Dr. Mirela Newman Author Analysis Almere New City Comprehensive Plan


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Dr. Mirela Newman Author Analysis Almere New City Comprehensive Plan

  1. 1. PART IV: ALMERE NEW CITY. AN ANALYSIS OF URBAN MORPHOLOGY Introduction Part IV of this dissertation focuses on a case study of Almere New City, acomprehensively planned and built conglomeration of five new nuclei/ towns, located onthe newly reclaimed land of the Ijsselmeer polders, about 25 kilometers from the heart ofAmsterdam. It analyzes Almere‘s physical and spatial form in the context of an approachto planning that is discussed here as Dutch Green Urbanism, and examines the extent towhich it was possible for Almere‘s planners to implement a ―green planning‖ ideal in theface of regional growth and development pressure. It also discusses how this new cityhas performed both as a community and as a physical structure. Chapter 8 is devoted tounderstanding the planned genesis and evolution of Almere based on a town plan analysisincluding the analysis of city location (site and situation), processes and agents involvedin shaping the town plan, and the polynuclear planning concepts that were used during itsconstruction. Chapter 9 goes beyond the plan and the planning processes and focuses onan analysis of the spatial form and temporal evolution in the 27-year old city in thecontext of the Dutch Green Urbanism. It examines the nuclear morphology at differentscales of resolution in each of the towns shaped in different stages of spatialdevelopment, as well as the internuclear morphology. This chapter aims to further thisstudy‘s hypothesis by presenting morphological evidence from Almere to illustrate theefforts of shaping a livable, greener way of urban life, under the proposed Dutch GreenUrbanism paradigm. Chapter 10 is devoted to understanding how this new city hasperformed both as a built structure and as an economic and cultural community within thespatial and morphological matrix examined in the previous chapters. It discusses and 1
  2. 2. analyzes Almere‘s built and human infrastructure, by examining the morphologicalcharacteristics of the built form, and the evolution of its human infrastructure andactivities. The first part of this chapter is devoted to an analysis of Almere‘s types ofland uses and their functions, transportation pattern, and housing (types and density ofhousing, housing stock and ownership structure, design and architecture). The secondpart centers on the analysis of Almere‘s population (population growth, distribution andstructure), as well as on its economic activities and cultural development. It is argued in this study that Dutch Green Urbanism had a fundamental influenceon the new development at the northern edge of the metropolitan area, and that it isepitomized in the development of Almere New City. Thus, while the centuries-old,largely unplanned Dutch cities have always developed along some spatial andenvironmental premises, the most recently shaped Almere New City has followed adifferent spatial and morphological pattern of development, marking a shift from the oldurban structures. While Part III of this dissertation developed the theoretical foundations of DutchGreen Urbanism by examining the manner and context in which it emerged, Part IV aimsto underpin the role played by the Dutch Green Urbanism planning paradigm andprocesses in shaping Almere New City, and more specifically its influence on the newcity‘s spatial and physical form. Hence, this section of the dissertation sets out to furtherdetermine the validity of hypothesis on the existence of a Dutch Green Urbanismparadigm by examination of the morphological evidence from Almere, and by using amore detailed case study. 2
  3. 3. CHAPTER 1 ALMERE NEW CITY: TOWN PLAN ANALYSIS Introduction This chapter is devoted to understanding the planned genesis and evolution ofAlmere, and is based on the town plan analysis, including the analyzes city location (siteand situation), town plan and processes, agents involved in shaping the town plan, andthe polynuclear planning concepts. Size and Location Like many other urban morphological working in the fashion of Michael Conzen(1960), James Vance (1990), Jeremy Whitehand (1981, 1987, 1999, 2001), and AnneMoudon (1994, 1997), this research grounds its research in Almere New City in the beliefthat the city can be ‗read‘ and analyzed via the medium of its physical form at differentlevels of spatial and temporal resolution, and that the analyzed urban form can providethe link between the city‘s genesis and evolution, on one hand, and the Dutch GreenUrbanism planning paradigm, on the other hand. It also agrees with Michael P. Conzen‘sview that ―geographical analysis is particularly sensitive to variations of phenomena atboth local and regional scales that is the variable distribution of form types and formcomplexes across the space of the city‖ (Conzen, 2001: 3). Almere‘s urban form wasstudied for both descriptive and explanatory purposes for how it was built, where it wasand why it was, with the aim of contributing to the further development of theories on thebuilt structures of cities. One entry point into urban morphological analysis is to answer the geographicalquestion of ―why‖ the city was located where it was. The notion of ―location‖ plays an 3
  4. 4. important role in understanding the city‘s genesis and evolution, and can be conceived as―a dichotomy of site and situation‖ (Ullman, 1954:13-14, 1962:193, and Vance, 1990:17). Site, as one of the essential components of the classic dichotomy of city location,refers to ―the physical nature of the ground on which the city was built‖ (Vance,1990:17), and why that location was better than any other possible site. In the case ofAlmere New City, site does, indeed, constitute an intrinsic and essential part of itsmorphology and development. Situation refers to the horizontal relationships and widerconnections of the city with its hinterland and the world.1. The analysis of Almere NewCity will begin with an essential investigation of both its site and situation.The Site of Almere Before analyzing Almere‘s town plan and its site, it is important to understandAlmere New City‘s total land size, since size seems to be perceived differently form onecountry to another. Almere‘s total area amounts to 58 square miles (37,000 acres), whichrepresents slightly more than double the size of for instance Amherst, Massachusetts(with a total area of 27.75 square miles), or Pelham (total area 26.50 square miles), andonly slightly bigger than Belchertown, Massachusetts (with a total land area of 52.74square miles). The comparison between Almere‘s total area and the land area of smallNew England towns from Massachusetts is one very good indicator of how land size,land control, and land planning are perceived differently in the United States and theNetherlands. What is a large-size city (spatially speaking) in the tiny Netherlands, issmall or very small in the much larger country of the United States. By the same token,the Netherlands‘s total land area makes it less than the double the size of the state of1 These terms were developed and discussed by Edward Ullman in the 1950s and 1960s(Ullman, 1954: 13-14, 1962: 193). 4
