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This is the 12th episode of a series 25 building blocks to create better streets, neighbourhoods, and cities. This post deals with the question of how nature itself can help to deal with excessive rainfall and subsequently flooding of brooks and rivers, although these disasters are partially human-made.
Until now, flooding has mainly been combated with technical measures such as the construction of dykes and dams. There are many disadvantages associated with this approach and its effectiveness decreases. Nature-inclusive measures, on the other hand, are on the rise. The Netherlands is at the forefront of creating space for rivers to flood, where this is possible without too many problems.
An important principle is to retain water before it ends up in rivers, canals, and sewers. The so-called sponge city approach can be incorporated into the fabric of new neighbourhoods and it creates sustainable, attractive places too. A combination of small and large parks, green roofs, wadis, but also private gardens will increase the water storage capacity and prevents the sewer system from becoming overloaded and flooding streets and houses. Steps are being taken in many places in the world; [China is leading the way](https://www\.dropbox\.com/s/47zxvl3kgbeeasa/Tale of two cities.pdf?dl=0) (photo top right). However, the intensity of the precipitation is increasing. In 2023, 75 cm of rain fell in Beijing in a few days. Under such conditions, local measures fall short. Instead, nature-inclusive measures must be applied throughout the river basin.
In new housing estates, water basins are constructed to collect a lot of water. Their stepped slopes make them pleasant places to stay in times of normal water level. The pictures on the left are from Freiburg (above) and Stockholm (below). The top center photo shows the construction of a retention basin in Lois Angeles.
Wadis are artificial small-scale streams in a green bed with a high water-absorbing capacity. In the event of heavy rainfall, they collect, retain and discharge considerably more water than the sewer system (bottom center photo). Green strips, for example between sidewalks, cycle paths and roads also serve this purpose (photo bottom right: climate-adaptive streets in Arnhem).
Green roofs, roof gardens and soils
Green roofs look good, they absorb a lot of CO2 and retain water. The stone-covered urban environment is reducing the water-retaining capacity of the soil. Sufficiently large interspaces between paving stones, filled with crushed stone, ensure better permeability of streets and sidewalks. The same applies to half-open paving stones in parking lots.
Refrain from building in flood-prone areas
Up to the present day, flood-prone parts of cities are used for various purposes, often because the risk is underestimated or the pressure on space is very great. London's Housing and Climate Crises are on a Collision Course is the eloquent title of an article about the rapidly growing risk of flooding in London.
Hackney Wick is one of 32 growth centers set to help alleviate London's chronic housing shortage, which has already been repeatedly flooded by heavy rainfall. However, the construction of new homes continues. Measures to limit the flood damage at ground floor level include tiled walls and floors, water-inhibiting steel exterior doors, aluminum interior doors, kitchen appliances at chest height, closable sewers, and power supply at roof-level. Instead, floating neighbourhoods should be considered.
Follow the link below to find an overview of all articles.
We invite you to contribute to the conference "Reinventing the City 2024 - Blueprints for messy cities?"
Deadline to submissions: November 1, 2023
Notification of acceptance: December 1, 2023
The AMS Scientific Conference (AMS Conference) explores and discusses how cities can transform themselves to become more livable, resilient and sustainable while offering economic stability. In the second edition of “Reinventing the City” (23-25 April 2024), the overarching theme will be <em>"</em>Blueprints for messy cities? Navigating the interplay of order and complexity'. In three captivating days, we will explore 'The good, the bad, and the ugly' (day 1), 'Amazing discoveries' (day 2) and 'We are the city' (day 3).
Call for abstracts
The AMS Conference seeks to engage scientists, policymakers, students, industry partners, and everyone working with and on cities from different backgrounds and areas of expertise. We therefore invite you to submit your scientific paper abstract, idea for a workshop or special session with us. Submissions should be dedicated to exploring the theme ‘Blueprints for messy cities?’. We especially invite young, urban rebels to raise their voice, as they are the inhabitants of our future cities.
Our scientific committee responsible for the content of the conference program will assess all submissions and select a final program of contributions. Notification of acceptance will follow before 1 December 2023.
mobility | circularity | energy transition | climate adaptation | urban food systems | digitization | diversity | inclusion | living labs | transdisciplinary research
SUBMISSIONS AND CONTRIBUTIONS
| SCIENTIFIC PAPER ABSTRACTS |
We invite academics, industry partners, and professionals from all ages engaged in the related fields of urban design, governance, architecture, data science, engineering and/or sociology to submit an abstract for a conference presentation of your scientific paper (250-450 words).
| WORKSHOPS |
If you have a workshop proposal, please outline its purpose, the specific knowledge, techniques, or practices it covers, its objectives and learning outcomes, teaching strategies and resources, target audience, and any prerequisites, including the required level of experience (250-450 words).
| SPECIAL SESSIONS |
Next to scientific papers and workshops, we encourage you to submit different types of special sessions. These special sessions can include interactive forums, excursions, or practical demonstrations, depending on the subject and objectives. When submitting your proposal for a special session, we ask you to clearly highlight the session's objectives, expected collaborators (if applicable), the intended audience, and the type of session. Please also indicate whether you prefer an online or in-person format. Please note that you will be responsible for the content and organization of the session (250-450 words).
Click here to visit the event page and find more information on details about the Scientific Conference.
This is the 11th episode of a series 25 building blocks to create better streets, neighbourhoods, and cities. In this post, I wonder whether nature itself can tackle the environmental problems that humans have caused.
According to environmental scientists, ecosystems are providers of services. They are divided into production services (such as clean drinking water, wood, and biomass), regulating services (such as pollination, soil fertility, water storage, cooling, and stress reduction) and cultural services (such as recreation, and natural beauty). In case of nature-inclusive solutions ecosystems are co-managed to restore the quality of life on the earth in the short term and to maintain it in the long term, insofar as that is still possible.
The green-blue infrastructure
The meaning of urban green can best be seen in conjunction with that of water, hence the term green-blue infrastructure. Its importance is at least fourfold: (1) it is the source of all life, (2) it contributes substantially to the capture and storage of CO2, (3) 'green' has a positive impact on well-being and health; (4) it improves water management. This post is mainly about the third aspect. The fourth will be discussed in the next post. 'Green' has many forms, from sidewalk gardens to trees in the street or vegetated facades to small and large parks (see collage above).
Improving air quality
Trees and plants help to filter the water itself. They have a significant role to play in managing water and air pollution. Conifers capture particulate matter. However, the extent to which this occurs is less than is necessary to have a significant impact on health. Particulate matter contributes to a wide range of ailments. Like infections of the respiratory system and cardiovascular disease, but also cancer and possibly diabetes.
Countering heat stress
Heat stress arises because of high temperature and humidity. The wind speed and the radiation temperature also play a role. When the crowns of trees cover 20% of the surface of an area, the air temperature decreases by 0.3oC during the day. However, this relatively small decrease already leads to a 10% reduction in deaths. Often 40% crown area over a larger area is considered as an optimum.
