Theory and Practice of Urbanism since 1945

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Theory and Practice of Urbanism since 1945

Urban context

Noteworthy development of cities; with the two aspects: population and area; has made the nineteenth century a remarkable period in Europe. The industrial revolution, population expansion as well as the development of economic market were factors that contributed to this growth, which are familiar to history of urban in Europe. In terms of confronting these pressures of demography of urban infrastructure, with an aim to retain political, social, and aesthetic, city officials put efforts into management and regulation of their cities. Many Europe cities has transformed with the developed planning during a nineteenth century, their territories were enlarged, walls and fortifications were eradicated, and more open spaces were provided for urban citizens. Almost half of the century from the end of the Second World War, the town planning theory had a number of vital shifts and two remarkable changes of town planning has been perceived:” From the planner as a creative designer to the planner as a scientific analyst and rational decision-maker”. As a matter of fact, the point of view of the town planning actually dragged out back into the history.

The planning itself occurred within a circumstance of urban development that was going to carry on, with plan or even not. The city officials tried their best to administer their cities expansion and to constitute that evolution as much as they could.

Concerning on the sectors of health, hygiene and flows of traffic, the perspective of the modern planning city is visible. At the end of the nineteenth century, the theory of several urban theorists as Camillo Sitte, Ebenezer Howard, Joseph Stuebben and Raymond Unwin was about Cities - especially capital one - had been following the processes that were modified in a period of the nineteenth century. Since 1970, Ildefons Cedra, first thinking about the idea of a functional, hygienic city, he combined and developed two theories, including: “Theory for the Construction of the city” and “General Theory of Urbanization”. Hence, his proposal led to the uniformity of all the form of settlement.

In case of Antwerp, at the star of the nineteenth century, Nieuwstad became a military base during the first period of the nineteenth century. The emperor requested the construction of Bonapartedok and Willemdok. Port activities rising helped Nieuwstad having the current appearance of dock area of het Eilandje. There was a marked decrease in using inlets and canals for internal navigation. Their main function is for sewage of households and polluting trades, therefore the canals turned into an origin of diseases, and steadily befogged.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the quays, edges of the River Scheldt was straightened. As a result, the whole area was destroyed, the new quays became the place for developing heavy port activities but the relationship between the quays and the city was cut by the wall along the quays.In the past, Antwerp faced with the growth of population and the hygienic problem of housing. Today, Antwerp has to confront with the fact that the population will be decreased. Furthermore, Antwerp, nowadays, is not as attractive as it was in the past and the fact that it becomes an abandoned city. Bernardo Secchi’s theory about Public Sphere mentioned that an attractive public spaces can help to attract people and solve the problem of the migration. More on that, he always pays an attention on study the history of the city.

”The whole history of the city can be written keeping in mind the compatibility or incompatibility of the people […] Intolerance denies proximity, it separates and creates distance between activities, buildings, public spaces, their inhabitants and users” Bernardo Secchi.

Besides, the supply of the theoretical building capacity and the mix-used tendency of development draw up the vision for the regeneration of Antwerp.


Nieuw Zuid is the name of the project which located between Scheldts Quays, Namenstraat, Jan van Gentstraat, Brussels Street and the Ring. The project is the part that extended from the Scheldt to Antwerp South Station and the existing Singel to the railroad Antwerp Central-Boom Puurs. To be more details, the project scale is 70 hectare included 30 hectare of new residential development with approximately 2000 housing units and amenities in front of the quay. From starting of the trading activities on the port in the 60s, the area was totally forgotten. Until 2006, the opening of the Palace of Justice and the renovation of the former freight station of Bank of Breda somehow have positive effect on this abandoned area.

Since spring 2010, the owner of most of the area of New South and the developer of the area as well open the competition between designers to find the solutions and make the vision for the site and the winner is a team on the Italian agency planning Studio Associato Secchi-Viganò. Furthermore, Nieuw Zuid has an appropriate position in the city of Antwerp. It creates the hinge between the 19th century city and the present storage and the south exit complex of the Antwerp ring. To be more detail, the area of the site is divided into four parts included: quays, project Niew Zuid, Resruimtes and Konijnenwei.

Nieuw Zuid are designed to be a mix-used district

- Covering more or less 2000 houses

- 20000 to 40000 square meter are spent for local conveniences.

-40000 to 70000 square meter will be local facilities and offices.

- Commercial functions occupy approximately 20000 square meter ( shops, restaurants,…)

Green areas is one of the most vital criteria that the Antwerp city and Developer want to pay more attention in this area. Because the proportion of green space inside the city is insufficient. Thus, 15 acres of park of Konijnenwei and about 5 acres of green area and a linear park on the quays are somehow can be compensation for the shortage of Antwerp city.

In this paper, the elements, reasons and factors of this project will be analyzed, examined and compared thorough the relevant theories of post war period.

