Bottom-up: Towards a New Urban Spontaneity Starting from the Oostewold Model

Flavio Martella

The reintroduction of spontaneity in contemporary architectural processes can represent a new form of interaction to create a new urban environment and lead to a rebalancing of internal hierarchies. The city of Almere is a pioneer in this field, especially in the experimental district of Oostewold, where it seeks to promote a new system of building the city based entirely on bottom-up processes. This initiative radically reverses the consolidated urban development processes, starting the creation of relationships based on a contemporary understanding of the city. It is an understanding that includes the citizen in the construction of the city, integrating the participatory process model with that of the construction of the city itself. As such, it aims to arrive at the creation of a more vital, inclusive neighborhood in which the inhabitants not only feel belonging but give the city its real identity – a new way to build the city.

Blake Wheeler, Suburb, 2018.

In the Netherlands, as in many other Western countries, the financial crisis of the end of 2008 and the economic recession that ensued had enormous effects on local development plans. Many proposals were postponed, or even canceled, given the tremendous drop in requests for new homes, offices and shops.

The resulting loss led investors to withdraw from public-private partnerships, leaving local governments with numerous undeveloped plots, but with rising interest costs, and with many intensively built areas that did not meet the contemporary needs of the population.

This change in demand led to the formulation of new hypotheses and new housing theories that might more effectively respond to the new needs. Many of these hypotheses aimed to reconstruct the worn-out relationship between the population and the urban environment, restoring the individual possibility of choice and intervention in the architectural context.

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