  5. 5. Massachusetts. These land size comparisons can provide at least an entry point tounderstanding the different perceptions and management of land (including urban land)in the Netherlands and the United States. With land perceived as a very scarce, andhighly valued commodity, it is easier to understand why for at least two centuries theDutch population has entrusted the national government to take land developmentdecisions, and to strictly regulate and manage it through planning in the past century. By Dutch spatial scale standards, Almere is a relatively large city, while byAmerican standards Almere would probably be qualified as a ―small‖ New Englandtown. Throughout the next three chapters it is important to keep in mind this difference. One of Almere‘s most striking geographical and morphological features is its site,which is located three meters below sea level, on the young soils of clay and sand thathave been exposed to the surface only since 1968, when the most recently acquired pieceof Dutch land was drained and dried. Almere was sited on the youngest Ijsselmeerpolder, respectively on the Southern Flevoland polder that was reclaimed between 1959-1968. The creation of this polder constitutes the culmination of centuries-old Dutchtradition of reclaiming land from the threatening sea surrounding or penetrating into theNetherlands. The choice for Almere‘s location was a function of a series of previousphysical, spatial and urban planning decisions that emanated from both the specific 1960smetropolitan Green Heart and green urbanism policies, and from older, inherited Dutchtraditions of defense against the sea through land reclamation and new town building.Physical Metamorphosis of Almere‘s Site Almere did not have an old, pre-existent physical spatial foundation on which tobe built. Rather, it took advantage of the newly shaped polder land, reclaimed from the 5
  6. 6. waters of the Ijsselmeer Lake. As a result, Almere‘s site carries along the characteristicsof the young polder land, a site literally created in the aquatic landscape of the IjsselmeerLake, on the northern fringe of the Dutch metropolis. Consequently, before planning andbuilding Almere New City, the Dutch government and planners had to create the site forAlmere from scratch, to literally shape its physical foundation. The past one hundred years of human-induced physical transformations of theIjsselmeer Lake are, indeed, stunning by any measure. This aquatic landscape hasundergone an interesting planned physical-spatial metamorphosis that developed throughthree stages:1. From a marine aquatic stage of the Zuider Zee, prior to the 1920s;2. To the lacustrian aquatic stage of the Ijsselmeer Lake from the 1930s on; and3. To the terrestrial landscape of the Ijsselmeer polders—stage which culminated with the reclamation of the last and most recent land of the Southern Flevoland polder.Southern Flevoland Polder (1959-1967) The Southern Flevoland Polder was reclaimed between 1959 and 1967 and it isthe fourth2 and most recently reclaimed Ijsselmeer Polder, and hence the youngest pieceof land in the Netherlands. It amounts to a total surface area of 43,000 hectares (Shetter,1987: 34). Interestingly, this 1960s polder represents the culmination of centuries-oldland reclamation processes, on one hand, and marks the shift from defense andagricultural uses, to urban and recreational uses, on the other hand. The reclamation of the Southern Flevoland polder was spurred by at least twomain factors, including the 1958 national report on the development of the western part2 As discussed and illustrated in chapter five, in the twentieth century four main poldershave been reclaimed from the Ijsselmeer Lake, in a clockwise fashion, with SouthernFlevoland Polder as the most recent one (while a fifth one still awaits approval). 6
  7. 7. of the Netherlands, and the decision regarding the chronological order of landreclamation. The former suggested the necessity of building more new towns in thepolders in order to alleviate the great housing shortage in the Randstad, while the latterwas based on the Zuiderzee Project Department‘ reevaluation regarding the order ofreclamation of land—with Southern Flevoland given priority over the Markewaard(which has yet to be reclaimed). The governmental decision to reclaim the Southern Flevoland polder rather thanMarkerwaard was made in the 1960 First National Report and stemmed from a number offinancial, spatial, regional and infra-structural considerations, including:1. the opportunity of smaller investments due to its smaller size;2. its geographical proximity to the highly agglomerated northern wing of Randstad Holland, which would help with the outwardly planned urban expansion of the metropolitan region towards north-east;3. the desire to connect Randstad and the Eastern Flevoland polder3 (already reclaimed between 1950 and 1957), where the polder town of Lelystad had already been planned and built; and the fact that the infrastructural benefits from Randstad to the north and east. As discussed in Chapter 7, the 1960 First National Report ‗s proposal to planaround the Randstad concept constituted an extremely important step for urban planningin the Netherlands. Ever since, it has had a tremendous impact on urban planning anddevelopment, including the new urbanization taking place in the Ijsselmeer polders, andthe reclamation of the Southern Flevoland Polder4.3 See the order of the Ijsselmeer polder reclamation in chapter five of this study.4 In 1919, the newly created Zuiderzee Project Department (ZPD) started making plansfor reclamation of land, having as its main task the creation of a first polder in thenorthwest corner of Zuiderzee as well as the closing of the Zuiderzee and its conversioninto a freshwater lake: the Ijsselmeer with a surface of 120.000 hectares. The plan hascontinued until nowadays and, because of continuous reclamation of land, four polders 7
  8. 8. The national government and provincial authorities played a strong role inshaping both the Southern Flevoland polder, and Almere New City. While the 1960sFirst National Structure Report determined the site for Almere, by choosing thereclamation of the Southern Flevoland polder versus the Markerwaard, the 1966 SecondNational Structure Plan further influenced the planning and building of Almere bylaunching the national policy of ―concentrated deconcentration‖ (gebundelddeconcentratie) that promoted both metropolitan decentralization. In addition, thedecision to pursue the reclamation of this land for regional urban expansion andrecreational purposes rather than for agricultural and rural purposes that were pursued onthe previous polders, reflects the high level of coordination and integration between thenational urban priorities and authorities, and the regional Ijsselmeer land reclamationproject and authorities. In other words, the 1960s national planning priorities foralleviating the pressures exerted in the metropolitan region impacted the course of bothfuture land reclamation processes and urban development in the Ijsselmeer polders. AsCoen Van der Waal observes, ―at that point the Ijsselmeer Polders were tied to Randstadand become part of the national urban problem‖ (Van der Waal, 1997: 194). It is in thiscontext that Almere‘s site was shaped in the 1960s (1959-1967), and was later planned(early 1970s) and built (1975 to present). Once the reclamation of the Southern Flevoland polder was completed, and theland became dry, the polder authorities designed a simple plan based on an orthogonalpattern that divided the area into two main areas of urban land and non-urban land:have been created, with a fifth one in project. All of the Ijsselmeer polders have beenreclaimed in the twentieth century, since 1927, as it follows Wieringermeer (1927-1930),Northeast Polder (1937-1942), Eastern Flevoland (1950-1957), Southern Flevoland(1959-1968), Markerwaard (project). 8
