Happy Hoogvliet

article by Michelle Provoost
23 June 2004

Only six kilometers long, Rotterdam’s subway line was the shortest in the world when it opened in 1968. Not surprisingly, the city took great pride in having built the Netherlands’ first subway. It was yet another sign of the city’s agility in re-inventing itself after the devastating air raid that had destroyed it’s historical core in 1940. It manifested the two pillars of Rotterdam’s carefully cultivated image: modernity and progress. A new urban core dominated by buildings that meant business, and spacious new housing estates fostered the city’s self-esteem. The subway was welcomed as a gadget that strengthened the new image. Starting in the rebuilt center, the line crosses the river disclosing the old working class estates on the southern bank. It continues to the postwar housing estates that repeated endless series of identical or very similar units (which had appropriately been labeled ‘stamps’). For the time being the line ended in Slinge station, in one of the world’s most famous housing estates: Pendrecht.

The first designs for Pendrecht had been made by a vanguard of modern architects from the CIAM: Van den Broek & Bakema and Lotte Stam-Beese. The purity of the design and the much famed spatial concept had turned it into a model that inspired similar experiments all over Europe. It was one of the highlights of Dutch urban planning. The line was soon extended beyond the city’s municipal borders. First it led to the stations in Rhoon and Poortugaal. Even though we have hardly left Rotterdam behind us, the city looks light-years away. Small villages accentuate the dikes, there are small shops, churches, quite a number of farms: a typical Dutch pastoral. Green pastures show up on both sides of the subway line, willows mark the course of narrow country roads, sheep graze the banks. Then, all of a sudden, one of the new housing estates appears and we’re back in Rotterdam. Station Hoogvliet is lined with high-rise blocks and large apartment buildings. It is the city’s farthest outpost, 12 kilometers away from the center. Hoogvliet is a veritable New Town, an autonomous urban unit designed in the late 1940s according to the principles of the English New Towns near London. The reason to build Hoogvliet this far from the existing city was the passionate desire to do more than only repair the destruction caused by the war: the port of Rotterdam was to become the largest in the world. To achieve this ambitious goal, in the Botlek and Europoort areas, huge new harbor basins were created and complemented by new industrial complexes. The small medieval village of Hoogvliet, situated in the immediate vicinity of the Shell refinery, was singled out as a ‘nucleus of growth’, suitable for housing the labor force needed by the expanding port. Gradually, the old village was to be replaced by a completely new Hoogvliet. The historical port was filled in, historical farms and the characteristic small houses along the dikes were demolished. As a prelude to these grand ideas, the old core near the seventeenth-century church (that escaped demolition) was destroyed to make place for the New Town’s shopping center. The scale of this shopping mall was quite large: the plan envisaged shops, high-rise apartment buildings, cultural buildings including a musical center, and a sports stadium. Hoogvliet was to become a regional center, a sparkling magnet attracting people from the neighboring villages. Lotte Stam Beese’s drawings of Hoogvliet radiate a mundane, urbane atmosphere comparable to Harlow or Stevenage, and quite different from the famous housing estate Pendrecht. Hoogvliet was to be a proud and independent urban core next to Rotterdam.

