

Conference centre

X

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

 

 

Level of Temporality and Sustainability

 

If rated according to their level of temporality, the collective units are amongst the most permanent. They also pose the largest requirements for foundation, transport and material required for putting them up. They look permanent and are best left on the same spot for the full five years (or two times five years) that a temporary settlement can remain in place according to Dutch regulations. Many of the units do not need much of a foundation, or one that can be transported as easily as the units themselves.

This allows to make temporality a real feature in itself and to move the settlement for example from field to field, depending on the speed of the development process or on the availability of cheap land. Moving the settlement in this case could become an event, a sort of procession, combined with a festival or parade. Examples of such a mobile application are given in the scenarios in Chapter 13.

 

The Pod is the most temporary of the researched units. Its light fiber-board construction is flexible and expressive, but won’t live much beyond 5 years.

The Dome is more sustainable with its canvas cover and floor construction and could pertain about ten years. The Caravan and Fred are not very suitable for a prolonged stay because of their size. Caravans are, however, very mobile, flexible and independent of foundation.

 

Montage and Transport

Putting up a Pod or Dome can be done easily. For the units that are made up of elements small cranes are needed, because of their weight. Such equipment can be rented, or is brought in by the specialized firms that operate on the market of temporary settlements such as fairs or conference grounds.

With the exception of the Caravan (that is transported by car and put down without equipment) the ready made houses all need a truck and crane to be transported and put in place. In general the solutions that are available on the market do not require special skills to put them up.

 

Cooking and sanitary Facilities

Many of the possibilities include sanitary facilities and a kitchenette inside, which for most people is a basic requirement. If people choose to make use of the cheap solutions like the Pod or the Dome, it also means a choice for shared facilities in sanitary blocks. Options for shared facilities are discussed in the next section.

 

Density

The possible density depends in the first place on the proportions and number of floors of the units. The COA houses and collective cabins can be linked easily and are stacked to two floors. Only the very small Fred houses and Caravans permit higher densities. These densities are just an indication of the possibilities of different options. The density will be dictated mainly by the kind of atmosphere the plan should radiate, an urban setting requires a higher density than a village like green atmosphere. The examples in the scenarios in chapter 13 all use the same type of housing units, but vary largely in the used density.

 

 

density

Single House

Collective House

 

The Dome

The Pod

Single cabin

SU-SI house

Extending

Constructions

FRED house

Caravan

Mobile

bungalow

Collective cabins

8 bed rooms

Dismantable COA house

5 bed rooms

Houses/ ha

83

75

67-111

185

277

83

18 units

144 rooms

42 units

210 rooms

 

 

Conclusions on Housing Units

 

If one type of units would have to be chosen, then this would certainly not be the Pod and the Dome because they are of too low quality, and not Caravan and Fred because they are too small. However the settlement will be diverse and mixed. The mentioned solutions have advantages on other aspects. There could very well be a number of Caravans to rent out to people on holiday or for people who just need something for a couple of weeks. Expressive units like Pod or Dome can be used for exhibition space, space for the Neighborhood Academy, shops or event halls.

 

Five years is a very short period to exploit the units in a profitable way. Financing the units will be easier if a temporary license can be obtained twice, in other words if the exploitation period is two times five years. Another option is to look out from the start to different locations that would be interested in a temporary settlement, or look for units that have a good end value and can be sold easily. When combining the different requirements and especially when taking the cost requirements into account, the second hand COA units currently being sold in large numbers come out as the best option for temporary settlements. Two other possibilities are explored: an option for an ideal situation and a possibility to start the project as soon as possible.

 

Best Option

Of the researched types the COA houses were by far the most practical and cheapest. They have an acceptable appearance, they look just like normal houses, and they are flexible in their use. They can be used by a number of individuals sharing facilities, like students, or a family, as well as by households of one or two people. The fact that this is by far the most economical option, is proven by practice. The municipalities of both Arnhem and Nijmegen had complexes of second hand COA units put up in the summer of 2004, to facilitate the housing of the first year students.

