Studio Option

Almere; a city built from nothing, now stands as a victim of its own success; success based largely on unsustainable desire for low-density living in The Netherlands. This Studio will use an architectural project as a means of exploring and reconciling the diverging aspirations for the city. Location The city of Almere is known as the fastest growing city of The Netherlands. Unlike most cities that have evolved at their own pace and in their own way over centuries, Almere was totally, comprehensively and rapidly planned. The city is located on the Flevoland polder which lies 25 kilometres east of Amsterdam at 4-5 metres below sea level. Almere stands as a testament to the quintessential Dutch condition of the country\’s \’creation\’, revealing a unique interplay between human activity and natural circumstances.ContextAlmere is one of the youngest cities of The Netherlands. In the mid-1960\’s, the polder was viewed as an overflow area for the northern part of the most densely populated area of the country known as the Randstad conurbation, composed of the four major cities Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. A new town was needed to deal with the acute problems of housing shortage and affordability. This was a time of urban renewal and the start of new towns in The Netherlands. Almere was a necessity and an extreme solution. Unlike the approach of modernising urban infrastructures or redevelopment of derelict industrial areas, Almere was presented as a tabula rasa ready for transformation. Almere was first planned in the 1970\’s and first inhabited in 1976 by approximately 20,000 residents. The central government envisaged housing for between 125,000 and 250,000 residents. Growing by 6,000 to 8,000 residents annually, today Almere\’s population has reached 165,000. Continued population pressure from the Randstad combined with the opportunity potentials of the city have created a climate of continued growth with the government recently announcing and revising targets for its future – to become the fourth largest Dutch City and to accommodate up to 400,000 people. By comparison Amsterdam, the capital and largest city, has a population of 734,000. The other main city centres include Rotterdam: 592,000, The Hague: 442,000, and Utrecht: 256,000 people. The original uncertainty of the planned city meant that planners required a level of adaptability and flexibility in the town planning model, as such, a town plan incorporating the idea of poly-nuclear centres was chosen. This approach therefore allowed for adaptability to problems such as economic downturn and other unfavourable external factors, whilst responding to housing market forces and new ideas in housing typologies at various densities. Almere continues to develop along the lines of the original intent with a number of semi-separate nuclei, each with its own neighbourhood identity and facilities, but connected through shared infrastructure and a common city centre. Almere-Haven (Almere Harbour) was the first to be built, and was followed shortly by Almere-Stad (Almere Town) and Almere-Buiten (Almere Outside). Two more districts are in development: Almere-Poort (Almere Gateway) and Almere-Pampus. One key factor to the success of Almere\’s planning implementation was that the government owned all the land being developed. This important political aspect has enabled the rapid growth and allowed for expansive areas of land dedicated to public open green spaces and low density development, neither of which would have been facilitated if the land was privately owned. The town planners\’ vision of a garden city for this tabula rasa could be realised. Neighbourhoods with low density predominately interpreted as terrace family housing with private gardens have become a rare, idealised and highly desired housing typology for a substantial part of the populat