Successes and failures
In it’s urban lay-out, Hoogvliet clearly reflected the ideals of the neighborhood unit. The social hierarchy of family, neighbors, the neighborhood community and the urban society was mirrored by the physical hierarchy of the individual house, the street, a group of streets with a small shopping center, the neighborhood and the city at large. All housing units were designed as parts of a balanced community comprising various types of houses. The architecture of the houses, schools, and shops was sober and homogenous. This functionalist feeling was greatly enhanced by the industrial building methods that were applied in Hoogvliet. Apart from that, it expressed one of the great ideals of the time: social equality. An abundance of open spaces and collective gardens compensated for the small houses; the transparency and openness of the public greenery represented a new, open urban society. Naturally, traffic was organized according to the latest ideas on efficiency. Cars, bicycles and pedestrians were provided with their own special lanes. These were combined to create wide traffic arteries provided with ample greenery: a modern version of the American parkways. All components of the urban structure were endowed with the qualities of modernism and efficiency, simultaneously manifesting a idealistic social model. Like most post-war utopia’s, the ideal New Town of Hoogvliet soon experienced serious difficulties. Instead of fostering social cohesion, the neighborhood units promoted a feeling of contingency. In nearby Vlaardingen, sociologists discovered that inhabitants identified with their street and its immediate surroundings, but not with the social module of the neighborhood. To add insult to injury, the size of the houses was seen as too small. Lacking an extra room that could be used as a study, the houses offered in Hoogvliet were bound to have a devastating effect on the development of the individual personality, at the same time hampering opportunities to have harmonious family life. This was all the more serious because the population of Hoogvliet was made up of a curious mix of dockworkers from Rotterdam and immigrants from the agrarian provinces of Drenthe and Zeeland. They had their own dialect, clung to their own lifestyles and formed a source of continuous friction. Finally, the possibility to transform Hoogvliet into an autonomous New Town was questionable right from the start. Rotterdam was nearby, and after the construction of the subway line and new highways in the 1960s, the inhabitants of Hoogvliet were no longer dependent on the amenities offered in Hoogvliet. What had been conceived as one of the blessings of Hoogvliet, its situation at a stone’s throw from the Shell refinery, turned out to be a major setback, as a series of accidents and the continuously polluted air demonstrated. On January 20, 1968, an explosion shattered most of the windows in Hoogvliet, dramatically changing its image from a friendly, efficient and modern city into the stigma of a place that could better be avoided. Even before Hoogvliet lost its utopian ring, town planners had understood that its location was far from ideal. In the beginning of the 1960s, when new housing estates where still being added and the population of the New Town grew rapidly, the planners decided that the original vision of a city inhabited by some 60.000 people had become problematic. They decided to extend the subway line, adding one more stop to create Spijkenisse, at a safe distance from the industrial complexes. Spijkenisse was to develop into a New Town of approximately 80.000 people. The housing estates originally intended to be part of Hoogvliet were transferred to Spijkenisse. With it, the image of an optimistic, desirable housing estate definitely left Hoogvliet. Hoogvliet never had more than 37.000 inhabitants. Of the ambitious plans for a shopping mall with numerous cultural and recreational facilities, only some shops remained. Decades later, rows of terraced houses were built on the area that was left open. Even today, the area near the church gives the impression of a suburban wasteland, used for parking only. Instead of the urban, even semi-metropolitan character originally meant to single out Hoogvliet’s housing estates, the last ones that were built show a typically suburban character, defined by small, meandering streets lined with single family houses. Lost within one of these estates, stuck between the remnants of old dikes, the subway station is a far cry from the direct access to a really urban center that was originally planned. The entrée to the city is marked by a vast and desolate square used as a bus station, where ten surrealbus stops all await the same line: no. 78. Whoever enters Hoogvliet at this point cannot help but remember the feelings of the town planners in the late 1960s: Hoogvliet is a town planning accident. It has become a mutant: half New Town, half suburb.

It may be true that Hoogvliet failed to live up to its promises of a New Town, and it is hard to deny that the dream of the modernist city became discredited here even before half of the project had been realized. Even so, Hoogvliet does exist and is there to stay. In the mid-1990s, over 30.000 people lived here, some of them the middle-aged ‘pioneers’ of the 1950s and 1960s. They liked Hoogvliet because to them it was a quiet place at a comfortable distance from the increasingly problem-ridden metropolis of Rotterdam. Many of the former inhabitants of Hoogvliet - those who could afford to move - had left the tiny, noisy homes and settled in the bigger houses of the surrounding cities. The inexpensive houses of Hoogvliet attracted new inhabitants: Hoogvliet became a refuge for immigrants, many of them from the Dutch Antilles. They took up residence in the northern parts of Hoogvliet, where their different lifestyles soon caused trouble. It did not take long for a real schism to develop between the suburban, white well-to-do southern parts, which were mainly inhabited by native Dutch people, and the northern parts that were increasingly dominated by socially weaker groups. ‘Nieuw Engeland’, the ‘oil’-estate, epitomized this new trend. In 1951, so-called fan-shaped flats had been erected here, lining streets named after regions rich in oil: Caracas street, Texas street. The homes in this area were especially small, built in somber brick and located at the least desirable part of Hoogvliet: close to the oil refinery alongside the highway. In the 1990s, these streets changed into what soon became known as a ghetto. Junkies, drugs dealers, and vandalism made Nieuw England an ideal topic for a documentary on Dutch television that further strengthened the image of Hoogvliet as a sad and lost neighborhood.