 

However, there is a ‘but’ in this solution: the availability on the market is of limited duration. During the late nineties the COA (Central Authority for Housing of Asylum seekers) had such a huge influx of asylum seekers to house, that they built a number of temporary complexes. These are at the end of their 5 years license now and the number of incoming asylum seekers has lowered dramatically. Therefore these units are sold now, but the supply is limited.

 

Ideal Option

In order to fit all requirements it could be considered to design a housing unit especially for the Nest! Project. This could allow for an attractive appearance in combination with good options for re-use and self- building possibilities. The units could be designed taking the site into consideration as is usual with architecture (more urban or rural, fit for high density or not). At the same time, the tailor-made solution should also optimize possibilities of the organization of the building process. If a partnership is made with a contractor or building material producer, the units could be designed to fit the possibilities of their production process. If mainstream production force is supplemented with pioneer labor, interesting solutions could be realized, that normally are not profitable for producers or impossible for a craftsman. Such units can be used for the Nest! itself, or sold as vacation bungalows, and thus provide a source of income for the community.

 

Start up Option

In order to start the Nest! as soon as possible, a solution for the first units can be chosen that puts the least strain on the organization. Ready made rental housing or office units available on the market can only be considered for a short period of time out of price considerations. For financial reasons (as well as esthetics) it would be better to buy a nicer looking solution from a specialized developer. Container villages are such a solution that are well tested. They are used by the Dutch army to make their bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. Specialized on the civilian market of temporary settlements is the Keetwonen Foundation[64], that produces temporary student campuses.

In order to realize a container settlement that fits all regulations, about three months are needed to produce and ship the units. An additional three months are needed for the licenses making the total preparation time half a year.

 

 

 

III) Site Conditions for the Nest!

 

 

This section describes the results that came out of the inventory that was made on aspects related to the infrastructure for the Nest! site[65]. The study deals with different technical options and the costs of putting in place the necessary infrastructure, roads, electricity, water, sewage, garbage removal, telephone as well as TV cables. No decisions have been taken yet on the implementation of the temporary settlement, so general assumptions had to be made. The developed solutions are for the Vinex town extension location Schuytgraaf in Arnhem.

 

The main question in regard to site conditions is how and for what costs can a temporary settlement be built, with the restriction that the costs will not exceed the benefits. The study takes into account the soil quality and other physical requirements of the site, the minimum housing requirements as well as more luxurious options. Different options for providing facilities to the plot and different lengths of duration of the temporary settlement were compared. Depending on the way the building process of the Schuytgraaf neighborhood progresses, the settlement could be fit in, when individual fields are no longer used for agriculture, but the preparation of the fields for building has not yet begun.

 

 

Facilities

 

The second hand COA units and the container village selected as best solutions, are fairly ‘permanent’ solutions from a temporary perspective. They fit into the category of ‘complete settlement’ of the inventory of possibilities for the site. This category provides an environment that makes a stay of several years in the settlement possible and comfortable. The simplest plot provides the bare minimum of facilities like on a camping place. This does not permit a stay for longer then a few months in the Dutch climate.

 

 

Services

Simplest plot

Semi-complete plot

Complete settlement

Sanitation

chemical toilet (pit-latrine)

Chemical toilet composttoilet

sceptic tank, sewer connection

Water

Pump + bottled Collective tank

Collective tank, Collective connection

Individual connection

Gas

Gas tanks

Gas tanks

Individual connection

Electricity

Solar energy

Solar energy, generator, Individual connection

Solar energy, wind, individual linkage to network

Telephone

mobile phones

Mobile phones, telephone booth

Individual connection

TV, internet

collective facility

Collective facility

Individual connection

 

 

The optimal technical solutions are highly dependent on the duration of the settlement. The longer the settlement stays, the more affordable it becomes to provide more durable (and expensive) solutions concerning water, gas, electricity and sanitary facilities. For short term use chemical toilets in centrally located sanitary blocks are the most reasonable solution, as well as a central collection point for water, by tank or by pipe. Gas can be accessed by individual gas tanks that come in different sizes. Electricity can be accessed by installing a generator.

