New York and Amsterdam face many similar problems: housing shortages, insufficient public green space, outdated infrastructure, polluted air and troublesome food production. Glimpses 2040 presented an exchange programme between the Centre 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, never materialised. We now find ourselves in a fragmented society in which differences in culture, education level and political standpoint are becoming more distinct than ever before. As a result, people are increasingly drawn to like-minded individuals, finding security in collective identity.
Since commercial developments were scarce in the post-recession financial climate, urban decision-makers invested a lot of hope in private initiatives, especially collective private commissioning (CPO) and building groups (usually friends or like-minded people). They have been encouraged to develop their own buildings using their own initiative.
Space&Matter imagined what it would be like if a complete neighbourhood were built up by clustering together these so-called building groups into interest-based building blocks, joined together by collective courtyards. In this scenario, residents of the block would have the responsibility to fill the ground-floor plinth with specific amenities that would be accessible to the neighbourhood.
The project brought up a number of important questions: If people feel safe in such collective dwelling environments, would they be more open to others? Does approaching cultural differences at this block-scale create an inviting and accessible heterogeneous environment? Could this juxtaposition of different groups help enable a more socially sustainable society?
We are now emerging from a period of 'I' and heading towards one more concerned with 'we'. Clustering these ‘we’ groups could be a way to increase diversity and social cohesion. This glimpse into the future shows how this polarising trend could be turned into a cohesive strategy for a sustainable society.