  9. 9.  The first area was designated for urban land, a non-parceled area marked as ―urban area‖ (stedelijk gebied) of about 7,500 hectares in the west—which later became the site for Almere, and about 450 hectares in the east—which later became the site for Zeewolde, a much smaller town,; The second area of non-urban land was divided into three parts including land for industrial development in the north, agricultural land in the middle section, and recreational, nature and wood land in the south (Van der Waal, 1997: 193). In discussing Almere‘s site, it is important to mention the essential features andchanges brought by the reclamation of Southern Flevoland. The 1960s marked a shiftfrom the traditional reclamation of land for rural, agricultural and animal husbandry uses,to the necessity to reclaim land for spatial, urban and recreational purposes ―for thehuddled masses on the old land‖ (Van der Waal, 1997: 194). This shift was triggered bythe conflict between the so-called agrarian interests5, on one hand, and the increasingurban, recreational and natural preservations demands, on the other—as the urban,ecological, and environmental preferences changed in the postwar era (as discussed inChapter 5).Situation: Regional Context The term situation refers to the horizontal relationship of the location of the city,which in this case is Almere, with the region, the nation and beyond. It provides aregional context as well as its interconnections with the surrounding regions. Almere isgeographically located within the close range of the Dutch polycentric metropolis, at thenorthern edge of the metropolitan region that goes by the name of ―Randstad Holland‖ or―Green Heart Metropolis‖ and only 25 kilometers from Amsterdam. In addition, Almere5 The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries was afraid of losing land for agriculture,hence insisted on the allotment for agriculture (Van der Waal, 1997: 193). 9
  10. 10. is located on the most recently reclaimed land of the Ijsselmeer polders, in thesouthwestern corner of the Southern Flevoland polder. The location for Almere in the western corner of the Southern Flevoland polder,was initially proposed by the Zuider Zee Project Department (ZPD), the authority incharge of the reclamation of polders and the development of infrastructure. The task ofthe adjustment of the polder plans regarding new towns locations and polder landscapewas carried on later by the Ijsselmeer Development Authority (IJDA) 6, which was adepartment of the Ministry of Transportation and Water Management that was founded in1963. The proposal for Almere‘s location was officially approved in 1968 by theMinister of Transportation and Water Management, and endorsed by the SecondChamber (House of Representatives). Since then the IJDA then had the ministerialmandate to develop Almere. The relatively speedy decision to develop Almere in theimmediate proximity of the old land north-east of the congested metropolitan regionillustrates at least two things: (1) that from the very beginning Almere had the attentionof both ―the national and surrounding regional authorities, as well as the planning andbuilding trade press‖ (Van der Waal, 1997: 194), and (2) that Almere had the necessarygovernmental and institutional legal, administrative, and financial support for itsdevelopment. Almere‘s situation has been one of the driving factors behind the city‘s planningand physical development. Planned and built in the past 30 years, Almere is the last ofthe twenty-one new towns recently built on the Ijsselmeer polders and represents a6 Otto and Van Duin were the directors that led the Ijsselmeer Development Authority‖with strong vision and confidence in the future‖ ever since their organization receivedthe ministerial mandate to develop Almere (Van der Waal, 1997:194). They were bothstrong proponents of the polynuclear planning concept for Almere. 10
  11. 11. quintessential expression of Dutch planning for both the newly created livingenvironments and for the new dwellers. Furthermore, it holds an important place andfunction in Flevoland, the newest Dutch province7 of, as well as in the regional andnational context. Its location was a function of both precise planning decisions and randomcircumstances. Planned and built rather as ―a friendly neighbor who could not only helpsolve some inner-city crowding problems‖ of Amsterdam, but also regionally strengthenAmsterdam‘s hub function for social and economic mutual benefit, Almere hasdeveloped extremely rapidly and gained its distinct position in the Amsterdam region‖(Van der Waal, 1997). This new city has lived up to its role in the regional context sinceit represents the fastest-growing municipality in the Netherlands, with 7,000 newresidents coming each year. History of the Polynuclear Planning Concept for Almere Almere New City has developed on the basis of the polynuclear hierarchicalconcept designed in the early 1970s, which shaped the entire comprehensive (structure)plan and the later developments. In addition, Almere‘s plan also took advantage of itslocation along the water, and its envisioned relationship with national, regional, and localpublic transport lines (Van der Waal, 1997: 205). The most striking spatial feature for Almere is its polynuclear character, based onan agglomeration or hierarchical pattern of six distinct urban nuclei/towns of differentsizes built in different temporal stages, separated by internuclear areas represented bygreen or aquatic elements. Because Almere New City has developed and expanded on7 Flevoland has officially become the twelfth Dutch province in 1986. 11