Reduce mental stress and improve mood
According to Arbo Nederland, 21% of the number of absenteeism days is stress-related, which means approximately a €3 billion damage. A short-term effect of contact with nature on stress, concentration and internal tranquility has been conclusively demonstrated. The impact of distributing greenery within the residential environment is larger than a concentrated facility, such as a park, has.
Strengthening immune function via microbiome
The total amount of greenery in and around the house influences the nature and quantity of the bacteria present. This green would have a positive effect on the intestinal flora of those who are in its vicinity and therefore also on their immune function. The empirical support for this mechanism is still rather limited.
Stimulate physical activity
The impact of physical activity on health has been widely demonstrated. The Health Council therefore advises adults to exercise at least 2½ hours a week. The presence of a green area of at least ¼ hectare at 300 meters from the home is resulting more physical activity of adults in such areas, but not to more activity as a whole.
Promoting social contact
Well-designed green areas near the living environment invite social contacts. For instance, placement of benches, overview of the surroundings and absence of traffic noise. The state of maintenance are important: people tend to avoid neglected and polluted areas of public space, no matter how green.
Vegetation dampens noise to some extent, but it is more important that residents of houses with a green environment experience noise as less of a nuisance. It is assumed that this is due to a mechanism already discussed, namely the improvement of stress resistance because of the greenery present.
For years buildings made people sic. A growing number of architects want to enhance the effect of 'green' on human health by integrating it into the design of houses and buildings and the materials used. This is the case if it is ensured that trees and plants can be observed permanently. But also, analogies with natural forms in the design of a building
The 'Zandkasteel', the former headquarters of the Nederlandse Middenstandsbank in Amsterdam, designed by the architects Ton Alberts and Max van Huut, is organically designed both inside and outside, inspired by the anthroposophical ideas of Rudolf Steiner. The (internal) water features are storage for rainwater and the climate control is completely natural. The building has been repurposed for apartments, offices and restaurants.
Worldwide, there is a direct correlation between the amount of greenery in a neighborhood and the income of its residents. Conversely, we see that poorer neighborhoods where new green elements are added fall victim to green gentrification over time and that wealthier housing seekers displace the original residents.
The challenge facing city councils is to develop green and fair districts where gentrification is halted and where poorer residents can stay. Greening in poor communities must therefore be accompanied by measures that respect the residential rights and aim at improving the socio-economic position of the residents.
Follow the link below to find an overview of all articles.
The Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) is a global annual flagship event that brings together social entrepreneurs, policymakers, investors, academics and other impact-led professionals to strengthen impact entrepreneurship and encourage systemic change.
This year, the main event takes place in Amsterdam Noord and online and is co-hosted by Amsterdam Impact, the City of Amsterdam’s impact entrepreneurship initiative, and Social Enterprise NL.
Amsterdam, a city with an ambitious goal of becoming fully circular by 2050, envisions a future where materials are continuously reused, waste is minimized, and resource cycles are closed. Achieving this vision hinges on the availability and analysis of data, which allows us to assess the extent to which materials are used, reused, or wasted. However, this data is often elusive, complex to analyse, and, in some cases, not even recorded. These challenges surrounding circular data were the focal point of our recent event, "Data Dilemma's: Collecting Data for the Circular Economy."
During Data Dilemma's, we explore the possibilities for using data and new technologies to address urban and societal challenges, with a focus on responsible digitalization. The goal is to use data to make cities more safe, clean and accessible. But what happens to all the data that is collected? Which dilemmas do we encounter when we collect (personal) data to improve the city.
Apparently, the topic of this edition of Data Dilemma’s was not only of interest to the Amsterdam Smart City team, since this event was completely sold out. This was no surprise, with the three incredible speakers we had lined up: Mersiha Tepic (municipality of Amsterdam), Maarten Sukel (Picnic), and Joris Bouwens (Metabolic).
Mersiha Tepic: Circular Economy Monitor Amsterdam
Mersiha Tepic, Senior Researcher at the Research & Statistics department of the Municipality of Amsterdam, demonstrated the Circular Economy Monitor Amsterdam. This essential tool tracks Amsterdam's progress towards a circular economy and identifies areas requiring further attention.
The monitor gives interesting insights. For instance, it shows that the environmental impact of food is four times as big as the impact of the built environment, even though the amount of materials used in the built environment is four and a half times larger than for food.
It reveals that food has a very high environmental per kilogram compared to materials from the built environment. This is interesting because it makes the total environmental impact of food much higher than the impact of the built environment, even though the built environment uses four times as much mass in materials than food.
For more information on the circular monitor and all its insights, you can check out their (Dutch) website.
During her presentation, Mersiha also delved into the data dilemma she faces in this project—the scarcity of data from significant commercial entities operating within the city. The lack of data from these key players poses a considerable challenge to Amsterdam's circular ambitions, and Mersiha's work sheds light on the importance of bridging these data gaps.
Maarten Sukel: Data-Driven Precision at Picnic
Our second speaker, Maarten Sukel, a Data Scientist at Picnic Technologies, showcased how the online supermarket Picnic leverages data. He presented an innovative approach that combines traditional data sources with images, written descriptions, and geographical information to predict customer preferences accurately. By doing so, Picnic not only optimizes its supply chain but also minimizes waste, aligning with the circular economy's core principles.
Maarten's insights provided a glimpse into how data-driven precision can be a game-changer in the pursuit of sustainability and waste reduction, and he also gave a convincing sales pitch on why you should be a customer of Picnic.
Joris Bouwens: The Promise of Digital Product Passports
Closing the event was Joris Bouwens, a Project Manager and Senior Consultant at Metabolic's Circular Industries team. Joris shed light on Digital Product Passports and their potential to revolutionize the circular economy. These passports offer a comprehensive digital record of a product's lifecycle and environmental impact, empowering consumers to make informed choices and encouraging responsible consumption and recycling.
Joris's presentation highlighted the immense opportunity presented by Digital Product Passports in getting as much value from used products as possible. To fully illustrate the potential of Digital Product Passport, Metabolic has created a visualization of the data flows in four sectors: Electronics, Chemicals, Apparel, and Construction. You can find these visualizations here.
We extend our gratitude to our amazing speakers for their invaluable contributions and to our engaged audience for their active participation in the discussion.
In the next edition of Data Dilemma’s we will delve into the fascinating world of the underground. What cables, tubes, and other assets can be found there, how is the data on these assets shared, and how can we improve collaboration? We hope to see you there on the 26th of October.
Do you have any suggestions for which Data Dillema's we should uncover next? Let us know in the comments below.
Most important causes of death worldwide (Source: The Lancelet, le Monde)
This is the 10th episode of a series 25 building blocks to create better streets, neighbourhoods, and cities. In this post, I mainly focus on health problems which are directly related to the quality of the living environment
Are cities healthy places?
According to the WHO's Global Burden of Diseases Study, 4.2 million deaths worldwide each year are caused by particulate matter. The regional differences are significant. Urban health depends on the part of the world and the part of the city where you are living. More than 26 million people in the United States have asthma and breathing problems as a result. African-American residents in the US die of asthma three times as often as whites. They live in segregated communities with poor housing, close to heavy industry, transportation centers and other sources of air pollution.