For longer duration it will be affordable to connect sanitary facilities as well as the water supply to existing pipes in the area. The farms in the Schuytgraaf area use large gas tanks for their gas supply, meaning that there are no pipes at the nearby roads. Nor will there be any in the future, because Schuytgraaf will be linked to an innovative system for collective heating. Therefore also for longer duration the use of individual gas tanks will be the cheapest solution. It could, however, be interesting to provide the more “luxurious” plots, that are willing to pay higher rent, with a gas connection from larger tanks to avoid having to change bottles at inconvenient moments. Such tanks can be reused at other locations and need to be refilled less often. They also do not require to be changed entirely, but are filled on the spot which is more convenient.

 

Electricity is available at the farms nearby, so the cables are at a nearby road. The best and also cheapest option will therefore be to connect to the normal electricity network.

 

 

Planning

 

When examining the Schuytgraaf planning, it turns out that several fields meet the technical requirements for the putting up of a temporary settlement. However, many of those offer the possibility only during a relatively short period of time, because of the tight planning of the settlement. On top of that the fields that could theoretically be used are available at different moments. By combining these –in principle highly limiting- elements, the idea of a “caravan” was born. This part of the settlement is truly temporary, moving from field to field in succession. This part of the settlement is especially suitable for functions like exhibitions, events and festivals. Depending on the Schuytgraaf planning as well as on the actual implementation of the planning, the settlement will stay for several months or several years on each of the fields that are available during the time before construction work starts. This caravan could start at field 8, then go to field 4, later to field 7 and in the end to field 1(all located in the northwest). In the same period fields 23 and 24 (in the southwest) will be available too.

 

This sequence has been determined by analyzing the planning of the works. Some fields are simply not accessible until building activities start. Others will have ground works going on for a number of years which makes them inaccessible. The listed fields do have space, that is to say space in time. This ‘space in time’ gets larger and larger, the more the official Schuytgraaf planning lags behind schedule. In this sense too the Nest! settlement is a good addition to the normal development. If the same investors are involved in both the temporary settlement and the normal developments, they will see their losses caused by delays on the latter, be partly compensated by a longer exploitation of the former.

 

The suggestion of the moving caravan is based on the general principle of using “problems” as assets. In this case the “problem” is the limited time available until the new use of the land takes over.

This “problem” already started from the moment it was known that the new neighborhood would be built on that location. From then on it was not interesting for farmers to invest in the area. Temporary use of the land becomes less and less interesting when the period gets shorter. From the temporary settlement perspective it is the other way around. The shorter the time span available and the more difficult it is to find any other users, the cheaper the rental price will be. And exactly this cheapness is the most important factor in attracting pioneer energy. The shorter the time available, the more special the use will be. As mentioned before, the space that is available for very short periods is only suitable for the organization of special events or exhibitions. If the time span is too short, only pioneers with a rather ‘nomadic’, artistic attitude will be interested. So from an outside perspective it is exactly the areas that are the shortest available, that display the pioneer spirit the best. That is where the most is happening, where experimentation and creativity is high.

 

In size they will be fairly small compared to the total settlement, but they play an important part.

In Chapter 13 several scenarios of possible environments for the pioneer functions of the temporary settlement are illustrated.

 

 

Density and Size

 

If the developers of Schuytgraaf manage to stick to the extremely high speed of development currently planned, the temporary settlement can exist for no more than four years. During this time, the settlement can vary in size from 50 units to 250 units, if the same density is followed as the permanent settlement. The density in the housing area of Schuytgraaf varies from 25 to 47 dwellings per hectare. Such a density will allow for a generously spacious lay-out, for the very simple reason that the temporary housing units are much smaller than the permanent housing.

 

If, however, a low rise/high density concept is followed of over 60 units per hectare, a minimum of 500 units should be possible. In fact as mentioned before, the researched units each allowed a density of well over 80 dwellings per hectare. This allows for an urban atmosphere, without loosing its green character. In the example sketched out in chapter 13, field one of Schuytgraaf has about 400 units. The number of people in that example will not be so much higher than elsewhere in Arnhem, despite the high number of housing units. The pioneer houses are likely to be used mainly by single person households, whereas the average household size in Arnhem is more than two.

