CAPP Student blog (November 2018): The Great Divide: The Lex Deldenbrug as false sense of inclusion: South-Axis by Maarten Sluiter and Daan Klaver
Looming skyscrapers with merlons on top appear as gatekeepers upon approaching the Lex van Delden Bridge from the south. Big, gated apartment buildings tower over the water and function as a wall that prevents intruders from entering. This bridge divides the haves on the north side from the have-not’s on the south side of the moat. It demarcates the poor from the rich, the powerful from the powerless, and creates a false sense of bridging the gap. This process of exclusion becomes even more apparent upon crossing the bridge into the castle. The bridge is lit by giant lampposts (Photo 1), which almost seem to function as searchlights when illuminating the bridge and its adjacent courtyard. Another striking feature is the ‘all-seeing-eye’ portrayed on the deck of the bridge, which controls everyone passing by (Photo 2).
Even though the metaphors above may seem over the top, truth rings to these words as the architect’s envisioned connection is not achieved. The idea of a “blurred boundary” between the “public sector and private market”(Tasan- Kok, p. 5, 2012) was supposed to be achieved by this bridge . The goal was to create a square and a bridge, which connects not only the opposing Gershwinplein with the Boelelaan, but also the city-centre with Buitenveldert (Dok Architecten, 2010). Buitenveldert with its majority of social housing and the South-Axis with predominantly middle and high segment dwellings (Gemeente Amsterdam, 2017). It’s the well-off business people in their tailored suits on the one side, and the lower classes in social houses on the other side. The power relation manifests itself as a natural barrier as the canal was dug in 2016, simultaneously with development of the apartment blocks (Beensgroep, 2018). The idea behind the canal is supposedly to function as water retention in order to prevent flooding (Beensgroep, 2018). Despite this, it becomes evident that the water functions as a natural barrier to prevent intrusion into the gated apartments.
The apartment blocks overlooking the water are gated areas with high facades facing the water and inner gardens, which cannot be accessed by others. Many aspects of the build environment show similarities to gated communities,
which can be defined as “ residential areas with restricted access such that normally public spaces have been privatized” (Blakely and Snyder, p.85, 1991). This is what happens with the apartment buildings facing the Boelgracht as they are restricted to outsiders. People in the social housing on the other end of the canal can only look at the beautiful gardens and terraces at the other end of the divide. The grass in this case really is greener on the other side.
The bridge that supposedly connects the two areas was designed by an architecture firm and cost the municipality €1.000.000,- (Dok Architecten, 2010). Our view is that the municipality caters for big corporations on the South- axis, making the area more attractive with this bridge. The property located in this area in a sense leads the way of urban planning, and the municipality caters to this end and does not serve the people to the south, as it feels more like an extension of the South Axis than a way of connecting. This is also exemplified by a quote from the architect: “Tables, chairs, and residents enjoying a glass of wine in the evening sun. That is the way I envisage this”(Dok Architecten, 2010). This sounds rather elitist to drink wine on a bridge. Drinking wine or any other form of alcohol is prohibited in a public place and a person drinking a can of beer on a bridge in Buitenveldert will undoubtedly be addressed to their behavior or fined.
This put things in a larger context, Tasan-Kok (2012) argues that large- scale property projects, like the South Axis, are a result of globalisation. The South Axis, with his stately allure, is a new center and is key to the identity of the place, which not only changed the appearance of the area, also the socio- economic character changed (Campbell, 2014). This became clear during our observation. Almost all the commercial facilities were closed on a Sunday. Besides, most of these stores do not connect with the inhabitant of Buitenveldert, who due to their socio-economic status cannot afford a €50,- haircut.
It becomes clear that the Lex van Deldenbrug divides more than it connects. The divide can only be tackled if residents of Buitenveldert would actually have something to visit the area for, instead of feeling out of place between the high facades of the buildings and feeling unwelcome in certain areas. The gated apartment blocks also do not seem very welcoming as the view from inner gardens is blocked or out of reach to non-residents. The bridge to the castle at first sight seems open to everyone but functions to a great extent as a drawbridge, which enables the well-off to pass without feeling unwanted and out of place, and functions as an invisible boundary to those living in Buitenveldert.