Globally, the increasing prosperity of city dwellers is causing more and more lifestyle-related health problems. Heart disease, and violence (often drug-related) has overtaken infectious diseases as the first cause of death in wealthy parts of the world.
Very recently, Arcadis published a report on 'the healthy city'. This report compares 20 Dutch cities based on many criteria, divided over five domains. The four major cities score negatively on many aspects. In particular: healthy outdoor space, greenery, air quality, noise nuisance, heat stress and safety. Medium-sized cities such as Groningen, Emmen, Almere, Amersfoort, Nijmegen, and Apeldoorn, on the other hand, are among the healthiest cities.
In Amsterdam, the level of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in 2018 exceeded World Health Organization standards in many streets. The GGD of Amsterdam estimates that 4.5% of the loss of healthy years is the result of exposure to dirty air.
Collaborative measuring air quality
In various cities, groups of concerned citizens have started measuring the quality of the air themselves. A professional example is the AiREAS project in Eindhoven. An innovative measuring system has been developed together with knowledge institutions and the government. Sensors are distributed over the area of the city and the system provides real-time information. The AiREAS group regularly discusses the results with other citizens and with the city government. The measurement of the quality of the air is supplemented by medical examination. This research has confirmed that citizens in the vicinity of the main roads and the airport have an increased risk of mortality, reduced lung function and asthma.
The AiREAS project is linked to similar initiatives in other European cities. Occasionally the data is exchanged. That resulted in, among other things, this shocking video.
Could the future not be that we are busy doing the obvious things for our health, such as walking, cycling, eating good food and having fun and that thanks to wearables, symptoms of diseases are watched early and permanently in the background, without us being aware of it? The local health center will monitor and analyze the data of all patients using artificial intelligence and advise to consult the doctor if necessary. An easily accessible health center in one's own neighborhood remains indispensable.
Follow the link below to find an overview of all articles.
This is the 9th episode of a series 25 building blocks to create better streets, neighbourhoods, and cities. Casualties in traffic are main threats to the quality of the living environment. ‘Vision zero’ might change this.
Any human activity that annually causes 1.35 million deaths worldwide, more than 20 million serious injuries, damage of $1,600 billion and is a major cause of global warming would be banned immediately. Except for the use of the car. This post describes how changes in road design will improve safety.
The more public transport, the safer the traffic
Researchers from various universities in the US, Australia and Europe have studied the relationship between road pattern, other infrastructure features and road safety or its lack. They compared the road pattern in nearly 1,700 cities around the world with data on the number of accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Lead researcher Jason Thompsonconcluded: <em>It is quite clear that places with more public transport, especially rail, have fewer accidents</em>. Therefore, on roads too public transport must prioritized.
The growing risk of pedestrians and cyclists
Most accidents occur in developing and emerging countries. Road deaths in developed countries are declining. In the US from 55,000 in 1970 to 40,000 in 2017. The main reason is that cars always better protect their passengers. This decrease in fatalities does not apply to collisions between cars and pedestrians and cyclists, many of which are children. Their numbers are increasing significantly, in the US more than in any other developed country. In this country, the number of bicycle lanes has increased, but adjustments to the layout of the rest of the roads and to the speed of motorized traffic have lagged, exposing cyclists to the proximity of speeding or parking cars. SUVs appear to be 'killers'and their number is growing rapidly.
Safe cycling routes
In many American cities, paint is the primary material for the construction of bike lanes. Due to the proximity of car traffic, this type of cycle routes contributes to the increasing number of road deaths rather than increasing safety. The Canadian city of Vancouver, which doubled the number of bicycle lanes in five years to 11.9% of all downtown streets, has the ambition to upgrade 100% of its cycling infrastructure to an AAA level, which means safe and comfortable for all ages and abilities. Cycle paths must technically safe: at least 3 meters wide for two-way traffic; separated from other traffic, which would otherwise have to reduce speed to less than 30 km/h). In addition, users also need to feel safe.
Vision Zero Cities such as Oslo and Helsinki are committed to reducing road fatalities to zero over the next ten years. They are successful already now: There were no fatalities in either city in 2019. These and other cities use the Vision Zero Street Design Standard, a guide to planning, designing, and building streets that save lives.
Accidents are often the result of fast driving but are facilized by roads that allow and encourage fast driving. Therefore, a Vision Zero design meets three conditions:
• Discouraging speed through design.
• Stimulating walking, cycling and use of public transport.
• Ensure accessibility for all, regardless of age and physical ability (AAA).
The image above shows a street that meets these requirements. Here is an explanation of the numbers: (1) accessible sidewalks, (2) opportunity to rest, (3) protected cycle routes, (4) single lane roads, (5) lanes between road halves, (6) wide sidewalks, (7) public transport facilities, (8) protected pedestrian crossings, (9) loading and unloading bays, (10) adaptive traffic lights.
Strict rules regarding speed limits require compliance and law enforcement and neither are obvious. The Netherlands is a forerunner with respect to the infrastructure for bikes and pedestrians, but with respect to enforcement the country is negligent: on average, a driver of a passenger car is fined once every 20,000 kilometers for a speeding offense (2017 data). In addition, drivers use apps that warn of approaching speed traps. Given the risks of speeding and the frequency with which it happens, this remissing law enforcement approach is unacceptable.
Follow the link below to find an overview of all articles.
Met een spetterende kick-off door Justin Edwards, Director of Learning Programmes van Microsoft, zijn 200 studenten van hogeschool Windesheim Flevoland vandaag in teams gestart met het in Minecraft bouwen van het nog te realiseren stadsdeel Pampus. Bijzonder omdat Almere als tweede stad na London start met een Minecraft challenge voor de realisatie van een nieuwbouwopgave. Het winnende studententeam van Windesheim mag haar concept van 7 – 9 november presenteren in het Holland paviljoen tijdens de Smartcity Expo World Congres in Barcelona.
De komende anderhalf jaar biedt Almere honderden jongeren tussen de 8 en 21 jaar op deze unieke manier de kans om zelf op de stoel van de architect te zitten en zo mee te denken over grote maatschappelijke vraagstukken. Basisschoolleerlingen en studenten bouwen op hun eigen niveau aan een virtueel Almere Pampus. Dit als plek waar zij in de toekomst zelf willen wonen. Dit stadsdeel bouwen ze met een speciale versie van Minecraft Education Edition.
Wethouder Maaike Veeningen van Almere (Economische ontwikkeling, hoger onderwijs): ‘we dagen leerlingen tot 21 jaar uit om met oplossingen te komen voor vraagstukken op het gebied van duurzaam, energiezuinig en inclusief bouwen. Op deze manier leren zij bijvoorbeeld over het gebruik van Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR) en robotisering bij het ontwikkelen van een nieuw stadsdeel. Zo betrekken we onze toekomstige inwoners bij het bouwen aan de ideale stad van de toekomst.’
Het toekomstige Almere Pampus wordt in het zuidwesten van Almere gebouwd, met meer dan 30.000 woningen en 16.000 arbeidsplaatsen. Projectdirecteur Almere Pampus en senior stedenbouwkundige bij de gemeente Almere Paola Huijding over de Minecraft Challenge: “Deze leerlingen zijn misschien de toekomstige bewoners van Pampus. Hiermee bouwen we aan woon- en werkplekken omringd door water en groen. Het is daarom zo mooi dat juist de toekomstige generatie nu meedenkt over hun leefomgeving.”
