WiMBY was established as an International Building Exhibition (IBE), a state-supported renewal project aiming to offer an architectural exemplar.
A small delivery team, based in the town centre, was supported by a board that brought together significant local stakeholders from both public and private sectors. This included the housing associations that were major property-owners and leading the more conventional renewal.
WiMBY aimed to facilitate bottom-up regeneration, working with local groups to identify projects and deliver change, rather than implement it from the top down.
It carried out a comprehensive survey, mapping Hoogvliet’s physical environment, its culture and aspirations, and its institutions and networks. The findings were used to set an overall direction and identify key sites and issues.
A second exercise was then undertaken to map local plans and activity, which ranged from tiny clubs meeting in garages to major institutional initiatives. This mapping exercise informed the final selection of 30 interdisciplinary projects that would be carried out as part the WiMBY! programme. The chosen projects were grouped under 10 themes covering all aspects of urban life, from housing and education to culture and identity. The projects varied in structure and timeframe from short seminars to major building developments.
All of the projects were linked by an idea of ‘urban acupuncture’. Crimson belived that a well-considered, specific intervention, which makes small changes with the residents who create the place’s social connections, can stimulate potential for social renewal.
WiMBY! brought together some unlikely partners to work on these projects including community groups and multinational organisations.
WiMBY! recognised the need for a guiding framework within which different agencies could operate autonomously. Crimson commissioned architect Maxwan to develop Logica, a ‘town planning manual’ for Hoogvliet.
Logica was devised through consultation with major stakeholders, as well as an online planning ‘game’ in which residents could participate. It required all developers to observe and maintain Hoogvliet’s unique mix of physical qualities including:
- a rural greenbelt
- distinct neighbourhoods, each with their own character
- the green ‘seams’, running between neighbourhoods
- a street hierarchy of an inner ring road and secondary roads
- an overall sense of greenness generated by shared gardens and mature trees.
Developing an idea
The Heerlijkheid was not conceived as a permanent park but as a festival space animated by temporary structures that could be revived each summer. Seen as a ‘quick win’, it would address a lack of cultural and leisure space, and show that something was happening while other schemes were going through the planning process.
The Heerlijkheid site was offered by the council as a disused area of contaminated land at the north of Hoogvliet. This land acted as a buffer between homes and industry and was inappropriate for wholesale development. The site was ideal for noisy activity because of its distance from housing.
The temporary proposal for the Heerlijkheid was not fully endorsed by funders and planners. They found it hard to cope with a temporary proposal and wanted something more solid to manage and invest in. On that basis, WiMBY! asked FAT, A British architecture practice, to prepare a formal masterplan and to adapt the party hall into a permanent building.
Developing the design
FAT was commissioned because of its interest in popular culture and in the power of architecture to communicate and tell stories. FAT was asked to develop a design that would express Hoogvliet’s character and attract visitors. FAT began to develop the park’s design by analysing the look and feel of Hoogvliet’s existing public spaces and front gardens.
The Heerlijkheid was designed around the needs of specific Hoogvliet groups including a riding school, a group of tree campaigners and some model boat enthusiasts. FAT worked closely with these groups so that particular structures and areas were tailored to their requirements.
Ideas were tested at summer festivals held on site during the design process. These provided opportunities to raise awareness of the project and to try to attract a mix of people to the park. WiMBY! experimented with programming to ensure that all ethnicities and ages felt included. It proved a challenge to attract older white Dutch residents, in contrast to younger people and members of other ethnic groups.
The layout of the park was largely predetermined by the site’s environment as a neglected former sports field containing abandoned sports infrastructure, a disused car park, water filled ditches, noise pollution from the adjacent motorway and views of a neighbouring petrochemical plant. The site needed a lot of work and imagination to be transformed into a pleasure park and most of the elements could only go in one place. For example, there was only one possible location for a large building
Producing a park
The design process took five years to complete. Stakeholder feedback was given at intermittent stages during this time. The design was changed a number of times in response to public opinion. The design team had to manage conflicting interests and an early plan for a pet cemetery, one of the strong visual motifs of the initial scheme, was dropped due to disagreements between interest groups. Carrying out the design process in this way used up a lot of time and money and reduced the momentum of WiMBY’s involvement.
Funding for the park’s development came from a variety of sources. Overall landscaping was funded by compensation for nearby motorway expansion, while the villa was paid for by housing association Vestia. Vestia became involved in the project because it wanted to show support to the community and to make a small profit from rental of the hall.
WiMBY! and local resident groups made a successful application to a local community project fund, which paid for the smaller structures.