The Hague Central Station, urban ruin still in use.

The Hague Central Station, during the demolition an old poster of a Ray Charles and Maceo Parker concert dated 1994 appeared (contemporary archeology!).

New Babylon, The Hague, with the new building literaly mounted on top of the old Babylon.

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The Netherlands are progressively cluttered with buildings. All of the remaining open spaces will be filled up when we don’t stop expanding at this pace, the way we have been doing for the past decades. This fact will make us look closely at the possibilities for new developpements in existing cities. The sites for new developments will be found in places with existing buildings in them. Renewing the city will no longer boil down to expansion of the territory outside the existing city-limits, but it will be an exercise in re-defining. Change in terms of quality instead of quantity. This will be an excellent excuse to get rid of poorly functioning buildings on locations that could have more interesting destinations. Locations where buildings could be that serve today’s needs, needs that have a lot to do with sustainability, with a cleverer use of natural resources.

In this process the deeper layers of the tissue of the existing city reappear on the surface. With the internal redefining and renewal of the city, parts that are actually reusable will come to light. Reusing existing architectural tissue may be marketed in the name of sustainability. Rightfully so on one hand, on the other hand this has been the way in which the (European) city has dealt with its ancient remnants for ages. Only the last couple of decades have seen the erasure of the old so new architecture could start with a clean slate.

Cities will be built on top of and interwoven with their historical background and foundation. The architectural structures and features of the past will not be treated as relicts. They are not something to remember the past by, but are organically connected to any new elements or forms that are woven in.

The massive potential for growth has allowed cities to expand tremendously in the past two centuries. Expanding the territory has been the most attractive option to fulfil the need to grow. Now that space is one of the most precious commodities and we are starting to realise that expansion also means that facilities are spread over larger and larger areas, we tend to return within the limits of the existing city. City-centres will be places of great density, but precisely because of that they will fulfil their dynamic potential to a far greater extent. They will be the vibrant and exiting environments they are supposed to be. Cities will be crowded and busy, but they will be alive!

Of course these changes won’t happen overnight. As layers are peeled of the skin of the cities to create sites for rejuvenation, all of the encapsulated remnants of our (recent) past will reappear as the ruins of modernity. As mentioned above they won’t be treated as relicts; they will not be historical objects to marvel at or to contemplate on. They are not trying to tell us anything; they won’t be mis-used or abused to create a sense of identity. These ruins will simply be part of our everyday environment. Familiar buildings that are in the process of being reinvented reveal to us what was hidden inside of them before. This results in a new and temporary type of public-ness. The proliferation of this type of ‘slow-renewal’ is taking place as if it were a natural process of rejuvenation. Along the way constantly different views and insights are offered to all urban dwellers that witness this process. Slowly but surely the city gains an entirely new layer and at the same time be crumbling away.

For the architect this may imply a change of attitude. The assignment is no longer to simply stand out with brand new architecture in a shiny new site. There has to be a certain involvement in what type of assignment an inter-urban redevelopment really is and how it is connected to the needs of society and the need for sustainability. That doesn’t mean that the architect or the building need to be humble, to know their place as it were. A building needs to feed on the existing tissue just as much as it is obliged to give food to the city and it’s inhabitants. It’s reciprocal.

The urban ruins that will typically turn up during this process will enhance our consciousness of our urban and global environment. We watch ourselves reinventing.

Text, translation and photos: Buro STEK (Rodina Fournell, Bram Verhave)

www.burostek.nl

With the introduction of PICNIC Stories, PICNIC goes beyond the event. Like the festival, PICNIC Stories is all about sharing: inspiration, new ideas, different opinions, and knowledge. If you have Stories to share get in touch with us at stories@picnicnetwork.org

Cities will be built on top of and interwoven with their historical background and foundation. The architectural structures and features of the past will not be treated as relicts. They are not something to remember the past by, but are organically connected to any new elements or forms that are woven in.

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