De speciale editie van Minecraft die de studenteams gebruiken is ontwikkeld door Iamprogrez. Het gebruik ervan moet op een speelse en laagdrempelige manier bijdragen aan een digitaal vaardige samenleving. Scholieren krijgen zo inzicht in de banen van de toekomst. Ook kunnen zij in een buddysysteem ouderen meenemen in hun digitale kennis en vaardigheden.
Fleur van Beem, Executive Director bij VodafoneZiggo: “Het vooruithelpen van twee miljoen mensen in de samenleving willen wij bereiken door initiatieven als Online Masters, een online lesprogramma voor scholen over de digitale wereld. De Minecraft Challenge sluit hierop naadloos aan en het is natuurlijk fantastisch om dankzij gamification jongeren digitaalvaardig te krijgen.”
Bouwen aan innovatieve concepten
De leerlingen kunnen alleen of in teams werken aan de challenge en krijgen hiervoor een digital skills-certificaat. Na de ontwerpfase, kunnen zij hun toekomstige visie op Pampus uploaden op de website van de Green Innovation Hub (GIH). Een groep experts kiest de winnaar. Danny Frietman, Projectdirecteur van de GIH: “De winnende uitkomsten van de Minecraft Challenge vormen de basis voor ons om start-ups en scale-ups uit te dagen om de concepten van de scholieren daadwerkelijk in de praktijk te brengen.”
“Hoe ziet het er dan uit”
Kijk HIER naar de video aankondiging van de eerder gehouden Minecraft-challenge in Londen. Daarin zie je duidelijk hoe de challenge werkt en welke mogelijkheden Minecraft hiervoor biedt.
Fotografie Daan Klunder, Almere City Marketing
This is the 8th episode of a series 25 building blocks to create better streets, neighbourhoods, and cities. The question is whether a distribution of services over the whole area contributes to the quality of the urban environment.
The central parts of cities like Siena, Amsterdam and Barcelona are overrun by visitors and tourists. Partly because Airbnb has increased its overnight capacity by withdrawing homes from their actual destination. As a result, these cities see their real estate prices rise ans residents leave, making room for expensive apartments, boutique hotels and corporate headquarters. Eventually, old city centers will become amusement parks that offer twenty-four hours of entertainment.
The need for distributed centers
There are no objections against visiting nice cities. The underlying problem is that many of these cities have few other places of interest left, partly due to destruction in the Second World War and their rapid expansion afterwards. Therefore, some cities are in urgent need to create additional attractive places and become polycentric. This aligns with the intention of cities to become a 15-minute city. The figure above is a model developed for this purpose by the council of Portland (USA).
Because of this policy, the prospect is that residents can buy their daily necessities close to home. At the other hand, tourists will be spread. What attractive neighborhood centers look like will be discussed in a subsequent post.
Cities without an inordinate number of tourists and visitors also observe a steady grow in the number of events, all competing for the same locations. For this reason, it is advisable that cities have a few ancillary centers each with one or two crowd pullers that divide the stream of visitors. An example is the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and its newly developed public space around. In world cities such as London and New York, such centers have existed for years, but they are sometimes difficult to find because they are spread over a large area.
Amsterdam too urgently needs one or more ancillary centers. The area between Leidseplein and the Rijksmuseum has potential but lacks unity due to the chaotic intersections of roads and tram lines. The presence of a train or metro station is an advantage, that is why the area near Station Zuid also has potential.
Next decade, many visitors will still arrive by car and the best policy is to seduce them to leave their cars at safe transfer points to continue their journey by public transport. For visitors who intend to stay longer, this solution is not optimal. Many will dismiss the perspective of carrying their luggage to the hotel by public transport, although taking a cab is an alternative, albeit expensive. The alternative is the presence of a couple of affordable hotels next to the car park and the development of these areas into attractive public space, with shops, cafes, and restaurants, as a starting point to visit places of interest in the city. These centers can also accommodate major events, such as a football stadium, a music hall, cinemas and open-air festivities, because of the presence of large scale parking facilities. The Amsterdam Arena district is developing in this direction. It used to be a desolate place, but it's getting better. There are excellent train and metro links.
And what about the old 'old' city center?
The public spaces in the old city centers must meet the same requirements as the whole city to prevent becoming an amusement park for tourists. Aside from its carefully maintained and functionally integrated cultural legacy, centers should provide a mix of functions, including housing, offices, spaces for craft and light industry and plenty of greenery dedicated to its inhabitants. The number of hotels should be limited and renting out by Airbnb prohibited. There will be shops for both residents and tourists, rents must be frozen, and the speculative sale of houses curbed. Space over shops must be repurposed for apartments.
Follow the link below to find an overview of all articles.
Hoe maak je de stap van gezamenlijk leren, naar samen echt dingen doen? Er is al veel over gezegd en geschreven... Communities of practice, smeden van allianties, enz enz... Vaak blijft het dan een beetje hangen bij het organiseren van een toffe sessie, vast met veel energie. En daarna gaat iedereen - als het goed is met nieuwe ideeën en inspiratie - weer verder met waar 'ie al mee bezig was. Vaak is dat al genoeg, maar zeker in transities wil je eigenlijk een stapje verder komen.
Is eigenlijk al wel voldaan aan een aantal belangrijke condities om het netwerk levend te maken en te houden?
Reflecterend op onze eigen praktijk, ontdekten we een aantal kenmerken die belangrijk en beïnvloedbaar zijn bij het bouwen van impactvolle levende lerende netwerken. Amsterdam Smart City zelf is zo'n voorbeeld, waarin we voortdurend met elkaar op zoek zijn naar hoe we onze samenwerking van betekenis kunnen laten zijn voor de duurzame transities in onze regio. De Green Deal Circular Festivals, het MRA Platform Smart Mobility, Sail Amsterdam, en het Initiatief Bewust Bodemgebruik zijn enkele andere voorbeelden van levende lerende netwerken. Ook hier zagen we telkens dat de volgende kenmerken van belang zijn om verder te komen, en om de stap te maken van samen leren, naar samen doen:
(1) Wederzijdse afhankelijkheid tussen deelnemers
(2) Beweging door gedeelde energie
(3) Diversiteit daagt uit
(4) Persoonlijke ontwikkeling, empathie, ego overstijgend
(5) Veilige ruimte om te leren en ontwikkelen
Op basis van onze ervaringen in de praktijk, hebben we onze kijk op het ontstaan, de kenmerken en het begeleiden van Levende Lerende Netwerken opgeschreven in een whitepaper. Wil je meer weten, dan kun je die downloaden via onderstaande link (naar beneden scrollen naar de download knop van de Levende Lerende Netwerken Whitepaper).
Tijdens het PGM Open Congres op 26 september organiseren we hierover een workshop voor programmamanagers (https://lnkd.in/gcRPv4V8). En, je kunt me natuurlijk altijd een berichtje sturen als je meer wilt weten!
