Urban Dating

Dynamic and interactive reflection about an alternative manner of area development

The time of a supply-driven market with the certainty of large revenues from sales of land are over. Now that this security has disappeared, another form of development planning is necessary. Instead of a fixed programme, more flexibility is required—yet with an understanding of financial risks. Based on research into new spatial strategies, karres+brands has developed the Urban Dating method: a dynamic and interactive tool that assesses uncertainties and has the power to connect parties and interests.

Many projects currently sit idle because of lack of funding or programme, or a faltering demand. The concerned parties are searching for new partners and new methods of financing, or even temporary programmes, while new socio-economic conditions demand new spatial strategies. How can the interests of initiative takers, owners, and users be made clear in the process? How can a perspective for the future be presented, wherein short and long term, bottom-up and top-down, and control and uncertainty go hand in hand, without the process going awry?

Central to the investigation is creating the possibility of providing insight into the early stages of the financial consequences of a given spatial development, without the programme, land, or investments already being set from the beginning of the process. This strategy of ‘sketch calculation’ is an alternative to the conventional method of calculation, which is often based on long-term land development and fixed land prices and revenues. A flexible and open calculation tool without a set end programme is offered. To simplify and clarify the aforementioned method, a number of variable parameters are assumed. Each parameter forms a building block of an urban development plan, which then serves as input for the calculation model—such as land, permanent and temporary programmes, spatial quality, and development speed—and strategy. The parameters are defined in collaboration with the various stakeholders.

This method and strategy have been tested in practice. The test case was De Hemmes, a peninsula in the Zaan on the north-east side of Zaandam. To prepare testimony with respect to the transformation of De Hemmes into a residential location, and to provide input for the required zoning change, advice from Urban Dating was requested. After an initial meeting with all stakeholders (the municipality, two individuals, and the Stichting Hemmes Groep), the parameters of the area transformation were discussed in workshops. These were then entered into the calculation model. The basis for the process was the agreement between the stakeholders on the proposed programme and the area’s character: an environment with low-rise buildings and attributes typical to the Zaan region. The outcome of the workshops and the calculation model have been translated into the development models ‘Zaanse stroke’ and ‘Zaans grid’, in which a flexible spatial framework makes the development of the area possible through temporary and more permanent programmes. Because Urban Dating acted as an independent mediating party in the process, all parties could make a contribution based on their own interests.

The Urban Dating method offers opportunities to examine regional developments in a different way, whereby new techniques and methods can be deployed to give a better picture of the complex aspects of the planning process (financing, diverse interests) to the various stakeholders. With this, an this efficient planning process is organised within which creative and decisive solutions are generated. The strength of Urban Dating lies in saving time and energy by connecting parties early on, determining priorities, and making clear (design) choices. Thus, an organic area development is made possible, without losing sight of long-term prospects.

Urban Dating is a response, therefore, to a long period of top-down planning, but also an alternative to the current trend towards organic and flexible urbanism. The method uses elements of organic area development (current users, temporality, cash flow analysis, etc.), but also recognises that a joint perspective of all the involved parties is of interest, in order to be able to adjust the process, and for the step-by-step development of the project. Besides that, the new financing parties of area transformations, such as energy and health care, are accustomed to coupling long-term operations with short-term investments. Urban Dating provides the ability to balance between short and long term, temporary and permanent programmes, bottom-up and top-down, and current and future use.

Project data
Location Google Maps
Assignment ​Research
Design ​2011 – 2013
Status ​design study
Client ​Stimuleringsfonds voor Creatieve Industrie
Team ​Bart Brands, Sylvia Karres, Marco Broekman, Onno van Rieven, Bart van Leeuwen, Jasper Nijveldt
In collaboration with ​Stadkwadraat and De Beuk
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