 

 

Soil Quality

 

The soil at Schuytgraaf is generally clean. There have never been any activities historically that could affect the quality of the soil negatively. The only use of the land has been agricultural.

 

However, as a result of the intense fighting during the battle of Arnhem, there are many ammunitions left in the soil. The marching route of the Operation Market Garden went straight through the Schuytgraaf area. The possible remains of explosives therefore have to be kept in mind in regard to any digging activities. Because of the farming in the past 50 years, however, the fields have been ploughed regularly and any ammunitions positioned in the upper layer of the soil must have been discovered by now. Since the suggested solutions for roads to the temporary settlement do not require any digging deeper than plough deep, the ammunitions are not foreseen to cause any problems. Also the foundation of the settlement will not require a clearing and cleaning of the ground beforehand. Making a pole foundation is only necessary if the units are stacked up. That is only required if a tight urban environment is selected as a location or if for other reasons a compact layout is chosen.

 

 

Roads

 

Concerning roads the main idea is constructing a relatively large road, (G-type road), strong enough for the longest duration and heaviest type of use, that leads to a parking. From this parking smaller pathways go to the different parts of the settlement and from there, even smaller paths continue to the individual homes. The further you come down the hierarchy of roads, the less people use the road and the less strong the road needs to be. For the foundation of the largest housing units the same construction can be used as for the G type road.

 

In general the facilities can be compared to those on a modern camping site, that tends to offer different service levels for different prices. The temporary settlement will be able to provide different levels of comfort concerning infrastructural needs, ranging from more rudimentary collective solutions to private facilities of higher standard. Rents will vary accordingly, but will stay under the prices that are available currently on the regular housing market.

 

 

 

IV) Examples of similar Projects

 

 

Review of Examples[66a] [66b]

It is very difficult to find Western European examples for the Nest!. The approach of jump-starting urban development that is foreseen, really only exists in informal settlements in southern countries. These settlements have an incredible strength and development potential, especially when they become legalized. The original Nest! idea stems from the positive aspects of such settlements, but the practical details cannot be compared. The extreme poverty and lack of everything, make them too remote from the Dutch situation to serve as an example.

 

Most of the selected examples of temporary settlements are examples mainly because one or two aspects of the project are relevant. As yet there are no examples of the total Nest! concept in the Netherlands. First of all the comparable projects are not temporary. The only exception is Parasite Paradise, which had temporality as an explicit theme. Here social cohesion and housing were not important, so this example is mainly interesting for the aspects temporality, art, architecture and design of public space.

 

The ecologically oriented project “Het Groene Dak” (the green roof) has shown how unusual technical solutions can be integrated into a housing project. Within a decade, thanks to the pioneer applications that have proven the value, these solutions have become rather usual in mainstream building. The project also shows what effort it takes in time and organizing power, to get unusual ideas realized.

 

‘t Groene Sticht shows how groups that are normally sidelined and considered a nuisance can become a positive force in the social development of a new neighborhood.

 

Many of the housing-working complexes that were established by the squat movement, are vivid examples of creating a vibrant social tissue as well as an economic and artistic development, on places that were dead spots before.

 

 

‘t Groene Sticht

Origin and Objectives

The priest and parliamentarian Ab Harrewijn did not live to see his dream realized, he passed away suddenly in 2002. ‘t Groene Sticht started as a ‘home for the homeless’ to be run in self management. The idea was to use the virgin grounds of a town extension Vinex location to settle and find neighbors who are sympathetic to homeless and want to get involved. A nice mixture of idealism and necessity, of economically strong and weak participants was realized.

Location and Program

The 12 (ex-)homeless inhabitants live in an old farm that is left in the Vinex location Leidsche Rijn near Utrecht. The farm runs a restaurant and the former manure-storage has been transformed into a neighborhood atelier. The complex has 32 rental apartments, 12 housing units for youth, one group house and a second hand shop.