  12. 12. the spatial consequences of the polynuclear concept, it is important to allocate thefollowing section to a discussion of its origin, evolution and role for Almere. The goals for Almere, combined with ―the fact that time was pressing‖ led to theconclusion that a ―polynuclear concept was the best for Almere, and that the firsttownship should be located at the Gooimeer (Van der Waal, 1997: 197).Other City Form Concepts Proposed for Almere Prior to the final decision to adopt and implement the polynuclear city conceptproposed by Van Duin and his collaborators, the 1971 Verkenningen first exploratoryreport considered five different planning proposals for the future form for Almere. Theseproposals ranged from complete low-density spread via one compact urban form, to anumber of separate townships that included polynuclear ideas (Van der Waal, 1997: 197). The five different city form concepts included (1) complete diffusion; (2) onenucleus; (3) one nucleus and some diffusion; (4) several nuclei; and (5) several nuclei andsome diffusion (combining 1 and 4). These five different city form concepts were evaluated based on ten parametersincluding (1) types of living environment; (2) accessibility for daily shopping, outdoorrecreation, and community-indoor recreation; (3) proximity to shops and services; (4)flexibility; (5) relation to open areas; (6) identity of urban parts; (7) ―forum‖ qualities(meeting others); (8) business climate; (9) possibilities regarding existing environment;and (10) cost-benefit ratio. Although the method of evaluation was criticized, the idea of the polynuclearconcept was hardly criticized (Ter Haar quoted in Van der Waal, 1997: 197).Furthermore, the meetings with regional and national planning authorities on the 12
  13. 13. polynuclear concept produced reactions that were ―quite favorable‖ to it. While mostplanners concluded that the polynuclear concept was ―the best one for Almere,‖ thedebate was centered on site and nuclear size issues (Van der Waal, 1997: 197).Planning Goals for Almere New City The plan for Almere was influenced by a number of reports that envisionedAlmere‘s function in both the regional and national context. According to Coen Van derWaal, the 1973 comprehensive planning report entitled ―Almere 1985‖ (published in1974) in Rijksdienst, Almere, stated six basic goals for the new city of Almere (Van derWaal, 1997:201):1. Almere must contribute to solving the regional problems in the context of Amsterdam‘s urban renewal, the Gooi region‘s overpopulation, the rapidly increasing suburbanization and increasing traffic congestion – particularly in the existing urban concentrations;2. Almere must have a long-term, flexible plan that would allow the incorporation of future social and technological changes, new transport modes, new forms of energy and urban spatial use;3. Almere must provide a balanced place for everyone, regardless of their age, income, life style, and profession, where minorities have their rightful place;4. Almere must stimulate a good urban life for its dwellers, foster differentiation within residential, recreational, work and educational areas, and provide optimal public transport lines;5. Almere must contribute to the creation and preservation of a healthy natural environment, and foster ecological diversity and consistency regarding the development of natural elements; and6. Almere must contribute to the preservation and further development of an urban culture - creating an environment for a diverse population, interactions between people, functions, work and other activities. An analysis of these ambitious goals (set for the then soon to be planned and builtAlmere), pointed to the necessity for the planners to find a long-term, integrative 13
  14. 14. planning approach and a major planning concept that incorporate all social, cultural,spatial, environmental, ecological, technological and economic dimensions into the fabricof Almere. These goals also echoed many of the post 1960s concerns and changingattitudes regarding the quality of urban life, and the necessity to create a new type ofurban environment that would both alleviate the western metropolitan pressures andcreate a better urban place, and a better urban life on the recently made available polderland. Almere‘s planners were confronted with a challenging question, of how to planfor a spatially, socially and environmentally balanced new city that would have toaccommodate all their goals, and more. While the challenge to create a new city was adifficult one, the opportunity to plan for a new town on a new land—not subjected to allthe constricting zoning rules and regulations instituted on the old land was an excitingprospect. Hence, from the very onset, the planning for Almere was perceived as both achallenge and an opportunity. The most important element was to find an appropriateplanning concept with which guide the plans and development. The search for a planning concept that would have to cater to the physical, socialand environmental goals was not an easy process and many employees from variousdisciplines were involved during the early 1970s with the design of Almere. The first institution to become involved in the search for a plan was the IjsselmeerDevelopment Authority (IJDA), which had both the governmental and ministerialmandate to plan and develop Almere, and the necessary urban planning expertise. Thus,by 1971, led by the two directors Otto and Van Duin, a first team of four people started toresearch ―the parameters of an urban settlement in the southern part of Southern 14
  15. 15. Flevoland,‖ including (1) the minimum and maximum population and employmentexpected by 2000; (2) a plan form that could provide maximum flexibility to the variousexternal influences and changes, and allow the creation of a well-functioning city; (3) thesite for the first development, considering that overspill population would arrive mainlyfrom the Amsterdam agglomeration and the Gooi area; and (4) a concept that wouldallow the creation of a functional, attractive and competitive city in the region (Van derWaal, 1997: 195). The initial planning schemes were finished in the spring of 1970 and published in1971 as a report entitled ―Explorations about developing the new town of Almere inFlevoland‖ (Verkenningen omtrent de ontwikkelingen van de nieuwe stad Almere inFlevoland). The results of this exploratory report, combined with the already favored (byOtto and Van Duin) polynuclear concept and the idea of building a first nucleus locatedat the Gooimeer, created the premises for adopting the polynuclear concept for Almere‘splan—which has had an extremely important role in its development ever since. The Comprehensive Town Plan for Almere As discussed in Part III of this dissertation, the postwar growth of the Dutchpolycentric metropolitan region as a whole has had a considerable impact on the courseand efficiency of planning in the Netherlands, and has influenced the plannedurbanization on the new land located its northern fringe. In many ways, the town plan forAlmere remains consistent with the post-1960s visions and national and metropolitanefforts to plan for creating better, greener, more livable urban places by preserving andcreating open space, green areas and waterways, while accommodating the changing 15
