Resistance to urban fabric

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Urban fabric can only be designed when designers and politicians are aware of the importance of consistency in the layout of public space, in other words, the space between the buildings. Often this awareness is lacking, although change is visible at municipal level. Usually the focus is on what generates money, the issuance of the building sites and the facilities for (car) traffic. People walk in new districts, unaware that they are lost between the buildings. ‘Modern’ urban development is still beautiful as a scale model from a bird’s eye view, or as a design picture to hang on the wall, but it is not designed by the people who will live or work there.

The application of the urban fabric method is therefore still in its early stages, but it has shown itself to focus on the final residents without losing sight of the importance of spatial and financial feasibility. The few examples, such as the Beverwaard in Rotterdam and Claeverenblad-Wildenburg in Leusden, are not widely known. Why? Urban developers design cities, not outdoor spaces that are pleasant and relaxing. After the Berlage en Oud era in the 1930s, increasing attention is being given to buildings instead of the space between the buildings. The landscape designers are interested in the purpose: functions such as traffic, parking, playgrounds and greenery. The character of spaces that are surrounded by buildings such as the courtyard, the street as a space, the boulevard and the square in particular, are not of themselves the subject of urban development composition. And that is precisely the difference with the ever popular inner cities where real estate prices show that many people believe it is worth living working and shopping there. Many a city believes it is doing the right thing when it comes to urban development, by choosing renowned architects and giving them as much freedom as possible for an artistic achievement and is surprised when the positive outcomes are not forthcoming.

Clients also prefer to focus all their attention on the building as an independent object. They do not realize that the immediate surroundings of their real estate will be less attractive due to the lack of quality of the immediate surroundings. The good, community ambiance that makes it attractive, just isn’t there; no one drinks a beer at the foot of a single building. You see this a lot in the many ‘brain parks’ along the highways of our city boundaries. No one hangs out on the street, simply because there are no pleasant spaces. Our urban development has, despite our technical talent, failed to fulfil its socio-cultural duty to create beautiful, natural spaces where people are at ease.

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