New York and Amsterdam are facing a myriad of similar issues: a housing shortage, a lack of public green space, out-dated infrastructure, polluted air and troublesome food production. Glimpses 2040 presented an exchange programme between the Center for Architecture in New York and the Amsterdam Centre for Architecture (ARCAM). The organisations commissioned Space&Matter to contemplate the future of dwelling in the Slotervaart Area of Amsterdam.
In 2011, the Dutch parliament gave up on the once cherished multicultural society. The state's ideal, to be a society in which people with different cultural backgrounds respectfully coexist, did not materialise. We find ourselves in a fragmented society in which differences in culture, education level and political standpoint are becoming more distinct then ever. As a result, people are increasingly drawn to like minded individuals; they find security in a collective identity.
Since commercial developments are scarce, due to the financial climate, much hope is aimed at private initiatives. Especially, collective private commissioning (CPO) or building groups (usually friends or like-minded people). They are encouraged to take the initiative and develop their own buildings.
Space&Matter imagined what it would be like if a complete neighbourhood were to be built up using building groups and that these groups were clustered in interest based building blocks with collective courtyards. The residents of the block would have the responsibility to fill the ground-floor plinth with specific amenities that would be accessible to the neighbourhood. Would people who feel safe in their collective dwelling environment be more open to others? Would approaching cultural differences at a block-scale create an inviting and accessible heterogeneous environment? Could a juxtaposition of these microcosms be a way to enable a socially sustainable society?
After a period of 'I' we are heading towards a time of 'we'. Clustering these ‘we’ groups could be a way to increase diversity and social cohesion, by harnessing and building around common interests. This glimpse into the future shows how this polarising trend could be turned into a cohesive strategy for a sustainable society.