Lite Urbanism

In the last few years there has been an enormous demand for new homes in the Netherlands, while at the same time demographic numbers indicate that in 20 years there will be a housing surplus. As reaction to this there are proposals for a flexible city planning suitable for the polders in the Netherlands.

The West of the Netherlands is largely reclaimed land. To be able to build roads and houses the underground must be stabilised and buildings are founded on poles that support off deeper layers. To create a good underground for roads and infrastructure a sand packet of circa 2.0 m is brought onto the future building area. To let the underground settle under the weight of the heavy sand packet the building area lies fallow for a few years. This is not only expensive but the thick bottom enclosure interferes with the water-balance of the area. Moreover this way of building is irreversible. It is not easy to create a forest on such a previously built area.

As reaction to this there several proposals have been made for a flexible city planning summarised under the term 'Lite Urbanism'. A good example is the proposal by MVRDV/Kristinsson for a building location south of Rotterdam.

By making the roads and infrastructure of the estate 'lighter' it wouldn't be necessary to apply the radical sand packet. The local water-balance, the ecological carrier, in the shape of cleansing swamps and natural drainage-systems is allowed room. Not only hardening, but also other infrastructural elements can be lighter. No telephone cables in the ground, but mobile telephones, no gas pipes but an electricity net connected to local alternative energy sources, no water purification centres at a distance but a water purification system in the garden. This way of housing puts a smaller burden on the environment and can supply the enormous demand for houses in a quick and inexpensive way. In combination with light, easy to disassemble architecture, similar city districts can relatively easy be made suitable for other purposes.

Actually implementing 'Lite Urbanism' is hindered by several building regulations. The demand to which roads must comply for example is based on the weight of a fire truck filled with 30,000 litres. A situation that seldom arises determines the constructive demands to which a road must comply.

'Lite-Architecture' could be a good alternative for that part of the building task in which it is clear that it will fulfil a temporary function. Naturally century-old buildings are often the heart of the city and often seem to, in spite of their solid and heavy constructions, have a surprising flexibility. But next to the 'heavy' city, the 'light' city deserves more attention. Not only is this possibly much more environmentally friendly in the long run, the light city opens perspectives for self building and self-expression.

JV

Sources:

MVRDV: Farmax, Rotterdam 1998 (NL/ENG)
M. van Dorst: Informele stedenbouw, 1996 (NL)
Rotterdam 50 jaar Wederopbouw: Lichte Stedebouw, Rotterdam 1995 (NL)

Items 1995: City Formula (ENG)

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