Beensgroep. (2018). Boelegracht Amsterdam. (Accessed at 04-11-2018), from: http://www.beensgroep.nl/projecten/boelelaan-amsterdam/
Blakely, Edward J., and Mary Gail Snyder. (1991) Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. Print
Campbell, H., Tait, M., Watkins, C. (2014) Is There Space for Better Planning in a Neoliberal World? Implications for Planning Practice and Theory, Journal of Planning Education and Research, 34(1) 45-59.
Two research projects (DIVERCITIES and PARCOUR) that I took a leading role are completed in the last few years. Time to harvest. Both projects went over the complexities of urban governance though studying two completely different issue areas and by deploying different research methods and approaches: the former on governance of urban diversity, and the latter on contractual urban governance. DIVERCITIES project is completed a while ago (2015) but we are still producing publications and leading discussions in the field of governing urban diversity. Within that framework Mike Raco and myself put together a collection of articles in a special issue which is recently published at European Urban and Regional Studies under the title “Governing urban diversity: Multi-scalar representations, local contexts, dissonant narratives”. In our editorial introduction Mike and I clarified our approach to urban diversity, and emphasized the lack of evidence-based research on how representations of diversity are mobilised and implemented by institutions of governance operating at multiple scales and how these narratives relate to each other. The special issue aims to fill the gap by providing research outcomes from the DIVERCITIES project in order provide a clear understanding of how diversity is understood, operationalised and dealt with at different scales of policy-making. The collection contains four articles namely:
Saeys, A., Van Puymbroeck, N., Albeda, Y., Oosterlynck, S., & Verschraegen, G. (2019). From multicultural to diversity policies: Tracing the demise of group representation and recognition in a local urban context. European Urban and Regional Studies, 26(3), 239–253. https://doi.org/10.1177/0969776419854503
Angelucci, A., Marzorati, R., & Barberis, E. (2019). The (mis)recognition of diversity in Italy between policy and practice: The case of Milan. European Urban and Regional Studies, 26(3), 254–267. https://doi.org/10.1177/0969776419854500
Yenigun, O., & Eraydin, A. (2019). Governing urban diversity in Istanbul: Pragmatic and non-discriminatory solutions of governance initiatives in response to politicisation of diversity. European Urban and Regional Studies, 26(3), 268–282. https://doi.org/10.1177/0969776419854497
Escafré-Dublet, A., & Lelévrier, C. (2019). Governing diversity without naming it: An analysis of neighbourhood policies in Paris. European Urban and Regional Studies, 26(3), 283–296. https://doi.org/10.1177/0969776417750439
Moreover, Sara Ozogul and myself published a recent article based on our research findings in Toronto at diSP-The Planning Review journal. In this paper we linked wider structuring forces, particularly those connected to neoliberal shifts in spatial planning and governance to “place-making” from a governance point of view. Sara recently completed her PhD under my supervision and is working as a post-doc researcher within the framework of our new research project WHIG. Full reference to our paper is: Özogul, S., & Tasan-Kok, T. (2018). Exploring Transformative Place-Making within the Comprehensive Spatial Governance of Toronto. disP-The Planning Review, 54(4), 59-73. You can read the paper here.
DIVERCITIES project produced many more publications as it was a large-scale EU funded project with 14 partner countries in the consortium. You can see more publications made by other partners in this project here
PARCOUR project was completed just last year and we had some publications immediately after completing this project. I was the PI of this project, which was on contracts which are increasingly used as planning tools to regulate the actions of public, private, and civil actors involved in urban regeneration. Martijn van den Hurk worked as a post-doc researcher and project manager, and after a careful (detective-like) fieldwork to collect contractual information, co-authored some publications with me and others. In this project we argued that there are important implications of contractual planning for sustainable urban development, public accountability, and the public interest at large and we conducted a comparative research in the Netherlands, UK and Brazil. Among many dissemination activities our most recent one is a theme issue on Complex planning landscapes: regimes, actors, instruments and discourses of contractual urban development, which was published by European Planning Studies in March 2019. This special issue collects our main findings from the project and provides a collection of articles that contribute to a better understanding of the complex dynamics of property-led planning and urban governance. In this collection, we did not only provide empirical evidence to illustrate the sophisticated regimes, actors, instruments and discourses involved in it, but also offered new ways to understand private sector involvement in public planning. Rob Atkinson and Maria Lucia Refinetti Martins joined me for the editorial which you can read here. The EPS Team issue contained 6 articles which you can see below:
