Urbanium - Local Livingroom of the Neo-traditional Neighbourhood


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Urbanium - Local Livingroom of the Neo-traditional Neighbourhood

  1. 1. |URBANIUM| Cities are �illed with all kinds of people who often have no place to go – people of different ages, social backgrounds, nationalities and generations living alone or together searching for communal places, family-oriented activities, multi-disciplinary spaces without costing them too much. The Starbucks culture or Coffee Companies here in The Netherlands demonstrate the success of a space suitable for both relaxing and working state providing besides serving coffee, tea and snacks a wireless network, newspapers, chilling seating areas and computer tables. Although their existence relies on a commercial business model, the popularity of these coffee places seems to �ill in the gap between working alone at home and working with others in a silent space, between relaxation and concentration. They create an atmosphere of multi-disciplinarity, which brings together eating and working, talking and studying, the collective and the individual.
  2. 2. Urban design planner, Mark Hinshaw asserts, grocery stores are re-emerging ‘as one of the cornerstones of great places to live.” Many ‘IT WOULD BE WONDERFUL READING are becoming social spaces, with espresso bars and welcoming NEWSPAPERS AND THAT IN A SOCIAL seating’. People hang out, read the paper or a book, and meet friends SPACE, WHERE YOU CAN JUST WALK IN.’ — even when buying groceries is not a part of the trip. In present-day society characterized by deconstruction, restructuring reality and the CHRISTIAAN - 72 YRS. blurring of boundaries, work life and private life are merging and the need for spaces designed for different purposes is increasing. A visit to the Humanitas Akropolis elderly home and the Turkish Communal Center in Rotterdam illustrates the effectivity of a communal social spaces in an urban landscape. Both initiatives unite people from different background and ages, empowering their autonomy by offering a public atmosphere open for ideas and input of everybody visiting. Its organizational representatives operate in the backstage, serving the needs and wants of the frontstage. The Turkish community center is a place, where old and young generations blend and opportunities for reading, chatting, billiards, learning, meeting friends, doing groceries are present. Of course the Humanitas Akropolis is mainly focused on the elderly, people from an age of 50 – living there or in the neighborhood - are visiting the indoor and outdoor public space facilitated with a hairdresser, supermarket, beauty and health center, gym, library, restaurant and seats for reading, playing chess or having conversations. Secondly its existence is based on humanistic philosophical thought, which seeks to make the best of life by creating meaning and purpose for us, human beings. On the one hand humanists believe in individual rights and freedoms, on the other hand they value individual responsibility, social cooperation and mutual respect and that people can and will continue to �ind solutions to the world's problems, so that quality of life can be improved for everyone.
  3. 3. A philosophy integrated in the concept of Place-making, a way of thought rising in the world of urban planning and city development. It ‘THERE SHOULD BE A PLACE CLOSE capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration and potential, TO MY HOME, WHERE I CAN TAKE MY ultimately creating good public spaces that promote people’s health, CHILDREN TO PLAY.’ happiness, and well being by enhancing the quality and popularity of AMAL - 45 YRS downtown areas. Urban revitalization is its purpose to be realized through the process of making better places for which collaborations amongst different disciplines, communities and personalities are being set-up to create an interdisciplinary, cross-professional sphere of input and ideas. The involvement of local residents empowers social ties, cohesion, feelings of responsibility and their participatory input by making them an integral part of the process of creation. Reconnecting people to their neighborhood by connecting them to urban planners, engineers, architects and potential key stakeholders will certainly generate an environment of entanglement for people feel more connected to a place if they - or someone they know -had a hand in shaping it. Even without a direct link, just the awareness fellow citizens played a role in the process of creation can make a huge difference in their perceptions. Richard Florida adds this will result in a public realm not only incorporating local character and citizens’ wisdom, but it will also instill a sense of civic pride and stewardship in the community. Secondly neighborhoods being more diverse, where everyone feels accepted and welcome, show a much higher rate of emotional attachment. A neighborhood is not simply a set of individuals, but a set of relations, �luid relationships being longstanding or of such nature you can plug into and start playing with them. Places that enable the foundation of such relationships are the places that do better. The Urbanium – can offer such ecology being multi-disciplinary, created by place-based strategy from a bottom-up, community-based approach, a local livingroom in the neo-traditional neighborhood
  4. 4. Ecology indeed for The Urbanium should be a pleasant surrounding not totally betrayed by commerce and concrete de�inition leaving space for imagination and personal initiative. Secondly its community or people joining the space should be able to feel free in their behavior offering opportunities for their input and need of activities and self-regulation. Old structures are slowly fading and governmental power is decreasing, perhaps time is there to take care of ourselves and others. We used to feel the pressure from external forces, which now seem to be integrated in our life by a process of governmental socialization, feeding our internal regulation. A process described by Norbert Elias to illustrate human development - �irst in our childhood we learn societal norms and values by external pressure of parents, schools and other peer institutions, so-called Fremdzwang., which will eventually transform to Selfstzwang, when we grow up, adapt and integrate these norms and values in our lives. This development is exactly going on in present-day society and its paradigmatic shift of authorities is expressing the need of independence and self-regulation: social spaces regulated by communities should empower this.
