Part I:
Building Communities

 

 

"To make a neighborhood you must assure social development before laying bricks" (Bert Geurtz, Arnhem Municipal Council Member, 29.10.03)

 

Chapter 1: A Bird’s Eye View of the Nest!

 

 

 

In this chapter we give a general introduction and describe how the concept of temporary settlements can change the way urban development is done.

 

 

Goal: Reconciling the social and the physical in Urban Planning

Planners and developers look at urban development mainly in terms of investments and as designing, building and selling houses. Social cohesion and community are hardly part of the process. With the Nest! mine has developed an approach to urban planning where building community is the key. The Nest! aims at reconciling the social and the physical in urban planning by designing community building as integral part of urban planning and social cohesion as integral part of economic development.

A common criticism of newly built settlements is that they are beautiful, but dead. It often takes a lot of time before facilities and services are in place and even then, residents of newly built settlements often do not invest much in their surroundings. They tend to be double earners spending a lot of their time outside the neighborhood. What these neighborhoods often lack is time and presence. In order for neighborhoods to be safe and lively, they depend on people who are able and willing to invest time, energy, creativity and their social networks locally.

Method: Jump-Starting social Cohesion

The solution we suggest is to develop temporary settlements as an integral part of urban planning, inhabited by people who are looking for cheap accommodation, and have time, creativity and entrepreneurial energy to invest (students, starter families, artists, migrants, refugees). This is done by making use of the time and space slots available in development projects, when the old use has discontinued, but building has not started yet. Creating cheap accommodation and experimental space in the form of a temporary settlement, is a way to attract and mobilize the pioneer energy of groups whose potential is unused or underused in current society.

Artists, creative people, people from other cultures often have a rich reservoir of cultural and educational capital. People with low income develop strong social networks to compensate for the lack of monetary resources. Different kinds of people in different phases of their lives have different things to offer each other and their neighborhoods.

Urban development cycles show that neighborhoods deteriorate when there is a lack of diversity in the forms of assets that residents have to invest in their neighborhood. When urban planning focuses on creating structures and opportunities to enable exchange between different groups of residents with different needs and different assets, it creates favorable conditions for resident involvement and resident investment that can counteract neighborhood deterioration.

Temporary settlements offer people whose access to the labor market is blocked, despite the fact that they have many competencies, an opening to develop their entrepreneurial skills. They can create a future for themselves, by offering neighborhood based services to the often double earner residents of the newly developing neighborhood.

Bottlenecks in new neighborhoods can be the ground for new job opportunities, problems in old neighborhoods can be reduced by offering new locations for pioneer energy, innovation and expansion.

Vibrant and complete neighborhoods develop when inhabitants represent a diversity of different forms of capital (time, money, social networks, creativity, culture, presence, care), when there are local structures in place that enable their exchange, when there are social, physical and economic places to meet and interact and when there is room for experimentation, creativity and self-initiative. Temporary settlements create all of the above. Temporary settlements offer a way for the social structure of newly built neighborhoods to precede the physical structure, so that people can find and build on an established community when they settle in a new neighborhood. They bring life, diversity and cultural richness to new developments.

The Neighborhood Academy, the Mother Center and an International Garden are further elements built into the Nest! design to stimulate resident involvement, strengthen social cohesion and keep up the pioneer spirit as the settlement evolves into permanence.

Creating new Investment Opportunities on the Housing Market

Temporary settlements not only address the issue of social cohesion and quality of life in urban neighborhoods, they also provide an answer to bottlenecks on the housing market. The housing market needs expansion on both ends – low cost accommodation as well as high quality accommodation in high quality locations with high quality services. The Nest! scores on both ends. Temporary settlements provide much needed cheap accommodation. They also develop neighborhoods with a high quality living environment, including services, a good social atmosphere, cultural events and entertainment, a hip image as well as educational and knowledge building opportunities. Altogether a package which can be described as "luscious living".

Benefits

Temporary Settlements bring benefits on many levels:

Temporary Settlements can be applied anywhere

In this book we outline the general concept of temporary settlements. In order to make the concept concrete, it has been applied in a case study to four development locations in the municipality of Arnhem, The Netherlands, described as case scenarios in chapter 13. The Nest! concept can, however, be transferred to any municipality interested in adjusting the social/physical balance in urban development and integrating bottom up citizen participation into urban planning.

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