Organization and legal Status

Four groups who work with people who risk being excluded by mainstream society worked together on making t’ Groene Sticht happen. The local Emmaus community, a Catholic recycling community, De Rafelrand, a national organization of church related anti-poverty drop-in centers, the Utrecht self-managed night shelters, and the foundation De Tussenvoorziening, that provides temporary housing solutions for people on the way to independent living. The housing corporation Portaal has built the new housing. The project employs a full time coordinator who organizes activities like a weekly market. All inhabitants are required to join the association of inhabitants.

Financial Aspects

The project has not been more expensive for the housing corporation supporting it, than a conventional social housing project. Rental apartments of an average of 74 square meters cost €374 per month.

The second hand shop is run by an Emmaus community, which provides for its own needs by recycling the high quality wastes of our affluent society, keeping an extra to support projects.

Community Building

The core of the project is to offer a space for community building, for people to live together, be it out of idealism or pure necessity. The adjacent Vinex inhabitants can shape their social responsibility by helping out and assisting the weaker to reintegrate into mainstream society.

Documentation: www.groenesticht.nl

 

 

The Role of Goals and Values in the Examples

 

What all examples have in common is that they are created by the needs and aspirations of the inhabitants of their constituency. Their building program is not provided by mainstream providers, therefore they organize to provide for their needs themselves.

 

 

Organizing Force

 

Price, availability

Social cohesion

Art, space, freedom

ecology

Spirituality

Other:

Hotel Bosch

X

 

X

 

 

 

Squats

X

 

X

 

 

Common enemy

Sidhadorp

 

 

 

 

X

 

NDSM

X

 

X

 

 

 

Ecodorp

 

 

 

X

X

Community

Het groene dak

 

X

 

X

 

 

De Kersentuin

 

X

 

X

 

 

Parasite Paradise

 

 

X

 

 

 

‘t Groene Sticht

 

X

 

 

 

Integration of homeless people

 

 

What all cases have in common too, is that this turned out to be difficult. There are a few very supportive partners (like the housing corporation Portaal who participated in several of the projects), but in general such projects are met with a certain amount of caution and distrust. For example squat groups who want to buy the complex in which they operate, have a hard time obtaining mortgage as a group with the real estate as a backing. Often a double backing with individual income is required. More often than not a long struggle goes on before the project is realized. This distrust is often mutual. There is an ‘us against them’ kind of atmosphere, especially in the squat movement. Having a common enemy, or at least struggling for a common goal tends to be one of the binding forces that holds the groups together.

 

Besides of the common struggle, the projects tend to have another base that holds the group together. It can be a social spirit, space for artistic experiment, a common care for environmental issues or spirituality. At any rate there is a common issue or even ideology. The participants try to keep that spirit alive over the years. They have a strong motivation to realize this aspiration as a permanent part of their living environment. This is often difficult to maintain once new people come in with different motives from the original group. In the squat movement it is not uncommon that the most strongly motivated at this point move on to new horizons. There is a shift between people who settle down, get children, change their lifestyle and those who continue to seek new experiments.

 

 

Difference between the Examples and the Nest!

 

On many of the points mentioned above (ideology, common enemy, struggle) the Nest! concept is rather different. It is not only conceived out of the interests of the inhabitants, but out of a partnership perspective. So not only the individual motives are leading, but how they can combine and serve interests of the community at large. Both sides win from an equal exchange. The authorities do not oppose the initiative.

Nor do they graciously allow the project in a social desire to help a disadvantaged group. Everybody involved in the Nest! does so out of their own interest, which is a very healthy businesslike base of collaboration. The interests of individuals and groups (such as municipality, developers, investors) are combined for reinforcement.

 

The interests of all involved in the partnership is the starting point of the process.

It is not a hurdle to take (as in public private partnerships) or a subject of bitter confrontations (as in the squat movement). Implicit in this process is the recognition that the city and investors benefit from the settlement, just like the pioneers do. The vitality and social network the Nest! creates are not the primary reason it attracts pioneers. Still, the social cohesion and effects on the housing market are effects on a larger scale that make it of interest to the municipality.

 

Most important difference to the quoted examples is that the Nest! has no ideological base. There is no selection of participants, they do not have to adhere to a certain culture or lifestyle, nor are they required to participate in anything. The possibilities that the Nest! offers are not gifts of charity, but opportunities and chances. Nothing more nothing less.

