Europan 7: Suburban Challenge - urban intensity and housing diversity

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Europan 7: Suburban Challenge - urban intensity and housing diversity

Postby Paul Clerkin » Tue Jan 14, 2003 5:54 pm

Europan is a biennial competition in the field of architecture and urban design in some twenty countries. The theme for Europan 7 is "Suburban Challange". In all these countries, including the Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy and Great Britain, the competition is held according to the same rules and with one common theme. In this way Europan aims to give shape to a Europe in which young and highly-promising architects can contribute to innovations in the field of architecture, notably housing. The competition is open to architects who are under the age of forty, from the whole of Europe.

Suburban Challenge - urban intensity and housing diversity

Europan 7 poses the question of how can the suburbs be transformed into sustainable urban districts and how can present-day requirements lead to interesting programmes for urban design and architecture.

Europan 7 wants to encourage the consideration of new typologies, of flexibility about space and urban complexity. In a nutshell, the focus is on variation in the housing supply, the programme, sustainable urban design and defining the suburban lifestyle.

Just as a tree grows producing annual rings, so have many towns and cities developed in the Netherlands in the twentieth century. In addition, in the seventies independent urban development centres were created. The housing estates of the sixties, seventies and eighties, but also the Vinex locations of the nineties, are primarily housing schemes with few or no urban facilities.

The Netherlands has no real "green field developments". In other European countries these are "bedroom communities" in the middle of nowhere; large, desolate and mono-functional, comprised - primarily - of blocks of flats. The areas that developed on the outskirts of cities in the twentieth century in the Netherlands have, on the contrary, a characteristic suburban climate that many people experience as being positive. They can be described as small-scale, green and - certainly where older districts are concerned - spaciously designed. Many of the inhabitants once consciously chose to escape from the hectic large city and settle in the suburbs.

The composition of the population in the areas mentioned has changed with the passing of time. Whereas initially young families escaped the busy city for the sake of their children, today's population is ageing. And through the influx of new inhabitants, attracted by the less expensive housing stock, the composition of the households has changed and with it the requirements for housing and the district. Contemporary housing requirements extend beyond single-family housing with a garden. Not only are high requirements set on the immediate living environment and facilities such as shops, schools and primary care facilities, but equally on facilities for sport and culture. And on the recently-developed Vinex locations there is a need for a more varied programme than was originally envisaged: larger plots, more expensive housing and other types.

In the Netherlands work is already under way on the updating of older extension areas such as the "westelijke tuinsteden" Amsterdam. Increasing the building density, increasing the number of housing types, adding housing in the more expensive categories and expanding and upgrading the facilities are the spatial means that are deployed for this. In addition social renewal is taking place by means of functional blending and attracting jobs to the district, necessary to tackle the social problems.

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Paul Clerkin
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