Urbanium by Eline Bochem


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Urbanium is a space without having an exact appearance being at the core of one’s being, feeling just right and leaving possibilities for development and exploration. A space not restricted to a specific name, like the study room, the office, the 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'.

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Urbanium by Eline Bochem

  1. 1. |URBANIUM|Cities are �illed with all kinds of people who often have noplace to go – people of different ages, social backgrounds,nationalities and generations living alone or togethersearching for communal places, family-oriented activities,multi-disciplinary spaces without costing them too much.The Starbucks culture or Coffee Companies here in TheNetherlands demonstrate the success of a space suitable forboth relaxing and working state providing besides servingcoffee, tea and snacks a wireless network, newspapers,chilling seating areas and computer tables. Although theirexistence relies on a commercial business model, thepopularity of these coffee places seems to �ill in the gapbetween working alone at home and working with others ina silent space, between relaxation and concentration. Theycreate an atmosphere of multi-disciplinarity, which bringstogether eating and working, talking and studying, thecollective and the individual.
  2. 2. Urban design planner, Mark Hinshaw asserts, grocery stores arere-emerging ‘as one of the cornerstones of great places to live.” Many ‘IT WOULD BE WONDERFUL READINGare becoming social spaces, with espresso bars and welcoming NEWSPAPERS AND THAT IN A SOCIALseating’. 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-daysociety characterized by deconstruction, restructuring reality and the CHRISTIAAN - 72 YRS.blurring of boundaries, work life and private life are merging and theneed for spaces designed for different purposes is increasing. A visit tothe Humanitas Akropolis elderly home and the Turkish CommunalCenter in Rotterdam illustrates the effectivity of a communal socialspaces in an urban landscape. Both initiatives unite people fromdifferent background and ages, empowering their autonomy byoffering a public atmosphere open for ideas and input of everybodyvisiting. Its organizational representatives operate in the backstage,serving the needs and wants of the frontstage. The Turkishcommunity center is a place, where old and young generations blendand opportunities for reading, chatting, billiards, learning, meetingfriends, doing groceries are present. Of course the HumanitasAkropolis is mainly focused on the elderly, people from an age of 50 –living there or in the neighborhood - are visiting the indoor andoutdoor public space facilitated with a hairdresser, supermarket,beauty and health center, gym, library, restaurant and seats forreading, playing chess or having conversations. Secondly its existenceis based on humanistic philosophical thought, which seeks to makethe 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, socialcooperation and mutual respect and that people can and will continueto �ind solutions to the worlds problems, so that quality of life can beimproved for everyone.
  3. 3. A philosophy integrated in the concept of Place-making, a way ofthought rising in the world of urban planning and city development. It ‘THERE SHOULD BE A PLACE CLOSEcapitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration and potential, TO MY HOME, WHERE I CAN TAKE MYultimately 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 YRSdowntown areas. Urban revitalization is its purpose to be realizedthrough the process of making better places for which collaborationsamongst different disciplines, communities and personalities arebeing set-up to create an interdisciplinary, cross-professional sphereof input and ideas. The involvement of local residents empowerssocial ties, cohesion, feelings of responsibility and their participatoryinput by making them an integral part of the process of creation.Reconnecting people to their neighborhood by connecting them tourban planners, engineers, architects and potential key stakeholderswill certainly generate an environment of entanglement for peoplefeel more connected to a place if they - or someone they know -had ahand in shaping it. Even without a direct link, just the awarenessfellow citizens played a role in the process of creation can make a hugedifference in their perceptions. Richard Florida adds this will result ina public realm not only incorporating local character and citizens’wisdom, but it will also instill a sense of civic pride and stewardship inthe community. Secondly neighborhoods being more diverse, whereeveryone feels accepted and welcome, show a much higher rate ofemotional attachment. A neighborhood is not simply a set ofindividuals, but a set of relations, �luid relationships beinglongstanding or of such nature you can plug into and start playing withthem. Places that enable the foundation of such relationships are theplaces that do better. The Urbanium – can offer such ecology beingmulti-disciplinary, created by place-based strategy from a bottom-up,community-based approach, a local livingroom in the neo-traditionalneighborhood
