Suburb = Superb
The term ‘suburb’ has gained a negative connotation although the suburb initially was meant as favourable alternative for the crowded and unsanitary inner cities. Space, nature and fresh air made and make the garden cities desirable. For families with children the advantage is obvious. For them as well as for singles and couples, the inner city is not always first choice. And there is even a special breed of people, the purists, who do not wish to live anywhere else.
Disadvantages of the garden city
But there are also disadvantages: there are less urban amenities in the garden cities and the dwellings are usually small and out of date, as they were build in the economically weak 50’s and 60’s. Because families are smaller than ever since the baby boom, amenities like schools and shops have diminished in number. An adverse effect of the one-sided cheap housing supply is the equally one-sided population with a lower than average income.
How to revitalise the garden city
The garden city can be revived by diversifying the composition of the population. This more divers and richer population will in time attract more non-residential elements, like shops, restaurants, and cultural amenities. In order for this to succeed, inadequate and obsolete housing will have to be demolished and replaced by larger, modern homes. Key element of this revitalisation is to make full use of the existing ingredients that made the garden cities desirable in the first place and to strengthen these qualities.
Open or closed structure
Some 30% of the Dutch housing supply was build between 1945 and 1970. These quarters, mostly garden cities, make up as much as 50% of the surface of all large and midsize cities. Garden cities have an open structure by nature. The spacious green structure is in fact what makes these quarters desirable. Therefor the obvious thing to do is to sustain this structure.
Urban plan for Den Haag Morgenstond Midden
In the assignment for the Europan 7 location of Den Haag, the municipality of Den Haag states its intention to revitalise Morgenstond Midden by means of transformation within the existing structure of the quarter. However, the municipal urban plan shows an apparent transformation of the open structure into closed and semi-closed building blocks. The approaching realisation of the semi-closed building block by Gautier on the Dedemsvaartweg is proof of the intention to replace open building blocks with closed ones at this location.
It is true that by making closed building blocks, public space is reduced and thus cheaper to maintain. It is true that private spaces within blocks are safer than public or semi-public space. It is also true that many people would like to have a backyard surrounded by a fence. This is why there should also be some closed housing blocks in Morgenstond Midden. However, in order to keep its spacious and green quality, there should still be open building blocks in Morgenstond Midden in the future.
Three buildings block alongside the Dedemsvaartweg form a barrier between along the road, together with the block by Gautier. This shields the quarter from the traffic and contrasts the existing urban villa’s on the opposite side of the street.
Block 3 is not actually part of the official site area, but was included in the worked-out plan because of its importance to the plan as a barrier and its relation to the Drenthe plantsoen. Blok 3 is situated perpendicular to the Drenthe plantsoen and relates to the high-rise in het plantsoen and the ‘book-support’ by OMA. Blocks 1 and 2 are rotated a few degrees to form a public area in front of the blocks to mark the entrances to the blocks.
Public space on the other side of the new blocks included in the design are semi-public because it is an area that is accessible for everyone but there are also some back-gardens. These gardens are to small to put fence up around it but large enough to stage a BBQ, secure your bike or plant a tullip. In fact these back-gardens function as front yards. In this way the gardens take part in the ‘social control’ of the inner courtyards.
The significance of the lower blocks
The three storey high parts of the blocks on the inside of the plan divide this area into three parts. The semi-public space of block 1 connects to the public space around the schools, sports-facility and the former PTT building. In block 2 the inner courtyard has a more secluded character. Block 3 is the most public of the three because and thus relates to Morgenstond Midden as a whole. Its raised section also provides a strong relation to the Drenthe plantsoen.
This part of the site area is stripped of its residential function. By allowing the schools and the existing PTT building more space it forms states it’s identity as an ‘amenities-plantsoen’. The old PTT building will be maintained and will be converted to house small offices or workshops in the cultural or artistic sector.
The new school should be set up as a ‘broad school’ to include local amenities like community service centre, elderly care, youth centre, night school, ballet and other courses. The H-shape of the building creates a formal play area in the front and a more secluded court near the public play area.
Plot C + D
Following the theory of the value of the open blocks, these plots should be open blocks. In this situation low rise housing is proposed. Space within the blocks is again (semi)public. By means of the L- and zigzag form, larger and smaller open space are formed.
The shape of the three blocks display a soberness that fits that of the architecture of the fifties. Parking and storage is situated on a half-sunken level. This means they are provided with daylight as well as fresh air. This also creates more privacy for those dwellings situated on the raised ground floor. The twist in the roof line provides the dwellings on the top floor with a partly larger ceiling height.
All dwellings on the Dedemsvaartweg have a 2,5 m deep loggia along the full length of their home, facing south-west. When the weather permits, the loggia’s can be added to the total living space. The three storey single family houses as well as the corridor dwellings in block 1 can double the height of their loggia if desired.
Flexible and sustainable
The use of a column structure is preferred over tunnelling so possibilities of flexible interior arrangements is increased. Large gross floor heights of min. 3 m provide the possibility of converting living space into working space.
Block 1 consists of single family houses of 2 and 3 floors as well as duplex corridor dwellings.
Block 2 consists of single family houses of 2 and 3 floors as well as galleried flats.
Block 3 consists of lofts of 1 or 2 floors with direct private access by lift.
Communal roof spaces
Block 1 and 2 have communal roof spaces situated on the roof of the single family houses along the courtyards, directly accessible by the corridor and galleries.