This is the 7th episode of a series 25 building blocks to create better streets, neighbourhoods, and cities. The question is whether motorized traffic must be banned from central parts of the city to improve the quality of the urban environment.
Most cities face a choice when it comes to accessibility of their central parts: Whether they renovate the road infrastructure or they face a growing and lasting conflict between car traffic and visitors, whose numbers will decrease further as a result of prioritizing cars. This post deals with the first option.
Changing priorities in the use of road space
The starting point for this renovation is choosing the best experience for both residents and visitors. Therefore, the use of road space in all parts of cities must be under scrutiny. This also applies the connecting roads between centers and the other parts of the city. The distribution of space between pedestrians, cyclists, cars, and public transport has to be reconsidered. A good example is the Ferdinand Bolstraat in Amsterdam. Cars have been banned, the sidewalks are widened, cyclists have their own lanes and the tram uses a switch track (photo below left), just as in Leidsestraat (photo above left).
The rule of thumb is that the larger a city and the better public transport is functioning, the more the accessibility by car of the central parts and the residential areas as well can be reduced. Visitors who rely on the use of a car then store their vehicle in a parking on the edge of the center, preferably near supermarkets or other places where voluminous purchases can be made. From these parking spaces they enter the central area on foot. Incidentally, it is worth considering opening the entire center to cars until 11 a.m. to pick up orders.
Cyclists can be allowed deeper penetration in the central urban area, but not unlimited. They leave their bicycles in (guarded) parking facilities too.
Public transport never stops more than 300 meters from the middle of the center, where comfortable waiting areas are offered, and information is available.
Separation of traffic flows
A separation of traffic flows is required for the entire urban area. The most central streets will be exclusively intended for pedestrians, emergency services and occasionally the tram. Bicycles are allowed in streets in the center, depending on their wideness.
Public transport has always priority at traffic lights. It ensures not only transfer-free accessibility of the urban center, but also connects the most important residential and work areas with a minimum number of transfer. The possible arrival of autonomous minibuses will radically improve the flexibility of public transport (photo above right).
Intra-urban walking and cycling routes
Pedestrians’ and cyclists’ safety and amenity are improved if the connections between the central and outlying parts of the city are accessible by separate routes too. In a city whose green space penetrates deep into the central area, these routes can partly run through nature. A good example is the cycle route from the center of Utrecht to Leidsche Rijn (photo bottom right). Pedestrians need an attractive route through the built-up area for reasons of social safety.
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On Thursday, September 7, Amsterdam Smart City hosted a knowledge exchange for a delegation of leaders and CEOs from Denmark’s construction sector. The exchange was part of a study program organized by the Construction Section of the Confederation of Danish Industry in partnership with the Danish Embassy in The Hague, to help transfer Dutch best practices for circular construction to Denmark.
The exchange provided an opportunity for Dutch and Danish colleagues to learn from each other’s experiences on how to transition the construction sector to a more sustainable state. This is imperative since the construction sector is responsible for approximately 10% of CO₂ emissions, and a third of all waste streams in both countries. At the same time, both countries have high ambitions for transitioning to sustainability: the Netherlands aims to transition to a fully circular economy by 2050, while Denmark aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2030.
After an introduction to the Amsterdam Smart City program, Merlijn Blok from Metabolic shared the experience of Amsterdam in transitioning to a circular built environment. Merlijn highlighted several projects and best practices including:
- De Ceuvel: In 2012, Metabolic teamed up with a group of architects to develop a former polluted shipyard into a “clean technology playground” by repurposing discarded house boats into workspaces for creative entrepreneurs. The project fused sustainability, technology, and art, firmly planting the seed for more creative and circular area developments in Amsterdam North and beyond.
- Schoonschip: Building on the experience and lessons from De Ceuvel, Metabolic got involved in a community-driven project that aimed to build a sustainable floating community. Driven entirely by future residents, Schoonschip was built with a high ambition of circularity, with special attention paid to biobased materials which are key to reducing the environmental footprint of construction projects.
- Roadmap Circular Land Tendering: Scaling up isolated circular construction projects requires dedicated instruments to stimulate, measure and mandate circularity in the built environment, for instance through procurement. The Roadmap Circular Land Tendering is one of city of Amsterdam’s main instruments embedding the principles of circular construction in tender procedures. With it, the city of Amsterdam wants to contribute to the development of a national standard for circular building.
Central to the discussion was the question of how to move beyond ambitions towards making concrete and measurable progress on circularity in the built environment. On this topic, it was inspiring to learn from the Danish experience. The delegates shared that the Danish government has developed a “National Strategy for Sustainable Construction” which limits the CO₂ emissions permitted in construction projects, with new requirements being phased into the building code in 2023. The regulations apply to new buildings of more than 1,000 m2 and set a limit of 12kg CO₂-eq/m2/year based on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) over 50 years. This limit is expected to be tightened in the upcoming years, thereby forcing the construction sector to incrementally decarbonize over the next decade. Such mandates are foreseen but not yet implemented in the Netherlands, providing an opportunity to learn from Denmark’s trailblazing approach. However, the Danish colleagues already shared some words of caution if Netherlands should adopt a similar approach: since the Danish regulation limits CO₂ impact per square meter, the regulation does little to incentivize construction of smaller dwellings which is one of the most important, though often overlooked measures in reducing the impact of the construction sector. As Danish colleagues explained, the overarching trend in Denmark is towards construction of larger dwellings, which is fundamentally at odds with the country’s sustainability goals. Other mechanisms are therefore needed to mandate more compact development.
The exchange provided valuable insights and cross-pollination of approaches between Danish and Dutch colleagues on a topic central to the transition to the circular economy. As leaders in the sustainability transition, the Netherlands and Denmark have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to showcase the way to circular construction and to help scale this approach internationally.
<em>Are you working on innovative and transferable policies which can accelerate the transition to circular construction and sustainable built environment? Or do you have a circular project or challenge you would like to share with the Amsterdam Smart City network? Share your reflections and experiences in the comments below or send an email to email@example.com to discuss possibilities for collaboration.</em>
At the 22nd of September 2023 we celebrate the tenth YIMBY Harvest Festival at the Hoeve Klein Mariëndaal in Arnhem. What is YIMBY? YIMBY is the acronym for Yes-In-My-Back-Yard. YIMBY Arnhem! started in 2013 with the distribution of small scale food platforms, called YIMBY's, to the citizen of Arnhem. At the same time green education was offered to urban food growers to convert green enthusiasm into green harvest. During ten years hundreds of citizen in Arnhem joined the YIMBY social network of growing healthy, organic food in the city. The succes of YIMBY Arnhem! are the people supported by local government and local branches of green companies.
YIMBY is a culture of YES, positively stimulating social innovation for a healthier, greener and more social neighbourhood. The YIMBY experience demonstrates that changes do not start in The Hague, Brussels or Strasbourg. The change to a greener and more social Europe starts at home, in the backyard of people. We invited Frans Timmermans to the YIMBY Harvest Festival in Arnhem to share and to learn from ten years of YIMBY experience in the city of Arnhem. YIMBY Arnhem! shows that in due time small grassroots initiatives steadily grow and empower people to social inclusion and green cooperation.