  16. 16. needs of the population. The city of Almere may well be the most consistently plannedcity in the Netherlands. Almere New City was comprehensively planned and built as a conglomeration ofsix new nuclei/ towns, separated by green and aquatic internuclear areas. The analysis ofthe current town plan demonstrates a high degree of both vision and pragmatism, alongwith planning innovation, extreme attention to details and an integrative thinking andplanning. The town plan (as shown in Figure 1-1) reveals several interesting aspectsincluding:1. Almere has a unique hierarchical polynuclear spatial structure, with six compact urban nuclei/towns of different sizes. Each of these six towns has different functions suggested by their names. All were built in different stages with the four main nuclei/towns currently built: Almere Haven (Almere Port), Almere Stad (Almere City), Almere Buiten (Almere Country), and Almere Hout (Almere Wood). Two more nuclei Almere Pampus (Almere Out) and Almere Poort (Almere Port) will be built in the near future by 2025.2. Almere has an unusual green pattern of urban development for the whole city, with at least two main types of ―green infrastructure‖ incorporated into its spatial fabric. These are: a. an extensive green infrastructure represented by green belts made of parks, gardens, woods, nature preserves, and an extensive network of bike paths and bikeways, all interspersed both between the main urban nuclei/towns and within each of them; and 16
  17. 17. b. an aquatic infrastructure represented by blue belts consisting of water canals that drain the polder, and lakes artificially created maintained for recreational and aesthetic purposes.3. The entire city has an unusual degree of integration of land uses and functions including residential, commercial, transport, industrial, agricultural, ecological and recreational.4. There is an extensive integrated public transit system, along with one major highway (A6) and one railway that traverse the city and the main nuclei from southwest (coming from the main land) to northeast (toward Lelystad). The entire area has an interesting road system with roads collecting traffic while at the same time not disturbing most of the residential districts and neighborhoods;5. The spatial pattern of the area is polynuclear and contained within spatial limits, with no signs of sprawl.6. Each urban nucleus/town has a well-defined, spatially contained downtown center. 17
  18. 18. Figure 1-1: The Polynuclear Planning Concept for Almere (source: Municipality of Almere, 1994) 18
  19. 19. Clearly, the town plan has taken advantage of the land made available through landreclamation, and it has integrated a large number of spatial, physical, environmental,ecological, social, cultural and economic considerations. These are reflected not only inthe actual plan, but also are reflected in the current urban landscape and morphology ofAlmere (which is analyzed in detail in Chapters 9 and 10). As discussed in Chapter 6, municipalities in the Netherlands are charged withmaking the local plans, which must conform to the national and provincial plans. In thecase of Almere, the municipality did not exist when the comprehensive plan was laid outin the early 1970s. Thus, the comprehensive plan, which the Dutch call the ―structureplan‖ (struktuurplan), was laid out by the planners from the Ijsselmeer DevelopmentAuthority (IJDA). It had a strategic character and it expressed the planners‘ generalintentions for Almere, as well as the location of large structural elements. At a later dateAlmere also had a zoning ordinance and map, which the Dutch call the ―detailed plan‖(bestemmingsplan).8 This was the most important planning instrument and neededapproval from the provincial authorities. Both the comprehensive plan and the detailedplan were designed to conform to the guidelines provided by the national plan and the―Green Heart‖ national planning policies. From an urban planning standpoint, Almere‘s structure or comprehensive plan9 isstriking both in terms of its spatial and physical design. It has a uniquely plannedpolynuclear concept for the entire city. It promotes and incorporates a new type of urbanspace and living that includes a very generous (75 percent) amount of green buffered8 Both types of municipal plans were explained in detail in Chapter 6 of this dissertation.9 The US counterpart for the local ―structure plan‖ (struktuur plan) is the ―comprehensiveplan‖ (Levy, 2002: 310). 19
  20. 20. spaces (parks, bikeways, open space, agricultural land) and aquatic developments (canals,lakes) tightly woven into its spatial fabric (Figure 8-1). These spatial features are visibleon the landscape today, as Almere continues to implement parts of the plan that wasdesigned in the early 1970s. Dutch planners and architects consider Almere New City‘s plan unique.Designed by Van Duin and Otto at the beginning of the 1970s, the comprehensive planemphasized an improved and ―greener‖ character for its six distinct urban nuclei/towns.Housing was a key element in their plan which included a low-density housing of 38houses per hectare (Municipality of Almere, 2000) within walking or cycling distance ofbusiness, educational, transport nodes and recreational facilities, and with predominantly(80 percent) low-rise row housing, single and multiple-family detached houses, twinattached houses (duplexes), as well as apartment buildings of various heights (Van derWaal, 1997). An unusual degree of attention was given to provide a generous amount of openlandscape in the plan, in conjunction with green wedges penetrating into and betweenresidential areas, the incorporation of green ecological elements into and outside theneighborhoods, and the separation of the urban residential neighborhoods, districts, aswell as of the main urban nuclei, by planned buffered zones with clear recreational andtransportation functions that are represented by green belts and blue belts. Also, another interesting feature of the town plan lies in its growth limitations onspatial and population development. The Verkenningen II (Explorations II) planningreport published at the end of 1972, stipulated that Almere would develop with limits toboth its spatial and population growth, with spatial development taking place on an 20
  21. 21. assigned area of 37,000 acres and with a population that should not exceed 250,000inhabitants. The report already accepted the idea of a hierarchical polynuclear pattern ofpopulation sizes (Van der Waal, 1997: 200). Following in the footsteps of Lelystad—thenew polder town located on the Eastern Flevoland polder and built just before Almere—the planners had to take into account ―uncertainty as to [population] growth rate,‖ andtherefore attempted to achieve ―balanced growth of the several nuclei‖(Van der Waal,1997: 207). From the early planning stages it was envisioned that Almere would have toreach an upper limit total population of 250,000 inhabitants by 2025. This specific population number echoes Ebenezer Howard‘s garden city or newtown polynuclear plan, which included both the idea of a limit to growth to about250,000 inhabitants and the idea of locating towns in a par-like setting (as discussed inChapter 3). Also similar to Howard‘s garden cities that were envisioned to helpdecentralize the congested London metropolitan region, Almere New City was seen asone of the solutions to metropolitan congestion and overcrowding in the Netherlands. Actual planning for Almere was largely influenced by the 1972 planning reportfor Almere, which itself was impacted by the 1972 book The Limits to Growth10, as wellas by the increasing environmental awareness brought about by the 1973 global oil crisis(Van der Waal, 1997: 2000). Both the general awareness that there must be a limit topopulation and spatial growth and that the sources of energy are limited, wereincorporated into many of the decisions made for the Netherlands at that time. Van derWaal mentions some of the impacts of this rising environmental awareness on the actual10 In 1972, The Limits to Growth book has sold more copies in the Netherlands than inany other country, including the USA. According to the Het Spectrum BV publisher,between 250,000 and 300,000 copies were sold over the years in the Netherlands (Vander Waal, 1997: 215). 21