 

I scratch your Back, you scratch mine

“How do you attract the right kind of people?” is a question we are often asked. The answer is that whoever is attracted to the settlement is ‘right’. The conditions are such that self-selection happens.

 

The settlement is a temporary addition to existing facilities and housing. It is not a social project, that has the obligation to provide for a certain target group. Everybody is welcome, if the offered solutions suit them. The rules of supply and demand apply here, the free market forces determine the settlement. Not everybody will be able or willing to live in the settlement. The housing units will be small and for example not automatically accessible by wheelchair. When pioneers with special needs want to participate, provisions can be made. This may make the housing unit more expensive, but it may also lead to a complete new branch of services being developed in the settlement.

 

A reasonable rent has to be paid for the housing units, an average of €250 per person is targeted. It is not subsidized social housing. It is cheap accommodation with very basic standards. That is one of the reasons why it has to be temporary. It serves needs for a phase in people’s lives, that is also temporary. In our individualistic society the idea of moral obligations reminds of a long gone past. Chances and opportunities, however, can be fun.

 

Those who make use of the opportunities and openings to actively participate, contribute to the liveliness of the Nest! They make it into a place that provides good services, a pleasant ambiance and a vibrant social life. For them it is an unintended ‘side effect’. They do what they do, because they earn with it, they build up future perspectives and/or because they enjoy it.

 

The ‘side effects’ however, are why other partners are interested in the Nest! Project. Developers will be able to sell more houses in the new neighborhood. The municipality will appreciate the improved social quality and the better image of the town. Contrary to former squats the contributions of the pioneers will be publicly recognized, appreciated and validated.

 

 

Scale

 

In order for the Nest! to be interesting to the municipality, it needs to have a certain scale, it needs to go beyond a neighborhood initiative. In order for the whole newly built settlement to get a reputation of being different and well serviced, there needs to be a critical mass of pioneers, since not all pioneers will start businesses and activities that are of benefit to all, many will just live there, there are no obligations just chances.

 

The size of the temporary settlement is fairly open ended on the upper end.

Because the renting out of the units is determined by free market forces, it will find its maximum size simply when units remain vacant. Considering that these are the simplest and smallest possible housing units, they will also be the first to remain vacant when there is no more acute shortage on the housing market. The maximum size is also determined by the location. A village of 2000 inhabitants cannot host a temporary settlement of 800 units, that would be too overwhelming and too different in atmosphere. As a rule of thumb the maximum amount of housing units should be no more than 10 percent of the number of inhabitants in the environment. In the case of Schuytgraaf that would mean that 1000 pioneers would be the maximum. In the examples described in Chapter 13, the numbers are kept well below that maximum.

 

A minimum of pioneer presence for the process to happen is more difficult to indicate. In theory 10 charismatic personalities will already make a difference and bring life to even such a vast area as Schuytgraaf. It is however highly unlikely that all pioneers will be such people, because there are no criteria whatsoever that pioneers have to meet. Not everybody will start up a little business, not everybody is a social motor. A certain critical mass of people is needed to bring things to life. If the temporary settlement is about five percent in size of the number of inhabitants in the environment it would still work. Less could mean that the settlement would have barely any noticeable social effects.

 

 

Composition of Units and Population

 

The type of housing units can steer to a certain extend the type of pioneers that are attracted. It would be important to have enough ‘larger’ units to allow families with children to participate. In the ideal situation at least half of the pioneers consists of starter families. This includes newly arrived refugees, who may have much older children then the Dutch starters, but are nevertheless starters on the housing market. Around 30% of the housing would be units that are suitable for students and other young people, living independent and alone or in groups. Around 10 percent of the settlement could consist of units that are practical for artists, artisans or other creative professions to work at home. The last ten percent of the settlement would consist of units for a varied range of “part time pioneers”. These can be pensioners or people on holiday enjoying the place for a week or so as an outing. It can also be people who are in a temporary situation that requires housing, like a divorce, waiting for a new house to finish, expatriates on home leave and so forth. Considering that less then half of the people working in Arnhem actually live there, there could finally be a market for ‘pieds a terre’ where people could stay during the week instead of commuting.