Revitalizing Hoogvliet
To stop the downward trend, Hoogvliet proclaimed itself a disaster area in the mid-1990s. First of all, the fan-shaped flats were raided by the combined forces of the police, the public health service, tax collectors and bailiffs who combed out all the apartments in an attempt to stop all illegal activities. Drugs dealers were imprisoned, defaulters indicted, illegal tenants chased away. Subsequently, the remaining inhabitants were offered better houses elsewhere in Hoogvliet. The flats were demolished. Thus, the most disgraceful part of Hoogvliet had been dealt with in a mettlesome manner, meant to set an example for the next projects. The local authorities and the two housing corporations that had recently been privatized and owned most of the housing stock in Hoogvliet, cooperated in an attempt to improve housing conditions. No less than 5000 houses, 30% of the housing stock, were to be demolished, mainly flats of 56 square meters or smaller that could no longer live up to the expectations of the population of the 1990s. Likewise, the maisonette flats and the homes for the elderly that in the 1960s had been built around small courtyards, all of them miniature houses with only one small living room and an even smaller bedroom, were singled out for demolition. Marketable homes were to take their place. By creating a more diverse palette of housing types, reducing the rate of subsidized tenement housing (which used to be 70%), a more diverse and well-to-do population was expected to be willing to move to Hoogvliet. The revitalization campaign for Hoogvliet was clearly an answer to concrete needs, but it also reflected fundamental changes in the Dutch Welfare State. The state withdrew from public life, a concept that led Public Housing to become almost completely privatized. The Housing Corporations shook off their traditional role as social organizations and started to be run as semi-commercial companies. Not only in Hoogvliet, but in almost all post-war housing estates that have become subject to the processes of revitalization, this leads to strategies that are determined more by administrative and commercial concerns than by social ideas. As Jaqueline Tellinga put it in a recent publication on ‘The Big Make-Over’: ‘Since their privatization in 1995, the corporations have turned into real estate companies in which decisions on investments are taken at the highest level. They evaluate their possessions as part of their complete holdings, irrespective of their specific setting.’ This is why they choose a generic approach for all reconstruction projects, no matter how different the original situation may be. Everywhere, high-rise buildings and flats are substituted for low-rise, mostly single family homes; private gardens replace collective greenery, small neighborhood shopping centers disappear, instead, large central shopping malls are designed. Last but not least: low-cost tenement houses are suppressed, expensive owner-occupied houses strongly promoted. The revitalization of Hoogvliet followed the similar lines. To correct the negative image, it was decided to replace most of the urban structure, the public spaces and the housing stock by something with a more ‘contemporary’ outlook. The characteristic composition of elementary blocks floating in space, so typical for the modern city, was considered out of date. They were replaced by enclosed spaces and traditional urban motives: the inner city street, the return of the building line as the main organizational principle, the square, the boulevard. The original concept of an introvert pedestrian shopping mall was to be turned inside out by moving the shops to the boulevard. The free flowing public space that washed through the Hoogvliet’s urban tissue was to be framed by new blocks of houses, streets and cozy courtyards. Collective spaces, a fundamental principle in post-war town planning, had to make way for private gardens. Everything reminiscent of the original ‘collective’ ideals was banned. From now on, the individual and his personal lifestyle were to determine Hoogvliet. In short: the most characteristic feature of the revitalization scheme was the urge to eradicate the modern model on which the original plan for Hoogvliet had been based. Everything associated with it was seen as negative. The town planners’ main aspiration was to reinvent Hoogvliet. Even though they returned to tested traditional models, their ambition to bulldozer most of the existing New Town out of the way is reminiscent of the tabula rasa mentality of their colleagues who built Hoogvliet in the 1950s. The new plan did not relate to the existing situation any better than the original concept had related to the historical village it wanted to replace.