  5. 5. Thirdly, The Urbanium should provide opportunities for real human contact away from television and computers now (urban) life has I WANT TO STUDY, BUT NOT IN SOME become and still becomes more technically complex often going hand in SILENT UNIVERSITY LIBRARY NOR IN hand with an unattractive atmosphere and a loss of social interaction. A COMMERCIAL SPACE WHERE I AM Not being a rigid of�line space only, The Urbanium could be considered OBLIGED TO BUY DRINKS IN ORDER a meeting point of both online and of�line networks, providing both TO MAKE USE OF THE INTERNET.’ technological and a –going-back-to-our-human-roots infrastructure. We are suffering from what sociologist Robert Putnam calls the loss of IREN – 22 YRS ‘social capital’ or what Internet sociologist Albert Benschop de�ines as the phenomenon of strange familiars and familiar strangers. Relations with neighbors and fellow citizens have become weaker in the past decennia and society is breaking-up more and more. In the sixties a cult of individualism hit the societal stage deconstructing religious communal living and provoking against the establishment of the church, the family, association life and local communities. According to Putnam (1995) modern communication technologies, such as television and the computer could be regarded the driving force of these changes. With reference to city design, urban planners created streets favoring cars at the expense of pedestrians, public institutions violated the vitality of surroundings and processes of commercialization stimulated consumerism facilitating individualism. In the end urban life has become solitary poor, brutish, nasty and short for it seems we live anonymously in our high-tech city culture, having adapted an anomic hedonistic lifestyle, being mostly ego-driven focused on branding ourselves, whilst moving fast through online and of�line space in search for innovative input. And of course this could be considered a never-ending story for inspiration is not easily to get since forces of homogenization are at the heart of contemporary - what Jean Baudrillard calls – Hyperreality.
  6. 6. COMMUNITY-DRIVEN TRANSFORMATIVE But in the end we are all human and even highly mobile people have emotional attachment to their neighborhoods at least to some extent. COLLECTIVE There are neighborhoods existing of both mobile people and locally rooted people and it is exactly this mix of residents helps create opportunities for economic growth, provides solutions to address FLEXIBLE today’s growing environmental concerns and renders diverse INSPIRING ULTI-DISCIPLINARY activities such as living, shopping, working, all in close proximity to one another. Applying this mixed-use concept to the stage of the EGO-LESS EVER-CHANGING social space, The Urbanium comes in by offering opportunities for the FOCUS ON DESTINY realization of different needs of different people in the neotraditional neighborhood, all united under one roof by creating a town square atmosphere. Transforming city life from Solve to Coagula – from the WHOLE breaking down of elements to their coming together. The Urbanium should therefore be a space without having an exact appearance being at the core of one’s being, feeling just right and FREE WE ADAPTABLE TERNAL leaving possibilities for development and exploration. A space not restricted to a speci�ic name, like the study room, the of�ice, the URBANIUM restaurant, but being associated with – not pinned to - concepts as alive, whole, comfortable, free, egoless, eternal – words derived from Thomas Alexander’s mind shared in his book ‘The Timeless Way of Building’ taking into account many of our basic human needs. Alexander’s values occur as well in the Place-making philosophy discussed earlier translated to keys as a focus on destination, transformative, community-driven, adaptable, inspiring, �lexible, collective, sociable, multi-disciplinary and ever-changing. In the end it is all about taking our responsibility for being a human being, listening to our needs, leaving the past of alienation from our roots and becoming entangled with ourselves - hence our fellow creatures – hence our planet.