The Hague, Binckhorst: “Revising the dump”

Course Description:The sizeable Binckhorst area in The Hague stretches out between the exit of the motorway and the city center. It is only connected to the latter through a series of quite miserable underpasses under Holland\’s main railroad line. From the interwar period on, it has been used as a kind of dump. It gave refuge to the varied service activities the urban society required for its development, but never succeeded to integrate in the existing texture: waste disposal, energy works, burying grounds, building stocks, used car depots, immigration centers, workshops, and warehouses. Today, these utilities are getting more and more marginalized. They still linger on in the area, but are systematically replaced by more productive (and representative) functions: showrooms, offices, company headquarters, administrative seats, rejuvenated firms and business parks.This process of upgrading is motivated by the appealing geographical position of the area, and the availability of extended lots at reasonable prices. The ongoing transformation, however, happens haphazardly. New peripheral activities are replacing the old ones; they only marginally alter the basic aspect of the dumping ground. It is the challenge of the studio to put these forces of endogen improvement to work in order to reach an urban quality that might distinguish the Binckhorst in the larger context of Holland\’s administrative capital. Arriving at that goal requires more than scenario building: it calls for a keen spatial strategy positioning the area in its surroundings, and for defining concepts of clustering, landscape formation along with patterns of coherence and diversification through design.Pedagogic Objectives: Reading the area and its specific character in relation to the city as a whole. Close analysis of the existing site: its changing form of land occupation, its recent history sampling planning conceptions and the mechanisms of its ongoing transformation. Documenting cases of new potential itineraries and connections with the aim of improving the linkage to the city center. Using urban design as a way of investigating the right strategy: the program is not a given in this studio, but will have to be developed in accordance to what would optimally serve the site to take the daring position it is may aspire for in its relation with the global urban structure.Prerequisites:At least one studio experience related to the morphological analysis/design of an urban (re) development area. Time Commitment:Intensive effort will be required on the part of the student as well as the staff. It may involve individual (or occasionally group) meetings outside the scheduled studio period, especially during the (regular) visits of visiting faculty Marcel Smets. A field trip to The Hague and Holland will be organized in the midterm week, from March 23-29. All students following the studio are expected to take part in it. Basis of Final Grade:Sensitivity of understanding the site and ability to synthesize its vocation and character into a strategic design instrument based on a powerful concept of urban development.