The Bridge, (a) community building

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Abstract

The societal issue that this project tries to address is the increasing anonymity in residential urban neighborhoods. The increasing anonymity is caused by a decrease of social interaction between citizens that share the same living environment. The government used to subsidize community facilities like sports clubs and cultural institutions to maintain the social coherence. However, due to cutbacks and a belief in the participation society, the government will gradually pull back and take a less active role in supporting local community development. In order to create and maintain healthy, safe and attractive urban neighborhoods, residents should become aware of a social environment that is linked to the place. Therefor, social interaction among locals must be stimulated so that local communities are able to develop. Architecture is not able to create communities. However, architecture can facilitate community development by creating the right conditions. Not the architecture itself, but the social process of community building, has been put upfront in this project. The project includes a research and a design proposal. In the research has been searched for (spatial) conditions in which people are invited to interact with each other. The design is a community place for the Buiksloterham in Amsterdam. It is a pedestrian/bicycle bridge over the Johan van Hasseltkanaal, the widest canal in the neighborhood, that facilitates community development by providing space for self-organized community activities. The design of a bridge metaphorically suits the goal of willing to connect people. Furthermore it contributes to the improvement of the neighborhood on an urban scale. Because in the Buiksloterham people are invited to design and built their own house, the construction and making of the community place played a significant role in the design. The making of the bridge was not merely a technical problem to be solved, but became a major source of inspiration for the design. This is visible in both the building process (residents of the neighborhood are invited to come and see the making of) and the materialization. By making models of how the building process would work and working with the actual materials, concrete and wood, the constraints have been researched and turned into positive consequences for the design. The design of the bridge, a community place for the Buiksloterham, aims to catalyze the social process of community development. In the subtitle, (a) community building, the a is put in parenthesis to make you aware of the analogy between the noun, a community building, and the verb, community building.