  4. 4. Ecology indeed for The Urbanium should be a pleasant surroundingnot totally betrayed by commerce and concrete de�inition leavingspace for imagination and personal initiative. Secondly its communityor people joining the space should be able to feel free in their behavioroffering opportunities for their input and need of activities andself-regulation. Old structures are slowly fading and governmentalpower is decreasing, perhaps time is there to take care of ourselvesand others. We used to feel the pressure from external forces, whichnow seem to be integrated in our life by a process of governmentalsocialization, 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 externalpressure of parents, schools and other peer institutions, so-calledFremdzwang., which will eventually transform to Selfstzwang, whenwe grow up, adapt and integrate these norms and values in our lives.This development is exactly going on in present-day society and itsparadigmatic shift of authorities is expressing the need ofindependence and self-regulation: social spaces regulated bycommunities should empower this.
  5. 5. Thirdly, The Urbanium should provide opportunities for real humancontact away from television and computers now (urban) life has I WANT TO STUDY, BUT NOT IN SOMEbecome and still becomes more technically complex often going hand in SILENT UNIVERSITY LIBRARY NOR INhand with an unattractive atmosphere and a loss of social interaction. A COMMERCIAL SPACE WHERE I AMNot being a rigid of�line space only, The Urbanium could be considered OBLIGED TO BUY DRINKS IN ORDERa 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 asthe phenomenon of strange familiars and familiar strangers. Relationswith neighbors and fellow citizens have become weaker in the pastdecennia and society is breaking-up more and more. In the sixties a cultof individualism hit the societal stage deconstructing religiouscommunal living and provoking against the establishment of thechurch, the family, association life and local communities. According toPutnam (1995) modern communication technologies, such as televisionand the computer could be regarded the driving force of these changes.With reference to city design, urban planners created streets favoringcars at the expense of pedestrians, public institutions violated thevitality of surroundings and processes of commercialization stimulatedconsumerism facilitating individualism. In the end urban life hasbecome solitary poor, brutish, nasty and short for it seems we liveanonymously in our high-tech city culture, having adapted an anomichedonistic lifestyle, being mostly ego-driven focused on brandingourselves, whilst moving fast through online and of�line space in searchfor innovative input. And of course this could be considered anever-ending story for inspiration is not easily to get since forces ofhomogenization are at the heart of contemporary - what JeanBaudrillard calls – Hyperreality.
  6. 6. COMMUNITY-DRIVEN TRANSFORMATIVEBut in the end we are all human and even highly mobile people haveemotional attachment to their neighborhoods at least to some extent. COLLECTIVEThere are neighborhoods existing of both mobile people and locallyrooted people and it is exactly this mix of residents helps createopportunities for economic growth, provides solutions to address FLEXIBLEtoday’s growing environmental concerns and renders diverse INSPIRING ULTI-DISCIPLINARYactivities such as living, shopping, working, all in close proximity toone another. Applying this mixed-use concept to the stage of the EGO-LESS EVER-CHANGINGsocial space, The Urbanium comes in by offering opportunities for the FOCUS ON DESTINYrealization of different needs of different people in the neotraditionalneighborhood, all united under one roof by creating a town squareatmosphere. Transforming city life from Solve to Coagula – from the WHOLEbreaking down of elements to their coming together.The Urbanium should therefore be a space without having an exactappearance being at the core of one’s being, feeling just right and FREE WE ADAPTABLE TERNALleaving possibilities for development and exploration. A space notrestricted to a speci�ic name, like the study room, the of�ice, the URBANIUMrestaurant, but being associated with – not pinned to - concepts asalive, whole, comfortable, free, egoless, eternal – words derived fromThomas Alexander’s mind shared in his book ‘The Timeless Way ofBuilding’ taking into account many of our basic human needs.Alexander’s values occur as well in the Place-making philosophydiscussed earlier translated to keys as a focus on destination,transformative, community-driven, adaptable, inspiring, �lexible,collective, sociable, multi-disciplinary and ever-changing. In the endit is all about taking our responsibility for being a human being,listening to our needs, leaving the past of alienation from our rootsand becoming entangled with ourselves - hence our fellow creatures– hence our planet.