Day and night, 114 sensors are collecting data about the use and occupation of the facilities at H20 Esports Campus in Purmerend. Such data can be of great interest to plan work more efficiently and cost effectively. Partners of AMdEX, an Amsterdam Economic Board initiative make sure data is exchanged between trusted parties only. And that any conditions for access and use are enforced.
How many people go in and out a building throughout the day? Do they prefer specific elevators? Which toilet areas are most used? Are bins and soap dispensers full? Facility managers and cleaning companies love that type of information. Unoccupied areas do not need to be serviced as frequently as busy ones. The Esports Campus, an event location for businesses and private parties, was keen to share the sensor data in a safe and trustworthy manner. The entrepreneur reached out to the team of our AMdEX initiative, via the Data Sharing Coalition.
Ready for it
For AMdEX, the request from Esports Campus came at exactly the right time. Previously, the field lab at the Marineterrein in Amsterdam proved how environmental and liveability data can be accessed and shared in a trusted environment – after the data owner and data user had agreed on simple terms. “We were ready for a more complicated case,” says Hayo Schreijer (Dexes), one of the founding partners of AMdEX. “The case at Esports Campus is a mix of private and public data, collected in a private space and to be shared over the Internet. Also, a lot more parties would be involved than in the previous Marineterrein case.”
Endorsing partner KPN
KPN is AMdEX’ endorsing partner for connectivity and network infrastructure. KPN’s infrastructure could enable this innovative entrepreneur to collect and share this data reliably with his business partners. Carolien Nijhuis is EVP Internet of Things and Dataservices at KPN. She says: “This smart building project is next level complexity. It combines all the issues we think are important. Safe and trusted exchange of data is necessary to solve the bigger issues in our society. In this project, KPN provides interoperability and connectivity according to European standards of privacy and security.” It is tempting to think that data exchange is all about technology. It is not. “Besides being innovative, using professional technology, data exchange is very much about legal and organisational issues”, says Schreijer.
New terms and conditions
The Esports Campus pilot ran in parallel with a next phase of the field lab at the Marineterrein. Tom van Arman (Tapp), says: “At Marineterrein we measure environmental factors and occupancy of the public space: water quality, temperature, numbers of people. Esports is a private space that collects more personal and commercially sensitive data. We had to consider new terms and conditions in the agreements with all parties involved. We also included the principles of the Tada Manifesto, that prescribe safe, inclusive sharing and usage of data.” Collecting data inside a building results in whole new datasets to play with.
Prototype for all-in-one app
This summer, a milestone was reached: a prototype of Facility Apps, the all-in-one app solution for cleaning and facility management. Data from the Esports Campus is made available to the cleaning partners through this app, allowing them to plan the work more efficiently. The data in the app is contained in a ‘Solid Pod’, a decentralised data store. When data is stored in someone’s Pod, they control which people and applications can access it. The AMdEX layer verifies the identity of parties that want to access the data and authorises them to do so – if they are certified parties. Schreijer clarifies that AMdEX does not ‘see’ the data. It tells systems whether access or usage of data is allowed and makes these decisions auditable. Nijhuis also emphasises that KPN enables the technical data exchange and has no access to the actual data. The next step is to evaluate the app with the users.
Great potential for smart cities
This pilot has shown that private data can be shared reliably between private partners. Combined with the results from the public space of Marineterrein, all three partners see great potential for smart city applications. City planning based on actual data, more efficient energy management of buildings or even industrial areas, innovation in sustainable logistics. “Especially when we all work together,” concludes Nijhuis. “If you run alone, you go faster, but together you go farther.”
Text: Karina Meerman
This article is part of the series 25 building blocks to create better streets, neighbourhoods, and cities. Read whether Increasing density of cities complies with the quality of the urban environment.
There is widespread agreement to use the available space more thoughtful than during the last decades. In the Nationale Omgevingsvisie (NOVI), the Dutch government has unambiguously expressed its preference for housing locations within existing built-up areas or in the vicinity of stations.
The need for density
Frequently, references are made to ‘urban sprawl' in the USA to illustrate the disadvantages of low density. However, but The Netherlands is also familiar with extensive growth of the urban area. The maps above show the growth of the Amsterdam area. Between 1900 and 2000, the population of Amsterdam grew from 317,000 to 727,000 inhabitants. Its surface from 560 to 11,500 hectares.
The spread of urban activities over an ever-increasing surface and the associated traffic movements have led to vast monotonous areas, car dependence, expansion of the road network, increasing congestion, impoverishment of social life, air pollution, emissions of greenhouse gases and decline of nature.
A summary of 300 OECD research projects shows that compactness results in more efficient use of facilities, but that there are also disadvantages in terms of health and well-being, usually as results of air pollution and traffic.
Advantages of density
Denser development is generally associated with the availability of amenities within walking distance, creating support for better public transport accessibility, and leading to more efficient use of utilities. Moreover - corrected for the composition of the population - CO2 emissions in urban areas are at least 30% lower than in the suburbs. An advantage that disappears in case of high-rises.
No necessity to expand building outside urban areas
According to many urban planners, there is no reason to divert to locations outside the existing built-up area. They claim that there is sufficient space in every city for new residential locations, for instance disused office buildings and factory locations. Many new homes can also come available through the division of oversized single-family homes and the renovation and raising of older (porch) homes.
These arguments only hold if at the same time the nuisance by densification is limited. For example, by reducing car useto prevent the roads from becoming even more crowded and the streets even more filled with parked cars. I don't see that happening yet.
Competing claims on urban land use
There is another important objection to further densification and that is the fact that other forms of land use also appeal to available land within the urban space. For example, the expansion of industry, trade, research etcetera. preferably in the vicinity of living areas to reduce the length of trips.
The most important claim on the available space is the need to expand the city’s greenery. Research into the development of 'green' in Amsterdam and Brussels since 2010 shows that the open space ratio (OSR) in both cities has decreased. In Amsterdam this was 3.68 km2 (4.7%) and in Brussels 9.17 km2 (11.9%). This is in line with a recent study by Arcadis, which shows that the four major cities in the Netherlands score very poorly on healthy outdoor space, greenery, air quality, noise nuisance, heat stress and safety.
Inner- and outer-urban development revisited
The report therefore concludes that extension of the use of urban space for housing must be weighed up against other claims for the use of space, such as urban greening, urban agriculture, and the maintenance and expansion of business activities. At the same time, the objections to ecologically responsive building activities outside the already urbanized areas must be reconsidered. Three-quarters of the agricultural land is used for intensive livestock farming, not exactly creating valuable nature. I will come back to it later.
In the 'Dossier leefbaar wonen' (in Dutch)' I wrote extensively about the subject of providing affordable housing. You can download this e-book using the link below:
This article is part of the series 25 building blocks to create better streets, neighbourhoods, and cities. Read how the design of high-rises might comply with the quality of the urban environment.
High-rises are under scrutiny in two respects. First, its necessity or desirability. Secondly, their integration in the urban fabric. This post is about the latter.
