In a series of six episodes, the International New Town Institute (INTI) explores unusual aspects of rapidly developed settlements across Europe. Rachel Keeton reports on the recent renovation of Stedenwijk Noord, a district in the Dutch New Town of Almere.
Completed in 1979, the Almere neighbourhood of Stedenwijk Noord had become one of the New Town’s major problem areas. Neglected maintenance and a drab, dated architectural style contributed to the aesthetic problems. Low personal investment from the residents (mostly renters) contributed to social problems.
Over the last four years, however, this neighbourhood has undergone one of the largest renovation projects ever undertaken in the Netherlands. Some 675 houses and fifteen office buildings were given a complete facelift on the outside, as well as strategically updated on the inside. The facades were redone with brick and red tiling. The new ornamentation was inspired by the Amsterdam School style, giving this 1970s district the look of a cosy 1930s neighbourhood. This deliberate historicization has been hugely popular with locals.
But just looking good wasn’t enough; both the municipality of Almere and the Goede Stede housing corporation wanted the project to also have a positive, sustainable impact on the area. According to Erik van Scheijndel of 19 Het Atelier (the architecture firm responsible for the renovation), the answer to the sustainability problem was ultimately a very simple one: ‘Most builders in Holland use bricks that are ten centimetres thick. We used bricks that were seven centimetres thick so that we could have three centimetres extra for insulation. The results made the residents very happy, because they save money on their energy bills.’ In fact, locals say the new double glazing, plus extra insulation in floors, walls and roofs, is saving them on average €50 per month.
Based on the success of this huge project, Goede Stede is now beginning a second large renovation in Molenbuurt, an Almere neighbourhood dating from the 1980s.