 

Larger units (or a combination of units) are also needed for common projects like the Neighborhood Academy and the Mother Center or for some of the businesses.

 

Parasite Paradise

Origin and Objectives

Parasites are Prototypes for Amphibious Readymade Advanced Small-scale Individual Ecological Houses. Parasite Paradise was mainly an exhibition of the state of the art on mobile architecture and temporary urban form. It was commenting on the nearby Vinex location, challenging reflection and dialogue. It made the current debate in the leading architectural magazines on mobility and flexibility visible on the ground. In doing so it has widened the professional debate to a large audience and given off a clear statement for the unplanned, unusual and flexible. It has displayed the role of nomadic artists in creating new space and atmosphere of freedom and the unexpected.

 

Location and Program

Like ‘t Groene Sticht, Parasite Paradise was located in the largest Vinex neighborhood, Leidsche Rijn. It lasted throughout August and September 2003. The program consisted of 26 objects, of which some were created especially for the occasion.

 

Most were installations by artists from all over Europe, that were brought together for the occasion to give a full display of the state of the art.

 

The “Nomads in residence” an artist’s work and living space as well as a skate ramp and a neighborhood center remained in use on different locations, after the exhibit.

 

Organization and legal Status

Parasite Paradise was organized by the art initiative of Leidsche Rijn, Beyond. The foundation for Art in public space SKOR was leading in providing the conditions for the content. Several years before a process was started in cooperation with the Amsterdam Art Foundation AFK. They provided amongst others prizes that allowed a number of the units on display to be developed. The manifestation itself was organized in cooperation between the Utrecht municipality, Beyond and SKOR.

 

Financial Aspects

Financing the exhibit has proven difficult. Main sources were the IPSV fund of the Ministry of VROM and foundations and other subsidizing agencies that are active on the field of art, the K.F. Hein Fonds and Elise Mathilde Fonds.

 

Community Building

Though Parasite Paradise had several housing units in it and was also used for an architects office during the period of its existence, housing and work were not the main functions of the exhibit. The audience was not necessarily the community around it either. Leidsche Rijn was more the passive topic of the exhibit, than the active participant. Community building was one of the objectives of Parasite Paradise but this did not materialize beyond the inhabitants of Leidsche Rijn curiously using their free entrance tickets.

 

Challenges

Getting the initiative off the ground has proven difficult. Real access to the organizational structure of Leidsche Rijn and a lasting influence on the method of shaping the new neighborhood has not been possible. It has more been a publicity stunt, a nice display that was tolerated safely away from the mainstream. As successful as the initiative was as an event, a manifest and a work of art, it has not managed to enter into the general process in which the new Vinex location is shaped.[67]

 

Documentation: Parasite Paradise, pleidooi voor tijdelijke architectuur en flexibele stedenbouw, Nai Uitgevers/SKOR 2003, www.parasiteparadise.nl www.beyondutrecht.nl

 

 

 

V) Planning the unplanned: the Conditions to be met

 

 

The concerns and issues mentioned in the pioneer interviews like privacy, freedom, managing diversity as well as the image of an ideal neighborhood being “a village in the city” point towards important conditions that should be met in the temporary settlement. Although hot-houses of creativity, as well as the generation and investment of social, cultural and symbolic capital cannot be planned and directed top down, they can be supported by realizing favorable structures and conditions that support their development. The main condition that needs to be met, is to offer incentives and opportunities for pioneers that fit their motivation and that create a possibility for them to invest their energy in their living environment.

 

Unplanned Space

What the temporary settlement has to offer, is the use of unplanned (temporary) space. This is the basic prerequisite for a creative development process. People who have ideas and surplus energy need space to develop their creativity and projects.