  22. 22. Dutch physical environment, including ―the (temporary) scrapping of plannedmotorways, to the banning of automobiles in neighborhood streets‖ (Van der Waal, 1997:215). The same environmental concerns were incorporated in Almere‘s plan. This isillustrated in the transportation system adopted for Almere, when the planners aimed tominimize the effects of car traffic, by maximizing traffic safety‖ and made a ―clearchoice for public transport, by proposing to install an extensive public transport systemahead of the actual demand, to create a favorable competition in relation to the privateautomobile‖ (Van der Waal, 1997: 200). The town planners for Almere addressed a number of the pressing issuespreviously discussed in Chapter 5 emulating from national, regional and metropolitanlevels. Clearly they desired to create an attractive, functional and economicallycompetitive new city, mainly with low-rise row houses, with a high differentiation ofland use and urban functions. They wanted to foster a balanced society in age, income,profession and lifestyle.Agents Involved in Shaping the Town Plan In order to understand the processes of city making that shape urban form, it isimportant to examine the planning agents that designed the town plan for Almere. Therewere two main institutions—the Ijsselmeer Development Authority (IJDA) and theAlmere Project Bureau (APB), along with secondary agencies. Almere‘s town plan was designed by an interdisciplinary team, which workedunder the umbrella of the Ijsselmeer Project Development authority. It was led by its twodirectors Otto and Van Duin (Coen van der Waal, 1997: 194). The team was made up ofa wide range of professionals, including physical, social and urban planners, architects, 22
  23. 23. sociologists, as well as civil, traffic and agricultural engineers. Many of the ideas forAlmere‘s plan drew on the work previously done by several significant authoritiesresponsible for the reclamation of the Ijsselmeer Polders. These authorities were underthe umbrella of three major governmental agencies: the Ministry of Transport and WaterManagement, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Interior. The urban development for Almere has been driven from the very beginning byplan-led urban processes approved by national governmental bodies. With the approvalof the Ministry of Transport and Water Management and endorsement of the House ofRepresentatives, the planning preparations started in 1968 immediately after the polderwas dry enough to proceed and following a number of published reports on the potentialplan for Almere. Based on the Verkenningen report for Almere (Explorations aboutDeveloping the New Town of Almere in Flevoland), the Ministry of Transport and WaterManagement, and the Minister of Housing and Planning approved the planning forAlmere. This was followed by the approval from the surrounding provinces, and finallyby approval by Council of Ministers on April 28, 1971. The building stage started in1975 and continues to this day. Immediately after receiving ministerial approval to plan for Almere, theIjsselmeer Development Authority (IJDA) started the actual planning processes by settingup the Almere Project Bureau (Projektburo Almere), directly coordinated by IJDA (Vander Waal, 1997:199). The Almere Project Bureau (APB), founded in 1972 and headed byD. Frieling11(Van der Waal, 1997:199), consisted of a multi-disciplinary team, which11 D. Frieling, a physical planner and planologist, was a 1965 graduate of the Departmentof Architecture (Urban Planning) of the Delft Technical University, who prior to arrivingto the IJDA was the adjunct director of the Department of Housing (Dienst 23
  24. 24. included urban planners, architects, general planners, sociologists, civil engineers,agricultural engineers, landscape architects, traffic engineers and economists. Accordingto Coen Van der Waal, physical planners such as Van Willigen and T. Koolhas designedthe actual plan12 (Van de Waal, 1997:199). In 1973, the Almere Project Bureau drewclear demarcation lines between the tasks to be achieved and divided into two distinctproject groups: The Almere Haven Project Group, and the Central Project Group (asshown in Figure 8-2). Later, two other groups were formed: the Almere Stad ProjectGroup and the Almere Buiten Project Group. As the planning project approached the construction stage of the first urbannucleus of Almere Haven, other IJDA departments, aside from the APB, were involved inthe planning processes, ―based on their expertise and availability‖ (Van der Waal,1997:200). These included the Department of Town Planning and Public Works(Directie Stedebouwen Openbare Werken or DSOW), which in 1979 incorporated theAlmere Haven Project Group, and in 1980 incorporated the Almere Stad Project Group.By 1981 the former Almere Project Bureau (APB) was dissolved, while work continuedunder different departments (Van der Waal, 1997: 200). Van der Waal (1997) provides a concise history of the planning institutions forAlmere, which is shown in Figure 1-2. According to him, most planners for Almeremoved to the subdepartment of Town Planning (Stadsontwikkeling) under the Departmentof Town Planning and Public Works (DSOW), where they were joined by many of theVolkhuisvesting) in Amsterdam. Since 1990, Frieling became professor of physicalplanning in Delft (Van der Waal, 1997:199).12 For more details regarding the history of Almere Project Bureau‘s planning activities,consult Coen Van der Waal‘s book ―In Praise of Common Sense‖ (1997), and Nawijn‘sbook ―Almere, hoe het begon‖ (1987). 24
  25. 25. planners that previously worked for Lelystad – the new polder town located on theEastern Flevoland polder for which work was already finished. The landscape plannersbecame part of the Department of Land Development (Directie Landinrichting) or DLI,while the planologists were transferred from the Department of Town Planning to theResearch Section (Afdeling Onderzoek)—a subdepartment of the Social EconomicDepartment (Directie Sociaal-Economische Ontwikkeking) or DSEO. On January 1984,the Public Authority for Almere was founded, as large numbers of former PBAemployees transferred to Almere to form the core of the new planning and designdepartment (Van der Waal, 1997: 200).Van Duin‘s 1971 Proposal of a Polynuclear Concept The polynuclear concept was proposed by Van Duin in 1971, and supported byboth Otto and Van Duin prior to the 1971 report. Van Duin proposed the idea of urbannuclei of 15,000 to 20,000 inhabitants, which would make possible to arrange low-density housing within walking and/or cycling distance around businesses, educational,and recreational facilities (Van der Waal, 1997: 195). This ―common-sense‖ solution, asVan der Waal (1997) calls it, influenced the shape and function of Almere, the spatialpattern of structures, the distribution and design of neighborhoods, the social liferevolving around these proposed nuclei, the general lifestyle and the specificity ofAlmere. 25
