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Islands

The area of De Hoven, site of the competition, is defined by its context of 1960s housing blocks that dissolve the street, making it in an oversized space. This configuration leads to limited appropriation of the public space, poor maintenance, and degradation of social links.
We believe that the situation of Capelle-aan-den-IJssel requires an innovative system, which allows the redefinition of the local spatial relation between public and private space. We reject a rigid and global planning scheme of the built environment when designing this new neighbourhood. Rather than integrating current programmatic needs in a definitive manner, the project proposes a more flexible design that can adapt to future changes. This strategy is articulated around two major points:
- the site is subdivided into an array of comprehensible square (25x25m) territorial units
- the punctual positioning of buildings is tailored to the local needs of these territorial units
The redefinition of the site as a sum of autonomous regions allows for a variety of local implantation strategies.

A. A blind façade
Our project sets an initial boundary to the site. From the outside, a series of blind walls define the neighbourhood’s periphery. Punctually, and in regular patterns, these walls fold back towards the heart of the project, forming a series of distinct volumes. The site is accessed by staircases and ramps located in the gaps between the volumes. We suggest that as many access points to the neighbourhood as there are gaps between the peripheral volumes be allowed. These access points are mainly constituted of staircases leading to the main level at +4 m.

B. A parking level
The ground level of the project is entirely dedicated to parking space. It is accessed by a number of hidden entrances through the site’s boundary. Staircases join the parking level with the heart of the project. The parking space is naturally lit from above. It is the only component of the programme barring spatial continuity.

C. A +4 m ground level

A series of platforms make up both the ceiling of the parking space and the ground of the project.
They are thick enough to contain the structure of the slabs supported by pillars. They are locally tailored to the plantation of trees. The elevation of the reference level breaks the continuity of the surroundings. Nevertheless, the project does not consist of a continuous slab, but rather of a multitude of discrete platforms.

D. The territorial unit: the island
The neighbourhood is divided into 44 distinct islands. On the ground, they occupy 25x25m square regions. Each is isolated from the other by a void. A 3m high enclosing wall defining a courtyard reinforces this boundary. This setting displays several characteristics:

- The enclosing wall allows independence from the immediate context.

- The courtyard is its own context. It defines an easily appropriable space, in direct relationship with the buildings’ ground level.

- The courtyard is a finite form. The walls fold to form angles. The buildings are placed at a minimal distance of 1 m from these walls. In this way, the space is clearly legible in its entirety.

This disposition produces a very concrete effect: the enclosing wall limits the horizontal sprawl of the built environment.


E. Circulation

Whereas, in the classic urban scheme, streets are both for circulation and boundary (tracing the boundary between public and private space), in our project they disappear in favour of a diffuse mode of circulation within the islands. The islands thus function as a series of courtyards.
This project relies on the confinement of motorized vehicles to the parking level. It transforms the site into a vast pedestrian and cycling zone. We have chosen to define a minimal set of rules necessary to ensure the practical coherence in terms of access:
- Staircases and ramps located between the enclosing walls allow access to the site.
- The pillars upholding the floor and containing infrastructure networks make bridges between the islands- The buildings are freely allocated on each island with their sole condition being to preserve access between the islands.


F. Architectural intervention

The project sets a counterpoint to a unitary and authoritarian notion of urban planning. We suggest an overall strategy that allows great architectural diversity. For this reason, we do not wish to be the only designing team, but rather to allow the most diverse architectures to coexist. Each building shall exist in its singularity and benefit from the heteroclite character of the urban fragment that we are imagining. Nevertheless, we set a few principles that we would apply to the buildings were they commissioned to us. These principles have guided our designs presented here. The buildings that we suggest contain between 1 and 5 units. These buildings correspond to a set of 160 dwellings on a 2.2 hectare site. However, their allocation remains open (dwellings, commercial units, , recreational units and spaces, administrative buildings…). They contain spaces of various sizes and organizational modes. They define flexible spaces, the dimensions of which allow the mutation of hosted uses. These spaces are horizontally or vertically distributed and comprise surfaces between 40 m2 and 200 m2, including mainly 2 to 3 storey 80 m2 flats. Each built unit contains three kinds of spaces:
- a series of interior free plan spaces
- an exterior loggia-like space containing staircases in most cases
- a roof terrace accessible to all hosts of the building


G. Densification principle

The neighbourhood is not constructed in one go. In the beginning, the islands are virgin islands. They contain sporadic zone of lawn and trees, a still untouched landscape. Pioneers invest this proto-regulated environment, gradually shaping the site.During the first construction phases on an island, a few trees are felled and give place to the first buildings. The island is slowly populated. The density change remains local with no influence on neighbouring islands. It is characterized by a high degree of autonomy.
Little by little, the ground level is saturated and it is no longer possible to spread horizontally, given the existing boundaries. It is necessary to grow vertically. The buildings rise. Soon, more buildings penetrate this fabric. The territory articulates itself without any other planning than the definition of its boundaries.