In 1999, the alderman for physical planning, at the time a representative of the Holland’s green party, proposed a motion that urged for an International Building Exhibition modeled on the German example of the Internationale Bau Ausstellung (IBA) in Berlin and the Emscher Park. It was a brave attempt to counter the prevailing currents in urban politics and the town planning profession, which were entirely focused on spectacular and highly prestigious projects in Rotterdam’s inner city. Instead, it wanted to direct attention to the slum like conditions in many of the post-war housing estates. The motion proved to be the starting point for the WiMBY! manifestation: Welcome in My Backyard. Since 2000, the management team is led by Felix Rottenberg, former chairman of the Dutch social-democrat party. The contents of the manifestation are defined by two architectural historians of Crimson, Michelle Provoost, author of this article, and Wouter Vanstiphout. Even though the famous German projects inspired the WiMBY!-project, it soon became clear that neither Berlin nor the Emscher Park provided a model for Hoogvliet. Not only was WiMBY! never more than a miniature version of these projects, the context was also very different. Whereas the Emscher Park project worked in a virtual vacuum - both the industries and the population tended to move away from the Ruhr region - Hoogvliet was bombarded with reconstruction proposals. There was more than enough money, revitalization had already started. The local political board, the corporations and commercial realtors were engaged in what they called the ‘Hoogvliet conspiracy’. A conspiracy that promised to be very successful. Then came WiMBY! What could WiMBY! possibly add to a planning machinery that was already in full swing? Its special assignment was to improve the quality of the revitalization scheme, to introduce innovative concepts on various levels: social, economic, architectural, urban, and - most importantly - to make their proposals really happen. Visits to the Emscher Park had helped to give the participants some clues as to what was to be expected: industrial ruins turned into cultural attractions, the promotion of high tech industries that built striking modern offices, beautifully designed public spaces and magnificent light projects that attracted car loads of tourists from all over Europe. However - was this really what Hoogvliet needed? What kind of projects were possible, feasible, and necessary here? It soon became clear that it was no use to found yet another separate organization, a real WiMBY! institute, to join the already existing organizations - this would only have led to time-consuming, competitive strife. Instead, we decided to concentrate on the existing planning machinery’s blind spots. We decided to cause a coordinated series of incidents that should have a marked effect on Hoogvliet. First and foremost, the projects that we embarked upon were to have a direct bearing to Hoogvliet and set an example for similar projects elsewhere. Apart from engaging in concrete projects, we also wanted to change people’s mentality. Our focal point was the existing substance of Hoogvliet, both physically (the buildings) and socially (the people). As in so many reconstructed housing estates, there had hardly been time to reflect upon the object of so much planning fervor: the New Town of Hoogvliet. Nor had the results of research by sociologists, traffic experts, and town planning historians been properly assessed. WiMBY! identified the need to correct this as a prerequisite for reinterpreting the worn out New Town. It wanted to rediscover its now hidden qualities as an unknown, captivating new urban entity with its own peculiarities. Reinterpreting and reusing what was already there should become the guiding principle in the reconstruction process. As a consequence, some projects - the Domain Hoogvliet, Hoogvliet inside out, the WiMBY! Week - were on the verge of becoming social community work. Sometimes initiatives that bore no direct relation to architecture were most effective in presenting alternative approaches for sometimes over ambitious, large-scale reconstruction projects. Temporary interventions, cultural reprogramming or a onetime event could help to rediscover the New Towns hidden but positive qualities. Above all it brings to light unexpected urban potentialities, that can inspire future strategies. This potential is located both in the inhabitants and in the existing urban fabric. It is an open question whether or not a program based upon suburban and costly houses can ever generate such vitality.