Tuna Tasan-Kok, Rob Atkinson & Maria Lucia Refinetti Martins (2019) Complex planning landscapes: regimes, actors, instruments and discourses of contractual urban development, European Planning Studies, 27:6, 1059-1063, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09654313.2019.1598018
Mike Raco, Nicola Livingstone & Daniel Durrant (2019) Seeing like an investor: urban development planning, financialisation, and investors’ perceptions of London as an investment space, European Planning Studies, 27:6, 1064-1082, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09654313.2019.1598019
Rob Atkinson, Andrew Tallon & David Williams (2019) Governing urban regeneration in the UK: a case of ‘variegated neoliberalism’ in action?, European Planning Studies, 27:6, 1083-1106, (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09654313.2019.1598020)
Tuna Tasan-Kok, Martijn van den Hurk, Sara Özogul & Sofia Bittencourt (2019) Changing public accountability mechanisms in the governance of Dutch urban regeneration, European Planning Studies, 27:6, 1107-1128, (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09654313.2019.1598017)
Maria Lucia Refinetti Martins & Alvaro Luis dos Santos Pereira (2019) Urban Regeneration in the Brazilian urban policy agenda, European Planning Studies, 27:6, 1129-1145, (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09654313.2019.1598021)
Willem K. Korthals Altes (2019) Multiple land use planning for living places and investments spaces, European Planning Studies, 27:6, 1146-1158, (https://tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09654313.2019.1598022)
Among these, paper that I co-authored with the members of the Amsterdam team on Changing public accountability mechanisms in the governance of Dutch urban regeneration, presented part of our research results. Dutch urban regeneration has demonstrated changing governance principles and dynamics in the last three decades. Representing instrumental and institutional measures, we connect accountability mechanisms to these changes and argue that they ‘co-exist’ in multiple forms across different contexts. This article embeds this evolution in wider theoretical discussions on the changing relationships between public and private sector actors in urban governance relative to the changing role of the state, and it addresses questions on who can be held accountable, and to what extent, when public sector actors are increasingly retreating from regulatory practices while private sector actors play increasingly prominent roles. You can read more here:
Although I will keep working on the findings of these projects and publishing, I am super excited to start the fieldwork of the WHIG project, which examines the impact of contemporary investment flows in major European cities and the governance arrangements and public policy instruments that are designed to govern them. We will mainly study the property markets, especially dealing with the residential property production in Amsterdam, London and Paris to investigate how the actors, processes and institutions change in the governance of cities due to financialization dynamics. More to follow…
CAPP Student blog (November 2017): Private actors for public space: Doomed to fail? by Kristina Habdank and Loreto Rocco Silva (November 2017, UvA, Amsterdam)
When promenading around Gustav Malerplein in Zuidas, Amsterdam’s most prominent business district, passers-by are introduced to the view this image (Left). What are they going to make out of it? Well, most likely, the impression of a mainstream restaurant and shop, maybe also that of a working place. Peering through the glass facades, one immediately recognizes a large dining area on the right section of the ground floor, while more to the left, people can be spotted in front of their laptops, lounging in individual chairs or populating one of the few tables. One billboard sign just before the entrance points to the existence of a retail shop, while another one just around the corner suggests enjoying cocktails on an adjacent rooftop terrace.
It may hence come to a surprise that “Circl”, built entirely according to sustainable and circular economy (CE) principles in 2015, does not only serve corporate or commercial purposes. In fact, it is actually also labelled a “public space” by the municipality and its creators and owners, the ABN Amro bank. However, there come some pitfalls with the blurring of lines between public and private and one may ask whether the tag “public” is already earned just by (technically) allowing free access, spending time inside without having any specific purpose, and hosting some admission-free events that engage with matters of citizenship at least in the wider sense?
Following Jane Jacobs (1961), public spaces stimulate vibrancy and social interaction, contributing to the construction of a cohesive neighbourhood. These can be sidewalks and squares, but also schools or other places that enable ‘repeated encounters’. A certain balance between private and public spaces is necessary in Jacobs’ opinion, but they need to be clearly demarcated as either to prevent misuse. In this light, she also advocates the market and government to be separate sectors as they are based on fundamentally different value orientations. Blending them will lead to tensions and moral confusion, creating ‘a monstrous moral hybrid’ (1992). Now, given the fact that the Circl building is private property, but at the same time also meant to serve public functions, we may ask: does it deserve Jacobs’ label of questionable reputation?