Strategy ( Structure Plan of the City)

Antwerp Zuid, nowadays, is a very dynamic area in the city with many “horeca” and cultural functions. In the Structure Plan of the city, the ultimate target is to make an attempt to preserve, emphasize and improve these functions with the available funds of land in the local area. The development of Nieuw Zuid project is the promotion of the process to exploit and make full use of the value of the site. Through the past, the military infrastructure of the Citadel is still exist and, of course, it plays an important role in the functions of the area. Furthermore, this site is considered as a boundary, an edge to divide and separate the 19th city and the outer life in southern villages. In fact, Antwerp is the second biggest city in Belgium, therefore the land that still keeps its own natural characteristic like Nieuw Zuid is really value. Besides, it position is directly perpendicular with the Schedts river, the only one river run through the city and that give the basis and opportunity to reclaim this site and create new image for Antwerp City. Since 1992, the international competition and exhibition named “ Stad aan de Stroom” somehow showed the ability to change and create the vision for this area is feasibility. At that time, the process was delayed and developed by its owners later. The main concept of the Structural Plan mentioned about how to create strong physical links with the 19th century part of the city and with the binnenstad as well. Furthermore, it also about how to extend the connection between the inner land with the quays and the river as well. To be more specific, the aim of the project is to create a mix-used city, combine all aspects of housing, commerce, services and somehow to become a place to compensate for the city’s deficiencies. Besides, the public space and reorganization the Spaghetti node can be a crucial role in the way to form the structure of this area.


In general, the vision, the first effort to renovate this urban area was taken in the past and the city, developers somehow recognize the potential the value of the site. They already pointed out all the main elements, perspectives and the way to develop Nieuw Zuid for the future. Some master plan were made and some more important things were showed but the most vital things is how to transform all of these things in to reality?

Bernardo Secchi, theory about the public sphere and theoretical building capacity for Structure Plan

Bernardo Secchi (1934) was an architect, theorist and urban planning. For almost 50 years, he was ac center of all the arguments and debates of European and Italian about the urban design. His research was placed on the descant about the space and society and his theory was affected by post 68 French theorist. According to his practice, he designed and gave plans and vision for several cities in Europe, comprising Brussels, Antwerp, Milan, Lecce, Paris, etc. In 1990, he and Paola Vigano established the Studio.

According to his theory, he believes that the capacity of accommodation of forms of appropriation over several time period is one of the important aspect of the public sphere. Vital to his approach was a trust that everyday activities are able to occur only if there was sufficient time, provide for the new habits to discover. Therefore the design of public space must implicate

“…a slower pace, in which everyday habits can again legitimately play a role. Too often there is a refusal of the space of life which is a continuous construction site, continuously traversed by nomadic populations and activities, never reaching a recognizable stable condition. There is a necessity for a narrative which, as Wim Wenders says, “protects its own characters.”

One of the ultimate target of the city Structure Plan is gaining the density, FAR as well in the urban area and emphasizing the urban feature and that is the “solid” urban areas.

“Theoretical building capacity is based on an inventory of all unbuilt lots in 1998. Different categories are distinguished based on their features and official denomination. A first estimate was made based on the densities of the specific built contexts. Some numbers were adapted based on data deriving from new projects ( Nieuw zuid, Eilandji, Prestibel, etc.”

(Source: SECCHI, Bernardo; VIGANO, Paola, Antwerp Territory of a new modernity, Amsterdam SUN, 2009, pp-163)

The level of consummation was based on a correction element, for plots by the side developed roads, examined vacancy and neglect rate, buildings have a consummation rate of 30% over a decade and 41,4% over a period of fifteen years; and even reaches to 50% over ten years if having fine economic encouragement policies. The completion rate may increase to 70% in housing and urban development areas. It is able to build 15.088 housing units over fifteen years with economic encouragement.

The Striga the type of the housing block that used to domain the structure of the master plan. A highlight in this figure aims to show the role and variety of open spaces. Besides, the arrangement of open spaces are create a form to organize the accessibility, that is means when entering the buildings each one have cross the public spaces. On the one hand, public spaces, open spaces play a crucial role based on the theory, open spaces are the center of the block, the connection between two buildings and all of these spaces are open to the street. Therefore the density, FAR as well can have place to be increasing. On the other hand, the density of the site is always kept the balance with the porosity. The height of the buildings is limited and have a good arrangement, the storeys of buildings is limited by the width of streets and the vast spaces between buildings. It is a clear principle of the Striga. Besides, the transportation network scheme in this site is complicated, the new structure helps to simplify the scheme of transportation. With these theory and adapting the demands of the city of Antwerp, the team of Secchi- Vigano won the competition on September 2012.

Strategies that highlight the past as a fundamental constituent as the present.

The urban projects must be done that based on the particular study of the history of urban of the area, typically for existing spermatic projects and plans, whether or not they have been finished. Priorities can be set up thanks to these plans and projects that needed for the growth of the city and steps are pointed out for the midterm. However, the future of the city does not have to history, the aim of the urban historical study is giving the basis information for the design to guarantee the integration with the existing city.

“The ambition is to an urban language that reflects and show continuity and discontinuity with the Antwerp tradition. That shows that an innovative and sustainable neighborhood is also a convincing piece of architecture of the city.”

The Striga, public and private.

A mix-used urban area, flexible mobility

As an against to the functional planning of the city, the reasonable combination all of the functions to create a mix-used city is getting sympathy of residents, by the way, doing this thing can evade the conflict of all functions. Between 19th and 20th century, the traditional mix-used city of this period was become a paradigm for planned multi-functionalism. Because of its benefits, there is a strong tendency of urban development based on the mix-used idea.