Options for high-rises
Suppose you want to achieve a density of 200 housing equivalents in a newly to build area of one hectare. A first option is the way in which Paris and Barcelona have been built: Contiguous buildings from five to eight floors along the streets, with attractive plinths. In addition, or as an addition, others prefer high-rises because of their capacity of enhancing the metropolitan appearance of the area. Not to increase the density in the first place.
Almost all urban planners who opt for the latter option take as starting point rectangular blocks, which height along the streets is limited to 4-6 storeys, including attractive plinths. The high-rise will then be realized backwards, to keep its massiveness out of sight. The image at top left gives an impression of the reduced visibility of high-rises at street level on Amsterdam's Sluisbuurt. According to many, this is a successful example of the integration of high-rises, just like the Schinkelkwartier under development, also in Amsterdam(picture top right).
The last option is also recognisable in all urban plans with a metropolitan character in Utrecht and Rotterdamand more or less in The Hague too. This represents a turnaround from the past. Research by Marlies de Nijsshowed that only 20% of all high-rises built before 2015 met this condition. These buildings consist of separate towers without an attractive plinth. What you see at ground floor-level are blank walls hiding technical, storage or parking areas. The Zalmtoren in Rotterdam, the tallest building in the Netherlands, exemplifies this (picture below right). This kind of edifices is mostly surrounded by a relatively large space of limited use. Other disadvantages of detached high-rises are the contrast with adjacent buildings, their windy environment, the intense shadows, its ecological footprint, and the costs.
Two extreme examples of disproportionate high-rises can be found in Paris. Paris has always applied a limitation of the building height to 37 meters within the zone of the Périférique. The exception is the Eiffel Tower, but it was only meant to be temporary. In the two short periods that this provision was cancelled, two buildings have risen: The first is the 210-meter-high Tour Montparnasse, which most Parisians would like to demolish immediately. Instead, the building will be renovated at a cost of €300 million in preparation for the Olympic Games. After 10 years of struggle, construction of the second has started in 2021. It is the 180-meter-high Tour Triangle, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, so-called star architects. The photos at the bottom left and centre show the consequences for the cityscape.
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Thursday, the 30th of August, we had the first follow-up session about Local Energy Systems (LES) since the Transition day session in June. Over the summer Omar Shafqat (HvA, ATELIER), dr. Renée Heller (HvA), and Lennart Zwols (municipality of Amsterdam), have worked on finding a solution to the barriers to scaling up LES. They focused on the barrier of sharing information and learnings of LES projects. In this session, Omar presented a framework that could help overcome this barrier.
A barrier to scaling up LES: Lack of knowledge
In the previous session, we discussed how the difficulty with starting a new LES project is often that the information on how to do this is not readily available. Many pilots have been done, or are still ongoing, and there are definitely reports on the learnings of these pilots. Unfortunately, these learnings are not always available to everyone, and if they are, quite difficult to find and aggregate.
Lennart therefore proposed to make a framework in which we can gather all the information on LES pilots and projects, so we have a central place for the collecting and sharing of information. Omar and Renée have created this framework, which Omar presented in this session. The framework has three objectives:
1. Collecting the learnings of the pilots in one place.
2. Defining the gaps in our knowledge.
3. Creating a starting point for people who want to create their own LES.
Definition of a Local Energy System
To properly create a framework in which various information of relevant LES projects can be collected, it was necessary to have a good definition of a LES. Omar presented the definition as follows:
A local energy system is an interactive, non-linear system that must contain:
- Local generation
- Controllable demand
- Energy Management Systems
- Energy communities
Hans Roeland Polman (AMS) commented that he was missing the infrastructure in this definition. Omar clarified that the lines between these five entities symbolize the infrastructure and that it is indeed an important component of LESs.
When we speak of LES it is always a balancing act. Different stakeholders have different objectives for implementing a LES, maximizing renewables, minimizing costs, flexibility/congestion, grid dependence, etc. This implies that the aspects of a LES are of differing importance to stakeholders, which is important to take into account with information gathering and sharing.
The first version of the framework for collecting information
After discussing the definition of LES, we dived into the framework. The goal of this framework is to have one format in which we collect information and learnings from all the LES pilots and projects (starting with the ones in our own network). This will allow us to speak a common language, easily compare projects, identify stakeholders and their interests, see where the knowledge gaps are, and more easily find specific information about LES.
Note: This framework is not the interface for the end-user. The framework should be used to catalogue information and learnings so that we have the information on all the different projects in the same format. We can then use this to build a user interface that end-users can interact with. How to best do this is still a topic of discussion.
The framework is presented below. On the x-axis, you can see the time scale. On the left you have the long-term (planning) phase, and on the right the short-term (management) phase.
On the left side, you can see the four areas in which the framework is divided:
- Energy markets
- Energy systems
- Community/user aspects
The colour-coded third dimensions show which blocks relate to certain topics of interest, and should have information added on this topic. The topics of interest that have been added now are:
- Energy balance
It might be interesting to add others as well.
It was suggested by the group that electricity/heating might also be an interesting topic to add. Hans (AMS) also suggested that it would be interesting to add information about local infrastructure, such as a local heat network.
Discussion and questions
After the presentation of the framework a discussion followed. Many questions were raised which require further examination. A few of the key questions were:
- What should the scope be of this framework? Are we just looking at our own region, or do we want it to be used on a much larger scale?
- How do we connect to the other organizations and projects to this framework, and refrain from doing double work?
- Who is the owner of this framework and will keep it up to date?
- To make this framework usable for project managers, it should have a clear template that can be filled in. Who is going to make this, and how do we ensure that project managers of LES projects fill this in?
Next steps and call to action:
There are still many questions that need to be answered, and we will continue the research and learn by doing. We will start with the ATELIER and the LIFE project, to see if we can put them into this framework. This will be done by Omar (HvA, ATELIER), and Hans (AMS, LIFE). They will also create the first version of a template in which the information can be collected so that project managers can fill out this information. This will then be tested with the project managers of the LIFE project to see if the template and framework are indeed workable.
This will give a good starting point to see if the framework is suitable for the collection of information and learnings of LES projects. However, it will be far from complete. The ATELIER and LIFE projects don’t contain all the topics to properly test the framework and create templates for everything. We therefore need more partners with LES projects that can help test and develop this framework.
So if you are working on a Local Energy System project, and you would like to help further develop the framework, by giving feedback on the framework itself or using your project to validate the effectiveness of the framework, please let us know.
This article is part of the series 25 building blocks to create better streets, neighbourhoods, and cities. Read how design, starting from street-level view contributes to the quality of the urban environment.
Plinths express the nature of activities inside
The visual quality, design and decoration of the plinth, the 'ground floor' of a building, contributes significantly to the quality of the streetscape and to the (commercial) success of the activities that take place at plinth level. This also applies, for example, if the activities of a workshop can be observed through the windows. Blank walls speed up visitors' pace, unless this wall has attractive art. Vacancy is disastrous.
A plinth displays the destination of a building or a part of it (photo bottom left). Fashion stores and suppliers of delicacies depend on its ability to attract buyers. There is nothing against allowing the plinth to expand slightly onto the street - think of beautiful displays of fresh vegetables - if a sufficiently wide barrier-free pedestrian route is maintained.