Artists are attracted by innovative settings and stimulating challenges. They want space for experimentation, for creating new functions, meanings and ideas. Creating a new perspective on urban planning and giving new meaning to a town extension Vinex location could provide such an attractive challenge. In the Nest! the pioneers and small entrepreneurs are not part of a protest movement, but enter the development process “through the front door”. They are part of a new strategy of urban development, that recognizes and creates enabling structures for the potential of residents to unfold in developing and sustaining a neighborhood.

 

The Nest! also offers many opportunities for visibility, publicity, recognition, prestige and becoming known, which are also interesting aspects for artists and cultural event producers.

 

Options of Participation

The proposed temporary settlement is structured in a way that creates participation opportunities for a wide range of groups. By providing different housing options both people who are interested in a more temporary lifestyle, as well as those who prefer a more long term perspective can join.

 

The settlement gives room to find affordable housing, to economize on rent, supplement the family budget, participate in community, as well as to do things yourself, try things out, give things your own identity, gain experience or realize your dream. The settlement also offers possibilities to transform a temporary phase in life into more permanency, by setting up businesses or privately commissioning housing.

 

The level of commitment, of predictability and risk taking, of short or longer term involvement will be defined and will be over-seeable by the participants and pioneers themselves. The settlement offers a large scope of possibilities for participation ranging from full time living in the settlement, to part time participation to simply offering support, and ideas as “friends of the settlement”. The option of only living there and paying rent is just as valid as using it as an opportunity to gain a living or to gain experience. Living there only in the summer or not living there at all, but only participating in a certain project or a certain event is also possible. It will not be an “either – or”, “all or nothing” choice, there will be a lot of middle ground.

 

This wide range of options can contribute to diversity and a “good mix” in the temporary settlement as well as to attracting outside groups willing to invest in the settlement.

 

Economic Opportunities

Key factor in making the temporary settlement work, is that it is cheap. The availability of cheap rent at a decent level of comfort, privacy and hygiene is a major factor of the settlement. The scope of housing between the caravan and the rooting down settlement will offer a range of choices to fit individual needs, preferences and price/quality balances in this respect. The development of services and small businesses will contribute to the creation of an animated location as well as serving a range of needs in the environment, for instance for shopping or transportation.

 

Weaving the Social Fabric

Community, social cohesion and diversity management are stimulated and supported by creating meeting places, where people can interact and get to know each other. Opportunities and occasions for people to get in contact with each other outside of their houses generate the community feeling and the investment of inhabitants into their neighborhood. The proposed Mother Center and the International Garden as described in later chapters, as well as the Neighborhood Academy create such occasions and spaces both indoors as well as outdoors, where people can meet, and where ideas and peer exchange and support as well as community involvement can be generated. These projects can quickly become the “heart” of the settlement and therefore will be situated centrally.

 

The International Garden and the Mother Center are projects that hold the greatest potential for intercultural integration and exchange, as well as integrating children into public spaces. The Academy will contribute to creating space for reflection and knowledge building, as well as for developing conflict resolution and mediation systems. These projects will also set up support structures like business incubators, legal advice and cultural orientation .They will offer spaces like tool libraries, spaces for prayer, meditation and religious ceremonies, for family festivities, for music and dance, playgrounds and second hand shops. They will organize regular community events, like regional markets and bazaars, parties and celebrations, workshops and public debates. Responsibility and reliability (for instance in maintenance chores) will be supported by the fact that activities will not be expected on a purely voluntary and unpaid level. Instead, they will be compensated and remunerated as described in the following chapter.

 

The temporary settlement will not be an unregulated space. Basic public regulations and requirements will be valid and respected. It will not, however, be an over-regulated and over-planned space. Objectives, rules, agreements and strategies of compromise will be defined by the people living there and be worked out in a participative process as needed. The Mother Center, the International Garden as well as the Grassroots Academy offer many tools and models for such a process.

 

Realizing the Dream

By combining nature with culture, allowing space for self-initiative and creative ideas, creating lively meeting spaces, initiating community building projects as well as business activities, creating housing on a comfortable scale, generating diversity, providing for a wide range of events and activities, attracting artists and avant-garde productions and combining living spaces with options for work and creation, the temporary settlement comes rather close to realizing “a village in the city” which is described as the ideal neighborhood in the pioneer interviews.

 

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