  26. 26. ZUIDER ZEE DEPARTMENT IJSSELMEER DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY (since 1969) ALMERE PROJECT BUREAU (1972-1981) Almere Haven Central Project Project Group Group Almere Stad Almere Buiten (1973-1979) (1973-..) Project Group Project Group SOCIAL DEPARTMENT DEPARTMENT OF TOWN ECONOMIC OF LAND PLANNING AND PUBLICDEPARTMENT DEVELOPMENT WORKS Almere Haven Almere Stad Project Group Project Group (1979-) (1980-) PUBLIC AUTHORITY FOR ALMERE (since 1984) Figure 1-2: Authorities and Planning Departments that Shaped Almere‘s Town Plan 26
  27. 27. Nuclear Size, Location and Hierarchy Parameters for Almere The planning reports following Van Duin‘s proposal, included his polynuclearconcept idea and based on it as well as other considerations, concluded that the total areashould encompass 11,400 hectares, or more than 25 percent of Southern Flevoland (Vander Waal, 1997: 199). Van der Waal explains how the planners calculated the minimumnuclear size, on the basis of the availability of various demographic, educational,commercial, transport, cultural, and economic amenities, including the (1) necessity tohave between 30,000 and 40,000 inhabitants, in order to have a complete secondaryeducation system; (2) necessity to have 15,000 to 20,000 inhabitants for a modestshopping/business center; (3) 18,000 to 27,000 inhabitants for a community center with atheater; (4) 15,000 to 20,000 inhabitants for maximum walking distances between 500and 800 meters (depending on the density) (Van der Waal, 1997: 199). While Van Duin originally thought of nuclei of more or less equal size (Nawijn,1989: 18), the planners following him pushed in the direction of nuclei of different sizes,and thus voted for a clear nuclear hierarchy (Van der Waal, 1997: 199). On deciding the size of the different sized nuclei, the planners also consideredother parameters regarding the type of residential dwellings, potential employment andcommuting patterns, transportation demands, and future social and cultural infrastructureneeds. Van der Waal points that the initial calculations for the size of the nucleiincorporated the proposal to plan for 90 percent of all dwellings to be single-familyhomes (rows of houses). Fortunately, they also calculated the capacity for roads andpublic transport at the time it appeared that a four-lane highway and a railway wassufficient for Almere (Van der Waal, 1997: 199). 27
  28. 28. According to Van der Waal (1997: 197), the initial polynuclear concept and laterthe polynuclear plan for Almere ―fitted well with the renewed interest in Howard‘sgarden city idea in the 1970s,‖ particularly in the latter stages of development. K. Nawijn(Nawijn, 1989 quoted in Van der Waal, 1997: 197) noted the parallel between theGarden-City Diagram and Almere, particularly in the number of nuclei around a largercentral nucleus, their interrelationships, and even the total population. Van der Waalobserves that although the parallel might be to some extent true, Nawijn‘s comparison―had a high degree of superficiality, since it was largely based on form and size‖, whileHoward‘s social organizational content was absent (Van der Waal, 1997: 197). The 1971 Verkenningen report (Explorations about developing the new town ofAlmere in Flevoland) played a significant role not only in the decision for the polynuclearconcept proposed by Van Duin, but it also influenced the decision for the size of thenuclei. This report paid maximum attention to the polynuclear concept, specifically tothe form and location of the nuclei. Almere‘s planners indicated that in order to create anattractive, diverse living environment, catering to every possible taste, with a range ofresidential densities Almere needed a hierarchical pattern of nuclei (Van der Waal, 1997:203). This was ―a reflection of the hierarchy established in the Second Report ofavailable urban and suburban living environments in the form of A, B, C, and D towns‖.The Second Report recognized four distinct so-called ―spatial units‖ or nuclei, within anurban region, including (A) units of about 5,000 inhabitants; (B) units of 15,000inhabitants; (C) units of 60,000 inhabitants; and (D) units of 250,000 inhabitants (Van derWaal, 1997: 203). Based on this typology, the Verkenningen exploratory report 28
  29. 29. suggested that ―Almere‘s character could be described as a coherent complex of A, B,and C nuclei at not too great of distance from the D nuclei of Amsterdam and Utrecht‖(Rijksdienst voor de Ijsselmeerpolders, Verkenningen I, 1970: 170). The report madesize specifications for the nuclei, by indicating a number of about 20,000 inhabitants forthe small nuclei, and eventually about 30,000 to 40,000 inhabitants for the larger-sizednuclei. Also, it indicated the possibility of future population growth to 125,000, 200,000and 250, 000 inhabitants (Van der Waal, 1997: 203). Other important specifications regarding the location and distribution of thenuclei/towns were made by the 1974 comprehensive report entitled Almere 1985, whichexpanded on the 1971 Verkenningen report and made additional suggestions for the newtown development until 1985. The report emphasized that the plan should take advantageof the location along the water, as well as of the national and regional attention paid toAlmere. Several key decisions were made regarding the location and the size of thenuclei including (1) the main nucleus [Almere Stad] was to be located centrally in thearea, with its central position underlined by its railway station between Amsterdam andGronningen— the railway station would serve as the local public transport hub; (2) thenucleus along the Gooimeer [Almere Haven] would always be secondary in size; (3) theother nuclei should be oriented toward the main nucleus [Almere Stad], rather thanbecome separate appendices; and (4) the east-west highway A6 would form aconsiderable barrier (Van der Waal, 1997: 205).Polynuclear Concept as an ―Anti-Urban‖ Approach Van der Waal (1997) argues that Van Duin‘s polynuclear concept was in fact ―acontinuation of the anti-urban approach that had marked town planning throughout the 29
  30. 30. Zuider Zee polders,‖ a device through which the polder towns ―would somehowcounteract the bad effects of the city.‖ Interestingly, with the ―farmer‘s sense‖ or―common sense‖ acquired during their education at the Agricultural University ofWageningen, both Otto and Van Duin influenced the greening of the planning processesfor Almere. They proposed low-rise and low density housing in the main urban nuclei,which included ―low density neighborhoods with lots of greenery‖, and opposed the highrise apartments and ―the hard edge appearance of an urban ambiance‖ (Van der Waal,1997: 195). Apparently, the polynuclear concept was considered a necessary andsignificant planning device for shaping a large city (for Dutch urban standards) thatwould reflect the invoked ―anti-urban‖ and ―anti-high-rise buildings‖ sentiments, andprovide a combined ―country and town‖ urban landscape. Hence, while Almere was planned as a city, the synthesis of ―town‖ and―country‖ proposed at the beginning of the twentieth century by Ebenezer Howard, orbetween the built areas and the green open spaces present in each of its nuclei/townsmakes it hard to believe that Almere is a city in the sense conceptualized by mosturbanists. This situation shows that for instance, Le Corbusier‘s ideas of a vertical citydominated by high-rise buildings were never too popular in the Netherlands, where themajority of the population preferred the low-rise buildings to the high-rise ones. This isclearly illustrated by the results of a 1963 national survey done by the NetherlandsInstitute for Public Opinion (NIPO), who indicated that Dutch people, if given the choice,expressed an overwhelming 80 to 90 percent preference for low-rise, single familyhouses (rows of houses) (Van der Cammen, quoted in Van der Waal, 1997: 197). 30