Anti tabula rasa
We were absolutely sure that if Hoogvliet was to become a new, vital and attractive city in ten years, nothing could be more counterproductive than to start from scratch. The tabula rasa mentality that wants to do away with everything it encounters, from buildings to the underground infrastructure, may have been useful in the postwar reconstruction era, in this case it was totally useless. Using existing qualities helps to prevent the New Town from becoming generic, something that could have developed everywhere, in a suburb near Leeuwarden as well as in Enschede or Amersfoort. While the planning machinery set in motion by the corporations went on preparing the demolition of thousands of homes, postulating the values of the new, quiet suburban middleclass Hoogvliet that was be created in its place, WiMBY! worked at a totally different concept of Hoogvliet. Hoogvliet was to resemble itself and should not try to emulate other cities. It should find ways to deal with its green, village like character and the ethnic make-up of its inhabitants, and it should cherish what positive opportunities manifested themselves. This approach called for a thorough analysis of Hoogvliet, focusing not only on problems and difficulties, but on its positive aspects. By stressing the negative qualities, the large-scale reconstruction process that had been going on for some time ignored the positive characteristics. Nobody mentioned the profuse greenery, public gardens were only seen as wasteland waiting to be developed. Nobody drew attention to the potentialities of the large community of people from the Antillen, the problems of recent years only left room for negative feelings. Thus, many qualities that could have inspired the revitalization process were just simply discarded - an approach that seems inherent in Rotterdam’s ‘progressive’ tradition.

Our deviant views on Hoogvliet were first published in a book in 2000: WiMBY! Welcome into My Backyard!. Its cover illustrated our intentions: Hoogvliet’s historical church is shown adjacent to a vast expanse of Stelcon slabs, symbol of the failure of the New Town but at the same time manifesting its own peculiar beauty. This beauty is enhanced by Hoogvliet’s unfinished character and can be seen in many places: the dike that had to make place for the subway line, but simply continues on the other side of it, farms that look out of place between the flats, geese and sheep grazing in a setting of 1950s architecture. The WiMBY! strategy demonstrates precisely these qualities by exaggerating even the tiniest specimens of it and by idealizing what went wrong. This analysis had distinct therapeutic features because it showed the inhabitants how unique their New Town really is. Thus, their ingrained inferiority complex was to be healed. We expected to promote a change of mentality that might help to stop the purely negative way of dealing with the existing situation. One of the earliest urban projects of WiMBY! seems to confirm that this strategy may be successful.

Believing that Hoogvliet has many positive qualities, we needed a different type of town planning document than the all encompassing master plan. What was needed was a set of instruments that could help to steer the processes already at work, directing and manipulating them into a coherent policy. What was needed most was to create some logic in the often conflicting projects initiated by the many institutions working in Hoogvliet. This is how Logica, a town planning manual for Hoogvliet came into being. It was designed by the Rotterdam based architectural firm of Maxwan Architects and Planners. Time and again, Logica emphasized the need for a joint approach of the ‘Hoogvliet project’. Logica stated that as long as a coherent vision was lacking, the revitalization campaigns could only result in a chaotic, unremarkable generic city in which the most important characteristics of the New Town would be lost. Logica identified the qualities that should be seen as Hoogvliet’s main characteristics. Four urban devices were believed to result in a consistent structure: the green buffer surrounding the New Town, guaranteeing a rural setting on all sides, the isolated situation of the neighborhoods, endowing each of them with its own particular values, the green joints between the neighborhoods containing the New Town’s infrastructure, and finally the overall green qualities of Hoogvliet, a result of the fully grownup trees in the open spaces and collective gardens. Logica presented clear choices: each of the four structuring elements were put to the test. Were they to be respected, or could one do without them? These issues were addressed in the so-called Logica committee that was made up of representative of all parties involved: the municipal planning board, the local political board, two corporations and the development agency of Rotterdam. The same issues were put before the inhabitants on the WiMBY! website. Thus, Logica changed from a plan into a negotiation process. It resulted in a binding choice for one of the 24 models that could be composed by combining the variables offered in the process. Remarkably, the strategy that was preferred opted for conserving and enhancing all existing qualities. Hoogvliet’s green neighborhoods were to retain their self-contained qualities, flanked by wide parkways and surrounded by a recreational zone alongside the river Oude Maas.

