Strategy Big Box NL

Design research into Big Boxes or “Verdozing” in the Netherlands

 

The last decades a single architectural typology has dominated the world more than any other: the big-box. While first theorized as the representational question of the ‘decorated shed’, the proliferation of anonymous utilitarian boxes demands a broader perspective. While in larger countries the amount of available land makes big-boxes less intrusive, in the Netherlands big-boxes quickly create an unmistakeable mark one the landscape. This proces, coined ‘Verdozing’, pits two of the Dutch most valued identities against each other: Trade vs ‘Polder’.

 

While some argue that big-boxes are simply the result of the Netherlands’ successful reorientation towards a global economy that is dependent on the seamless integration of international infrastructures. Others lament the destruction of the flat polder lands, which are not only the result of the globally renown waterwork and land-reclamation projects, but are also hot-wired with the Dutch political sensibility of collaboration and compromise.

 

Our research, commissioned by the College of State Advisors, seeks to first understand the proces of verdozing at various scales from the regional to the architectural and clarify the underlying forces and actors behind their construction. Based on this research, 7 design strategies have been developed that seek to deal with the generic boxes in a more specific approach that is better tailored to the Dutch social and spatial condition. Our findings will be published in the end of 2019.

Urban strategy Reslient Tacloban

Urban Redevelopment Strategy

 

Tacloban was hit by a devastating hurricane in 2014. In the aftermath a decision was made to develop the north of the city and to relocate vulnerable households further from the coastline. The displacement of vulnerable communities, however, has time and time again been shown to create more problems than it solves.

 

Our office was part of the United Nations Urban Lab team that was asked to assist the municipality of Tacloban with the development of a climate change adaptation growth strategy. This was meant to incorporate the remnants of the original relocation sites in the North into a comprehensive urban plan.

 

The proposal is based on a 3-tiered approach. First it aims to stimulate growth in safe areas through the strategic investment in public road, water and sewage infrastructures. Second, the plan clusters amenities and educational facilities around well connected and safe intersections. Last, a clear drainage network will double as public space and environmental reserve, but also functions as a buffer during floods and storm surges.

Prix de Rome – States of Exception

Our proposal speculates about a territorial project that seeks to reclaim control over the urban condition through The state of exception. Our proposal explores the possibility of co-opting this concept in spatial terms as a mechanism to achieve spatial aspirations that otherwise appear unattainable in our urban world.

 

States of exception are spaces where the status quo of law, economics, spatial planning and building code are temporarily suspended or modified to investigate how specific societal goals could materialize. As such, states of exception are immaterial interventions that nonetheless have large spatial and material consequences.

Euregio Ontspoord? / L’Eurégio Déraillée?

The Euroregion derailed, is an exhibition that looks at cross-border urbanization and rail development in the Meuse valley between Liège and Maastricht.

 

In 2018 a three-country rail network was expected to be operational, between Aachen, Liège and Maastricht, but the Belgian-Dutch connection is still falling behind. Is this a sign of failing political cooperation or are it really just technical problems that can be solved? What does the rail connection actually have to offer for Liège, Maastricht and the border region between them?Are interests aligned, and is there consensus about what the transnational connection should promote? Can innovations in mobility and logistics lead to more compact cities? Or do they accelerate suburbanization in the Maas valley?

 

Through contributions from various architects, students, photographers, sociologists and civil servants these questions for the border region where examined and discussed during the opening conference.

Prix de Rome – Foundations

Honorary Competition

 

The Prix de Rome is the oldest and most prestigious award in the Netherlands for visual artists under the age of 40 and architects under the age of 35. The award dates back to 1808 when Louis Napoleon introduced the Prix de Rome in the Netherlands to promote the arts. Although the award adopted various guises over the years, the aim has always been to trace talented artists and promote their further development and visibility.

 

Since January 2013, the organisation and funding of the award is handled by the Mondriaan Fund. The Fund does so with due respect for the Prix de Rome’s long history and with the express wish to guarantee its status as an independent award.

Euregio Ontspoord? / L’Eurégio Déraillée?

The Euroregion derailed, is an exhibition that looks at cross-border urbanization and rail development in the Meuse valley between Liège and Maastricht.

 

In 2018 a three-country rail network was expected to be operational, between Aachen, Liège and Maastricht, but the Belgian-Dutch connection is still falling behind. Is this a sign of failing political cooperation or are it really just technical problems that can be solved? What does the rail connection actually have to offer for Liège, Maastricht and the border region between them?Are interests aligned, and is there consensus about what the transnational connection should promote? Can innovations in mobility and logistics lead to more compact cities? Or do they accelerate suburbanization in the Maas valley?

 

Through contributions from various architects, students, photographers, sociologists and civil servants these questions for the border region where examined and discussed during the opening conference.

NAP – Normaal Amsterdams Peil

Research: Cartography & Photography

 

NAP is a photo- and cartographic investigation into the norm of Amsterdam’s housing stock. Our fascination was propelled by the apparent reluctance of our generation to deal with a notion that is both statistically inescapable and urgent with respect to the challenge of affordable middle class housing. Ultimately, raising the qualitative norm of housing provides better for housing for most people.

 

Why has the norm become such a difficult topic? Why is it implicitly relegated to unnamed 2nd-tier colleagues, or to other professions entirely? Why do we glorify the collaborative approach of the Amsterdamse Stijl but remain incapable, or reluctant, to work together with such deliberation?

 

This project investigates the norm through mapping parts of the city that were entirely built in one decade and consist of repetitive housing units built in close proximity. Through site visits and photography we sought to capture the guiding principles, aspirations and ideologies of that period. The series clearly reveals certain continuities and ruptures during the last century and seeks to establish a more self-conscious and reflective discourse about the implicit contemporary norms that we apparently find so difficult to acknowledge.

Exploitation Landscapes

Exploitation Landscapes is an investigation into the constantly changing relationship between man and nature. Plaster cast reliefs explore this apparent dichotomy through traces found in the ENCI quarry in Maastricht. The reliefs show traces of geological, industrial and ecological processes that have inspired a century of public debate.

 

To produce the serie a mix of analogue and digital fabrication techniques were combined: CNC-milled base reliefs were made from pointcloud scans and satellite data while other traces where taken in situ with silicone. After its first exposition in Bureau Europa in 2016, a second exposition was held in 2017 in the Dominican church in Maastricht.

City Ports Zuid Holland

Regional Study of Industrial Landscapes

 

Business parks reveal the consequences of development that is guided by the relentless optimization of consumption and production processes. As such they hold a mirror to our globalized society and challenge many of our long-cherished conceptions of city and landscape. Nonetheless, or because of this, the topic is structurally dismissed in the debate among architects and urbanists.

 

This design research was commissioned by the Board of Government Advisors and the province of South Holland. The question was to look at business parks from a regional perspective. Instead of approaching the assignment as an aesthetic issue, we focussed on the underlying systems and mechanisms that determine the establishment of business parks, namely: environmental zoning, land speculation, and regional infrastructure.

 

Our proposal explores the opportunities of re-using the old waterways that formed the backbone of regional commerce in the past. “City Ports” are proposed as transfer hubs strategically positioned in between the massive logistic landscape of the port of Rotterdam and future cities where clean industries and housing could co-exist once again. This proposal thus establishes a regional basis for an urban and architectural task that seeks to gain control over the proliferation of business parks and to reintegrate parts of the peripheral economy into the urban environment.