On the 3rd Tuesday of September 2013 the new King of the Netherlands announced the financial policy for the upcoming years, which means severe governmental cuts. One of the measurements the government takes to bring back the public debt is by selling their real estate that isn’t in use by the government or that they don’t necessarily need to have in use; this with consequence that many monumental buildings will be vacant in the near future. The government won’t be financially able to maintain them any longer and will actively try to sell her properties to other parties. The question though is to whom the government could sell those objects? Preferably, the Rijksoverheid sells the buildings to their lower governments but the majority of the municipalities are financially not able to purchase real estate they don’t need and/or want, in fact, they are trying to sell their properties themselves too. Housing cooperation’s aren’t very likely to be the buying party either; the government restricted their tasks to their ‘core-business’; just social housing which means no area development or (combined) commercial projects. However, cultural heritage is often situated in strategic positions in the city centre and the larger objects are often accompanied with a large section of land, which makes them interesting to see as potential activators of regional development.
One group of buildings in which the government will execute her rigid policy are the penitentiaries. This is the group of buildings I focussed on in my project. State secretary of the Ministry of Security and Justice announced in May 2013 a large list of institutions that will have to close; among them are about 10 prisons with monumental value. How can a prison, formerly clearly separated from city and society get a new social and spatial position in the area while keeping it’s historical and cultural value?
Before executing this idea it is important to investigate who the potential buyer could be. If municipalities and cooperation’s are not likely to buy the monuments, the answer might lay in the often-discussed concept of the ‘participatory society’. The king did call for a more active civic society; people should use, and rely more on their own strengths, financially as socially. I see possibilities for people to combine strengths and partly organize their own (health) care in a living environment with architecture designed to support the practical sides of a ‘participatory society’. Besides economic circumstances are pushing to explore for a new approach towards the ‘welfare state’, health care has become a bureaucratic machine that is organized ‘top-down’ by big institutions. Care has become massive and there is little room for personal preferences.
Now there is a desirable tendency to take the reins to care and/or organize their lifes by people themselves; a movement supported by the government, the question raises how this participatory society can be spatially supported with architectural tools.
How could a financial model look like for the purchase of a governmental building with monumental value by a group of people in private collective ownership?
How can a prison, formerly clearly separated from city and society, get a new social and spatial position in the area while keeping it’s historical and cultural value?
How could the architectural and technical transformation of the prison support the future habitants in their needs and desires to share the care for their families following the ideology of a ‘participatory society’?
My intentions for this project are to achieve a new financial model that makes it convincing that buying monumental real estate is feasible in private collective ownership. This gives the new owners the freedom to organize their way of living and sharing care and facilities. My goal is to facilitate this form of living by transforming the monumental prison and surroundings into a place where living in a communal form and sharing facilities is supported. I want the ‘new prison’ and it’s new form of use be part of the city and society, opposite to the harsh excluded position the traditional prison used to have.
To achieve this I will turn the prison that will become vacant in 2016 ‘inside out’. This means I transform the circular void, more than a century ago designed to enable an architecture of ‘control’ and strictness into a public square, accessible to all habitants of Haarlem. This means a more rigid transformation than the Dutch ‘Law on Monuments’ might would allow. I want to underline that in some cases a more free transformation of monuments will be beneficial for the future functioning and new position it wants to claim in the environment. For the transformation of the prison I refer to the ideas of Aldo Rossi and Antonio Monestiroli about monumentality; a monumental building the function should be inferior to it’s position it claims in the urban fabric. Our ‘collective memory’ of the cities past is through monuments; that is, monuments give structure to the city.
On the terrain around the prison collective housing is developed that will support functioning in the ideology of the participatory society. Inspired by the many ‘hofjes’ (alms-houses) in the old city centre of Haarlem, that can be identified by their communal courtyard, facilities and social relations, dwellings will be developed for collectives of people that share a common needs/desires and who have similar view on life. In the shell of the prison building public functions will be placed as well as collective facilities and spaces for the habitants as extension of their living room, work spaces etc. A percentage of the building will be for rent for other interested which will result in a mixture of people and a vivid environment.
As next steps I will execute into depth studies on architecture and financial/ social organization to be able to present this project as feasible case study on how new ways of use and financing a monumental object by collective private initiatives can be executed.