Europan 10 – Emmen, The Netherlands

Competition 2009

For: Lefier and Municipality of Emmen

The history of Emmen has been characterized by big and fast demographic changes. People strongly believed that society could be created (´Maakbaarheid´), which was very often the drive in planning the city.
In the era of growing economical centres, and on the contrary a growing number of areas with decreasing population, we should think of the situation of Emmen around 2025, since the outflux of people from the peripheral regions is about to culminate around then. It is very likely that the present prognoses are not relevant any more at that time. This hypothesis could be a good lead to develop more areas of high quality in recreation and nature in the periphery, supporting the economical strongholds, and also to ´finish´ the cities within these regions. ´Emmergradient´ takes this scenario as basis for an urban strategy for the Buitenweg area.

Density is added where it´s needed for vitality, and nature where quality is necessary, anticipating on the surrounding urban context. The plan proposes to focus more on senior housing so to establish a flow coming from the outskirts into the centre, making room for newcomers or retrocession of surface for landscape.
To achieve the mix of density and nature, a gradient is superposed on the site, starting at the Wilhelminastraat with a more urban fabric, which transforms into an ecological buffer along the railway. Along the Wilhelminastraat the programme consists of senior housing, facilities and public space because of it´s proximity to the centre. The middle is programmed with housing, and the zone along the railway gets a more rural image as reference to the typical landscape of Drenthe. A recreational walk- and bicycle path connects the site via the future peoples park with the station.

An increasing demand for life cycle proof houses, especially in regions which are dealing with shrinkage, gives new opportunities to design flexible housing. The houses are build of a relatively simple wooden main construction in which long lasting rooms of various sizes can be slided. Owners or tenants can compose their own house within the framework, making big interventions or demolition less necessary because the houses can adept to different ways of living and family structure. Also the houses are a smart investment since they can facilitate a wider variety of people and create diversity in the neighbourhood. This idea has been proposed in many variations but hardly got realised because of economical reasons. Shrinkage breaks open the market and offers the chance to re-consider these concepts.