The total length of streets that must generate customers and visitors must not be too long in order to keeps vacancy to a minimum. This may mean that still profitable shops in streets where the number of vacancies is increasing must consider moving if revitalization of the street is infeasible. The space left behind can best be revamped into space for housing or offices to prevent further dilapidation.
Plinths of non-commercial destinations
The need for an attractive plinth also applies to non-commercial spaces. This may concern information centers, libraries, day care centers for children or the elderly, places where music groups rehearse, etcetera. Co-housing and co-working centers might also concentrate several activities in a semi-public print. In an apartment building, you might like to see an attractive portal through the glass, with stairs and elevators and a sitting area.
Houses in the more central parts of the city can also have an attractive plinth. In practice, this happens often by placing plants and creating a seat on the sidewalk. The so-called Delft plinths are narrow, sometimes slightly raised additional sidewalks for plants, a bench, or stalling bicycles (photo bottom middle). The worst is if the plinth of a private house is mainly the garage door.
The aesthetics of the plinth
In many pre-war high streets, the plinth was designed as an integral part of the building. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, many retailers modernized their businesses and demolished entire ground floors. The walls of the upper floor, sometimes of several buildings at the same time, rested on a heavy steel beam and the new plinth was mainly made of glass (photo top left). Often a door to reach the upper floors is missing, complicating the premises’ residential function. Initially, these new fronts increased the attractivity of the ground floor. However, the effect on the streetscape has turned out to be negative. In Heerlen, artist and 'would be' urban planner Michel Huisman (the man behind the Maankwartier) is busy restoring old shopfronts together with volunteers and with the support of the municipality (photos top right). In Amsterdam, shopfronts are also being restored to their original appearance (photo bottom right).
The sky is the limit for improving plinths, as can be seen in the book Street-Level Architecture, The Past, Present and Future of Interactive Frontages by Conrad Kicker and the *Superplinten Handbook</em> , commissioned by the municipality of Amsterdam.
In 2020, a plinth policy was introduced in the Strijp-S district in Eindhoven from a social-economic background. 20% of the available plinths is destined for starters, pioneers and 'placemakers'. Continuous coordination with the target group is important here. In The Hague, 100 former inner-city shops have now been transformed into workplaces for young and creative companies. Differentiating rents is part of the plinth policy too.
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This article is part of the series 25 building blocks to create better streets, neighbourhoods, and cities. Read how design, starting from the physical aspects of the streetscape en -pattern contributes to the quality of the urban environment. Follow the link below to find an overview of all articles.
Streets and squares are appreciated best if there is cohesion between several elements, such as the block height, the number of floors, the type of houses, the building line and the colour. When some elements work together, others can vary. Uniformity without variation results in people avoiding a street.
Coherence and variation in balance
Variation creates liveliness and will extend the time visitors spend on a street. This principle is applied almost everywhere in the world. Walls are fitted with arches, pillars, porches, porches, pitched roofs, windowsills, canopies, balustrades, cornices, dormer windows, linear and vertical elements, see the bottom-centre image of a Paris’ building. At the same time, the attributes of separate buildings that provide variety are most effective against a coherent background. The Parisian avenues illustrate this too, because most edifices are built according to the same principles while the ornamentation of each facade differs. The attractive streetscape in Sicily (top right) and in the Alsace (bottom right) demonstrate an almost perfect balance between similarity and difference.
Use of colour
A good example are the painted houses in the Canadian settlement of Lunenburg, which was founded in the 18th century by German woodworkers and is a UNESCO world heritage site today (top centre). The nature of the construction and the type of buildings ensure cohesion; the colour provides the variation.
A manageable pattern of similarly important streets contributes to the spread of visitors and provides a level playing field for shops and restaurants. A mesh, which does not necessarily have to be rectangular, facilitates orientation. A rectangular street pattern is at the expense of the element of surprise and detracts from the feeling that there is something to discover. Squares will often be found at street intersections.
Understanding of the pattern of the streets is reinforced by providing intersections with landmarks, such as statues, fountains, or distinguishing buildings (photo, top right). These elements help visitors developing a mental map. Maps every here and there are more helpful than signposts. The fewer poles in the ground, the better.
Canals and moats
Canals and moats also contribute to the attractivity of the streetscape. They restore the human dimension in too wide streets, also in new parts of the city. The images on the left show a central street in Zaandam (top) and a 'waterway' in the Amsterdam Houthavens quarter (bottom). The edges of waterways should never be used as parking spaces. Definitely not in Amsterdam, because its unique streetscape.
This article is part of the series 25 building blocks to create better streets, neighbourhoods, and cities. Read how design, departing from the human dimension contributes to the quality of the urban environment. Follow the link below to find an overview of all articles.
Human dimension means that residents nor visitors feel overwhelmed by the environment. An urban planner must avoid them thinking that it is all about other things, such as commerce, traffic, or the buildings themselves, which unfortunately often is the case indeed. Constructions by 'star architects' can be crowd pullers but usually also result into a disproportionate use of space. Cities therefore better tolerate only a limited number of such edifices. Alexander Herrebout (OTO Landscape) believes that space has a human dimension if you experience attention for you as a human being and that there are objects you can connect with. For many, this will be more often a historic building (church, town hall) than a modernist one.
Compact streets and squares give a sense of security. They encourage people to linger there, increasing the chance of unforeseen encounters. Sjoerd Soeters considers squares in the first place as a widening in the street pattern and therefore they are preferably no larger than 24 by 40 meters. A round or oval shape enhances the feeling of security. If the height of the surrounding buildings is also in line with this, there may be contact between residents and people on the street. Good examples are the square he designed in the Oostpoort shopping center in Amsterdam, but also a square in <em>The Point</em>, a new shopping center in Utah (US), resp. bottom left and bottom center and of course the Piazza der Campo in Siena.
If streets are too wide or narrow or buildings are too high?
Trees, for example a double row all around, will help if a street is too wide or a square is too big. Trees are also a source of reducing urban heat. The extent to which trees contribute to the sense of intimacy is expressed by comparing the images at the top left (Herring Cove Road, Halifax, Canada) and the top right (Course Mirabeau, Aix-en-Provence). A square or a street that is too wide can be further visually reduced by the construction of terraces, the placement of a pavilion or the presence of water features, such as on the Brusselplein, Leidsche Rijn (bottom right). Sometimes also by allowing destination traffic and public transport.
A street that is too narrow can be widened psychologically by designing sidewalks and a carriageway in the same level and shades, possibly separated by a narrow band, as illustrated in the image of the Sluisbuurt in Amsterdam (top center).
If case of high-rises, the human dimension can be respected by planting trees and by placing taller buildings back from the plinth to limit their visibility from the street. This is also illustrated by the image of the Sluisbuurt (top center).
Compactness presupposes a certain density. In a very dense city center is only room for pedestrians and not for traffic, in some cases except for the tram. Though, these areas must be always accessible to emergency services. Waste removal, deliveries and parking must be solved differently, for example on the inner space of blocks or by introducing strict time slots. Every city also needs space for events such as concerts, fairs, etcetera. Accessibility is more important than a central location.
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