For any fair criticism, attention must firstly be paid to wider societal developments – specifically the broader economic changes that have made clear distinctions between public and private more and more difficult. One may perceive Circl as exemplary for the evolutionary process of a neoliberalising state in which there is a tendency towards more market-oriented urban development and a split away from the hierarchical government steering for the provision of public services. To increase the international competitiveness and ensure long-term investment, municipalities call for new planning policies that facilitate entrepreneurial activity through public-private partnerships (Van Rooy, 2011).
Secondly, one also has to place the case within the specific local context. While there were indeed somewhat pure “corporate” interests of ABN Amro to tackle the lack of meeting rooms and simultaneously showcase their expertise in the trending CE sector, the municipality was also just in bare need for more public spaces in the Zuidas district. Due to the financial crisis in 2008, the former development plan of a prestigious business area was modified towards a more mixed-use approach, incorporating additional residential buildings as the demand for housing continued to be high in the popular city of Amsterdam. Hence, public spaces had to be subsequently integrated in an area that was and still is highly dominated by commercial interests – a situation which would have been classified as quite unfavourable in Jacobian eyes.
Does the private provision of public space inevitably create a “monstrous moral hybrid?”
Looping back to the overarching cornerstones of neoliberalism, we are perceiving a situation in which general guidelines for spatial development through land-use regulations are still set by the government to ensure long-term projections and the protection of public values, but the private sector has adopted a quite powerful position in the establishment of public policy rules and regulations. Current spatial developments as such constitute a combination of private and public interests and although the public-private role distribution is contractually agreed, its implementation in practice often moves along blurred lines of rights and responsibilities (Bergevoet, 2013). Speaking with Foucault (1982), who stated that institutional power structures are projected into the built environment, it is worth addressing how power relations between the private and public sector interest manifest within the creation of public spaces. If the municipality’s activity is reduced to stimulating and facilitating the provision of a public function in a privately-owned building, does this mean that its power, after setting the framework conditions, has ultimately been played out?
Well – on the upside, one may argue that the provision of public functions by private companies can make up for lacking resources on part of public authorities.
On the downside, firstly, Circl may not be used as public space simply because it is barely recognizable as such. Commercial activities the dominant impression for passers-by and even Google Search tags it as “restaurant”. Similarly, public access to the rooftop garden is somewhat obstructed by the billboard sign indicating only a “rooftop bar”.
Secondly, the high-class design of the building and the dominance of the CE topic may be intimidating to lower socio-economic or less educated fractions of the public. Although the Circl website (The Making of Circl, 2017) also states education al purposes, it remains questionably why citizens should feel encouraged to enter the building in the first place. Moreover, even if they do so, the perceived dominance of economic interests will hardly be contested by the fact that the tables and chairs one can make free use of also serve as showroom models to be immediately purchased – and that for no less that 900 €. In this light, one cannot help but doubt whether Circl is apt for valuably contributing to the proclaimed municipal aim of making the benefits of the Zuidas area available to a broad and diverse target group.
It is therefore highly problematic when, having facilitated the provision of public spaces by private actors, public authorities may lean back and claim to already have fulfilled their duties in creating liveable places – while in fact they have not. Apart from issues of lacking inclusivity due to social-economic and educational barriers, regulations for its use remain in the hands of the respective owner. That entails the power to restrict certain behaviour, thereby creating an atmosphere of uncertainty, or simply to close it down to the public at some point.
Hence, Circl can at best be labelled a (potentially temporary) semi- public space – leaving the municipality with still owing the creation of more “true” public spaces for the citizens of Zuidas.
Bergevoet, T. (2013). De flexibele stad. Oplossingen voor leegstand en krimp. NAI.
Foucault, M. (1982). The subject and power. Critical inquiry, 8 (4), 777-795.
Jacobs, J. (1992). Systems of survival. New York: Vintage books. Jacobs, J. (1961). Introduction. In The Death and Life of Great
American Cities, 1-25. New York: Random House.
Van Rooy, P. (2011). Uitnodigingsplanologie als sociaal-cultureel
perspectief. Building business, 13 (10), 1-5.
The Making of Circl. Het verhaal van een circulair paviljoen aan de Zuidas. (2017, September). Retrieved from https://circl.nl/themakingof/.