  31. 31. While most Western European countries embraced and implemented the idea ofhigh-rise buildings and vertical landscapes, especially since the postwar era, and evenmore so from the 1960s and 1970s on, the Netherlands did not do so. Overall, the generalDutch urban landscape includes the four large cities, which with a few exceptions aredominated by low and mid-rise buildings, with a few exceptions. The biggest exceptionfrom this general rule seems to be the case of Rotterdam, a city destroyed during WorldWar II, which had to be totally rebuilt, and where the Dutch did break the pattern bybuilding high-rise office spaces and apartment buildings. Through discussions withdifferent segments of urban residents in Rotterdam and elsewhere in the Netherlands, itbecame clear that the idea of high-rise buildings is neither fully welcomed, nor entirelyaccepted by the majority of the Dutch. The recently designed and otherwise veryaesthetic high-rise office towers in the heart Den Hague, have stimulated a lot of mixeddiscussions and reactions around the role of high-rise buildings in Dutch cities. Whether the Dutch predilection for low-rise buildings is anchored in old socialand cultural features of a Dutch society that has had to live on a rather flat and fragilelandscape for centuries (as discussed in Chapter 5), or in the postwar changing individualand collective preferences, as suggested by Van der Waal (1997), the fact is that for acombination of reasons Almere‘s planners also rejected the idea of high-rise buildings.At present, Almere New City displays a dominant low-rise urban landscape, with only afew recently built high-rise apartment buildings and office spaces (still in construction),primarily located in Almere Stad. An interesting addition to this discussion is providedby Van der Waal‘s remarks, who stated ―from the early 1960s onwards, society had been going through a change from the collective era to the individual, from an era of collective rebuilding of a war- 31
  32. 32. damaged environment to a period of self-assertive enjoyment‖ and the Netherlands has undergone a transition from a vertical era to a more horizontal one with ―the vertical image of happy masses working in cheerfully smoking factories and living in airy, sunny apartments‖ dissipating into the ―horizontality of individual row-housing‖ (Van der Waal, 1997: 195).Advantages Offered by the Polynuclear Planning Concept The spatial development for Almere and the need to accommodate 250,000people in approximately five decades, has been accomplished through the polynuclearplanning concept, which offered a number of compelling advantages13 highlighted byTeun Koolhaas and Jan de Hartog and summarized as follows:1) Successive and juxtaposed implementation of different aspects of the plan simultaneously, which allowed for distinct stages of urban development to take place, with construction starting initially for one nucleus, and then a new stage for a different nucleus would start, while construction in the previous stage would continue at the same time;2) Flexibility in the stages of urban development for each nucleus, in the sense that while following the initial plan in terms of what, when and how much should be built, it also allowed the incorporation of specific planning, architectural and design ideas that arose at the time;13 Advantages of the polynuclear planning concept have been presented in an internalpaper entitled Almere, the Netherlands: Twenty Years of Experience with thePolynuclear New Town Concept, written by Teun Koolhaas (a private consultant), andJan de Hartog (head city planner for Almere). Jan de Hartog gave an interview inAlmere, at the City Hall in November, 2000. I want to express gratitude to him for histime and insights. 32
  33. 33. 3) Provision of a spatial pattern that would accommodate the maximum planned population number of 250,000 people over the estimated 50 years of urban development, within different types of settlements to meet different types of requirements;4) Possibility of keeping the rate of growth for each urban nucleus and its districts and neighborhoods within the limits of what was technically, financially and socially desirable at the time when construction started;5) Spatial proximity to the surrounding open green and blue spaces, bus stops, as well as center of mixed-use centers in each urban nucleus;6) Maintaining a balanced structure between the built and natural areas;7) Having a variety of design and architectural styles for the main housing types;8) Possibility to start and finish building new housing units in a short time, thus allowing the new dwellers to move rapidly into the finished neighborhoods;9) Urbanization taking place in a mosaic of different types of residential neighborhoods that were designed and built and at various stages of urban development; 33
  34. 34. 10) Provide the inhabitants with a wider range of residential choices and to start moving within and between their initial neighborhoods and districts, catering to their new demands, financial status and social preference; and11) Shaping a new urban settlement at the northern edge of the polycentric Dutch metropolis, which would on one hand gradually achieve a degree of self-sufficiency within its own boundaries, and, on the other hand would support a balanced regional and metropolitan development. (Koolhaas and Hartog, 2001)In addition to these advantages, the polynuclear concept offered other advantages,including the fact that the division into more and smaller townships versus one large cityoffers several administrative, financial and technical advantages for management. As aresult of the implementation of the polynuclear hierarchical concept, Almere in 2002consists today have four main urban nuclei/towns separated by green and blue beltsbuffered zones (see Figure 1-3). The following Chapter 9 goes beyond the plan andanalyzes the implementation of the polynuclear concept for Almere. It examines thetemporal-spatial evolution and morphology of in each of Almere‘s towns, as well as inthe internuclear areas. 34
  35. 35. Figure 1-3: The Built Almere New City, the Netherlands. This aerial photograph illustrates Almere‘s compact polynuclear spatial structure.Notice the built urban fabric separated and surrounded by green and blue belts (with different functions) (source: Municipality of Almere (1999) 35
  36. 36. 36