Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dutch Profiles: Pi de Bruin Architect - Roombeek Enschede

Architect Pi de Bruijn is famous for expanding and modernising public buildings like the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam or the Dutch parliament in The Hague. He also developed huge urban areas like the ZuidAs in Amsterdam or the Beursplein in Rotterdam.

But a much smaller project proved to be a real turning point for Pi de Bruijn. In Roombeek, a tiny residential area in the city of Enschede, he decided to diminish his own role as an architect. He let the future residents create their own neighbourhood.

In May 2000, Roombeek was completely devastated by the explosion of a fireworks factory. 23 people were killed.

Pi de Bruijn asked all residents to help determine what their new neighbourhood should look like. 50 % of the residents were able to design their own houses. De Bruijn merely functions as a supervisor, a coordinator of ideas. This new approach earned the city a prestigious prize for excellence in commissioning work in architecture and urban planning.

Pi de Bruijn used to believe in a modernist, idealistic, top-down approach. In the seventies he worked on the Bijlmermeer in Amsterdam. With separated areas for living, working, shopping and leisure. On paper it all seemed to work, but in reality the dream turned into a nightmare.

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