Thursday, 24 November 2011

Almere Workshop

Last week, together with Karel Wuytack and Catherine Menge, I ran a workshop for the 1st and 2nd year graduate Urbanism students in Sint Lucas University. The subject of study was the new city of Almere in Holland, facing Amsterdam in the most recently built dutch polder of Flevoland. Each group, of around 10-14 students was given a site of study in that sprawling non-place, and asked to analyse it's current condition, critique its imminent plans for development (the city is planning to double its population in a couple of decades), research its history, and ultimately imagine what they would propose differently. Exhausting treasure hunts on the ground, intense discussions and debates, and endless hours of formulating concepts and pinning them down to the political and infrastructural situation on the ground, eventually had to be turned into an "autonomous presentation", or a film that would convey, in as clear and simple a manner as possible, their opinions and ideas on and for their sites, and more generally on Almere as a whole. Below are the four groups' films.

Above is the group who were looking at the city centre, and its OMA master-planned core, which they found oppressively monotonous in terms of content, but formally thrilling.

The above looked at the A6, the motorway spine of the city which is planned to be doubled in capacity in anticipation of future population growth. They looked at ways in which by tweaking the 1970s tree-diagram layout of roads (where peripheral roads that join to different centres, even if next to one another do not connect in order to keep them free of congestion, meaning one must use the motorway to access what is spatially a near neighbour), and other such tactics, they could ameliorate the need for expansion.

The group above looked at a large agricultural area that the city is planning to build on, and imagined that a new work-live-eat economic system (including canal-boat markets launching from the site to fill the canals of Amsterdam every week with fresh produce, as well as greenhouse-housing farmsteads, and agricultural solar-power towers...) could be tested in those fields instead of the kind of Dutch-suburbia present elsewhere.

And finally, in the incomplete but potentially interesting film above, one of the groups looked at introducing a network of super-sized infrastructure for extremely large programs that are inherently temporary, like expos, world cups, Olympics etc, making a virtue for Almere out of their rapid redundancy by making the city into an expert in their construction, hosting, but most importantly their sustainable disassembly. This was to be contrasted on the site with the development of the surrounding and interlocking land as a pastoral/suburban idyll of intimate scale, who's qualities would stand out the more for their contrast with giant int'l scale forever hovering in the background...


A big thanks to all the students, who were all fab. The names in each group are on the youtube pages of their videos. And again a big thank you to Michael Callant and Ruben Deleersnyder for all their help...

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