New collectives
While Logica addressed Hoogvliet’s urban and physical qualities, other aspects of WiMBY! focused on its social qualities. Like the physical qualities, these were being grossly neglected, no matter how many publicity campaigns and inquiry procedures the official planning machinery organized. WiMBY! wanted more. We wanted to show what the inhabitants themselves had to offer. We wanted to exploit their creativity and make them responsible for projects we developed with them. In doing so, we discovered that the concept of the collective was much more important than the official reconstruction campaign took it to be. Working with single mothers from the Antillen community, we found that they needed forms of houses that combined the individual home with collective amenities and collective public spaces. The reconstruction campaign’s implicit mantra: ‘collective spaces have become impossible to maintain because the contemporary New Town lacks a collective mentality’ may be true for the average Dutch family commuting from one place to the other in an ever expanding network city, it does not apply to other groups. Judging from the growing number of communes, even among native Dutch, there appears to be a growing need for collective arrangements. These considerations fostered three projects we organized with the support of the corporations. They are intended to accommodate new collective housing arrangements. In one of the maisonettes - the most endangered type of house from the 1960s - a group of single mothers from the Antillen is provided with their own individual homes and a collective room that can be uses as a crèche, a study or a café. Part of the surrounding public spaces will also be brought under collective control and designated as safe places for children to play and mothers to eat or party together. In another maisonette flat in the same part of Hoogvliet, homes for young people are planned that follow the so-called ‘Foyer’ model which offers living, education and work. The third initiative attempts to attract categories of people that so far try to avoid Hoogvliet. Even though Hoogvliet is easily accessible and has a lot to offer, it’s negative image puts off the more wealthy and creative layers of Rotterdam’s population. How to make Hoogvliet more attractive for these categories, that could add to the social diversity of Hoogvliet? The usual type of single family house with a garden can be found anywhere. As such, it cannot induce to move to Hoogvliet. It is believed that a form of co-housing might do the trick. Co-housing is a form of housing that combines twenty individual homes and a collective amenity that is assigned to them and managed by the twenty households living there. The nature of this collective entity is decided collectively. It can either be a day-care center, an ecological garden, a car repair hall or a sports facility. Thus, a new meaning is given to the term ‘collective housing’. The oppressive connotations associated with the collective arrangements of the 1950s are replaced by self defined contemporary forms that combine individual homes with a wide variety of opportunities to use public space.

Collective substance
Judging from the way Hoogvliet manifests itself in its town planning and architecture, one would be inclined to think that its population must be homogenous. It is not. Behind the anonymous facades form the 1950s and 1960s, a rich palette of people live. They differ in income, ethnicity, and lifestyle and express theses differences in the way they dress and the way they decorate their homes. The photo project ‘Hoogvliet inside out’ asked dozens of people to have their pictures taken in a circulating photo tent. The elderly with their rollators, mothers with a perm, hip hop boys acting tough, all kinds of people showed up. These portraits were complemented by interior photographs taken by designers Gerard Hadders and Edith Gruson. Subsequently, the portraits and the interior photo’s were blown up to larger than life billboards that were placed near the highway and as traffic signs at street crossings. Apart from that, they were used as propaganda for the WiMBY! week that was organized in December 2002 in a now demolished row of homes for the elderly, where all WiMBY! projects were presented, while half of the U-shaped row of houses was still occupied. The facades of the empty houses were used as huge billboards for the interior photo’s. All empty houses were dedicated to one of the WiMBY! projects, while in others historical movies were shown. In one of the houses, people could get their portraits while the elderly people living nearby provided them with coffee. In this way, WiMBY! week did not only show a diversity of WiMBY! projects, but also they wide variety of people living in Hoogvliet.

What are the elements that make a city worth living in? The quality of the housing stock and the shops, the facilities you find there, the surroundings, the population, all these things matter. In a depressed area, educational facilities are particularly important. A lot needed to be done to bring Hoogvliet’s schools up to date. Most of them had been built in the 1960s, many according to the standard types then designed by the municipal authorities. They are inconspicuous buildings in which the classrooms are connected by long corridors. The special rooms needed in present-day educations are usually lacking. It is difficult to find a suitable place for teaching pupils on an individual basis, for libraries, music performances, etc. The shabby concrete classrooms designed as temporary solutions when the schools became too small are hardly suitable for these purposes. The need for special classrooms is further enhanced by the changing make-up of Hoogvliet’s population. More often than not, children from various groups arrive at school without having breakfast. Provisions have to be made to help the parents. After school or during holidays, pupils have to be taken care of. Improving the facilities for primary schools, WiMBY! developed the so-called ‘SchoolParasites’, which were designed in cooperation with the Parasite Foundation. For three schools, beautiful facilities were created where the pupils can cook, eat, work by themselves or rehearse plays. The plans by Barend Koolhaas, Onix and Christoph Seyferth can be industrially produced. Apart from educational purposes, they can also serve to accommodate neighborhood festivities, meetings and gatherings of parents. For secondary schools a special initiative was already on its way: the concentration of three schools on a campus. This enabled them to share a.o. sports facilities and the auditorium. WiMBY! urged the participating parties to build this campus near the subway station. This was seen as a remedy for the disadvantageous location of the subway station, adding thousands of potential passengers, contributing to make the station safer, and giving the campus a function for the entire region. The campus is believed to make Hoogvliet a more attractive place: nice houses can be found almost anywhere, a nice campus is something special. Urging the schools in Hoogvliet to cooperate far more intensely than they were used to, the Campus-project tried to improve Hoogvliet’s educational system by promoting pupils to move from one school to the other. This should reduce the terribly high rate of dropouts. The subway station is presently framed by flats that are going to be demolished. The campus is going to be integrated in the housing program that is going to replace them. This will result in an ensemble of nice, small scale school buildings and collective facilities such as a library that can be used by both the pupils of the schools and the inhabitants of the neighborhood.

To conclude: the Estate Hoogvliet
What will happen to Hoogvliet once all our projects will have been realized? Will the result differ fundamentally from the outcome of revitalization schemes in other New Towns? Or will our efforts prove to be but incidents that are bound to drown in the vast reconstruction work carried out by the official planning bureaucracies? Are they but romantic visions illustrating the merits of an old New Town? Is it at all possible for a small organization like ours to alter the course of these bureaucracies, as WiMBY! claimed it would? Probably, the Domain Hoogvliet will be the ultimate test case. All what WiMBY! has stood for the last four years culminates in this project. The Estate Hoogvliet is a Summer Park intended to provide recreation and entertainment. It is situated in the green buffer between Hoogvliet and the highway in the periphery of the ‘oil’ neighborhood. It comprises several components that have been developed in close cooperation with various groups of people in Hoogvliet: a tree collection, a graveyard for pets, a natural playground, sports fields and a Villa. The local inhabitants not only initiated all these amenities, they will also be engaged in building, managing and maintaining them. In the park itself there are spaces for all kinds of activities: there are pick nick and barbeque tables, there is a pond for paddling. In the center of the Estate the villa acts as an eye catcher. It has been designed by the London-based firm of FAT architects that also planned the park. It’s character is purely narrative. The ornamental facades show elements that refer to the original village like, green Hoogvliet, the chimney of the Shell refinery that triggered off the idea to build Hoogvliet and the geometrical facades of the 1950s architecture. It is a Venturian decorated shed containing the symbols and signs of a popular and recognizable visual language that can be understood by anyone. Even for fleeting passersby, the need for a facility like the Estate is easily grasped, for in Hoogvliet nothing ever happens. The shopping mall boasts of a brasserie where one can drink a cup of coffee, but for younger people there is absolutely nothing to do, least of all during evenings and nights. The Villa is going to change this.. There will be musical performances, plays will be enacted, family celebrations can take place here. Like the park, the Villa has something to offer for everybody. By keeping ourselves submerged in the wonderful world of Hoogvliet and engage ourselves in a never-ending pursuit of the creative forces inherent in it, we believe WiMBY! can contribute to a renaissance of the old New Town. Hoogvliet’s negative image of a city inhabited by a dull NiMBY! population will be transformed into the positive image of a city with a peculiar mix of young and eldery people, people from the Dutch Antilles, nature, industry. A place that makes its inhabitants proud and visitors curious.

article ‘Happy Hoogvliet’, in: Cor Wagenaar (red.), Happy, Rotterdam 2004. And in: Shrinking Cities, 2005