Urbanist Who Does Not Know The Word "impossible"

Urbanist Who Does Not Know The Word "impossible"
Urbanist Who Does Not Know The Word "impossible"
Video: Urbanist Who Does Not Know The Word "impossible"
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The future urbanist was born in 1955 in a small Dutch village. The family lived in a tiny cottage, pets were walking around the yard: horses, cows, geese. However, Verhagen Sr. saw the future of his children completely different, dreamed that they would move to a metropolis, get an education, and then earn big money. And Evert Verhagen fully met his father's expectations.

From 1973 to 1975, Verhagen studied at Gemeentelijk Lyceum, one of the colleges in Eindhoven, the largest city in the Dutch province of northern Brabant, then studied physics at the local technical university for a year. From 1976 to 1984 he was engaged in scientific work already in the metropolitan Amsterdam universities, specializing in geography, and then defended his thesis there. Evert Verhagen recalls that for the first 15 years in Amsterdam he lived in a high-rise panel residential area in the Bijlmermeer district and every day, returning home, he thought: "What kind of person came up with THIS?" This in every sense challenging visual and social experience had a very strong impact on the future urbanist - in 1978 he began work as an assistant renovation manager for Bijlmermeer, and in 1986 he published his first book on the reconstruction of the area. Today, the area's modernist hexagonal grid is nearly destroyed, some of the high-rise buildings have undergone renovations, and new low-rise buildings create a much more comfortable living environment. Also, new public spaces, shopping centers are being created in the district, and the territory is being landscaped.

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In 1990, Westergasfabriek took over the project to renovate the old Amsterdam gas factory (Westergasfabriek), which had been in progress for 20 long years. It was a very problematic area with a very sad history: a factory for producing gas by burning coal was built in 1890, and within the walls of pretty red brick buildings until 1967 (not long before that the Dutch discovered a deposit of natural gas we are used to), there was a very, very poisonous production: the life expectancy of the factory employees was extremely short. Initially, the factory was located in the production belt surrounding Amsterdam, but over time, the growing city has stepped far beyond this ring, and the complex became part of its center.

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The main difficulty in renovating the gas factory was that all the land around the production buildings was poisoned with chemicals, and cleaning the soil required an incredible investment. Evert Verhagen was the first to figure out how these costs could be reduced: he developed a project for burying the toxic soil under a plastic shield, on top of which a meter of soil was poured and plants were planted. His program allowed not only to set up a park here, as the authorities wanted, but also proposed ideas for using the factory buildings themselves, the walls and floors of which, fortunately, did not accumulate harmful emissions. Verhagen guessed that this place was ideal for holding all kinds of art festivals - and time has shown that he was more than right: the art galleries, music salons, restaurants and shops that have opened here are visited by 6 million people annually.

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The project to transform the Westergasfabriek factory into a public space Westerpark has won several awards: in 2004 it received the Golden Pyramid, in 2007 - the British Landscape Institute Award, as well as the Urban Landscape Award (IULA), in 2010 - the International Organization Award for the preservation of the heritage of Europa Nostra.Several publications by Westergasfabriek are dedicated to the reconstruction of Westergasfabriek - Cultural Landscapes: Westergasfabriek Cultural Park, New Public Spaces and A park for the 21st century (together with Suzanne Piët).

Общественное пространство в окружении бывших производственных корпусов
Общественное пространство в окружении бывших производственных корпусов
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After Verhagen brilliantly brought to life this incredibly complex project, he was thrown into a new challenge - the reconstruction of an old slaughterhouse in Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco. Once again, the urbanist called on culture for help - he invented and held the first art festival in Casablanca. And since there is not a single art museum in Casablanca and not a single artist lives there, the creators were invited there from London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, etc. The festival was an incredible success: exhibition grounds turned into places for spontaneous performances, incredible music and dance shows. All this allowed Verhagen to understand that the format of a cultural center most needed by the city is not a theater, not a gallery or something like that, but a kind of arena, potentially attractive to any city dweller.

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Verhagen gave these and other examples of implemented projects in his lecture in order to illustrate the most important, in his opinion, idea: in cities, meeting places should be created, focused on representatives of all segments of society. Verhagen views this kind of space as a platform for the formation of new economic relationships, the intersection of previously unfamiliar business partners, catalysts that provide the urban population with new earning opportunities. True, when Verhagen speaks about economic aspects, he means not at all the economy that we are used to imagining. He believes that a new "creative economy" is emerging in the world, and this is precisely the core of his urban concept. Only a city that attracts young creative people, giving them the opportunity to show this potential in the most unexpected spheres, can become successful.

3 главных фактора города, у которого есть будущее, по Верхагену
3 главных фактора города, у которого есть будущее, по Верхагену
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What qualities must cities have to become such magnets? In an ideal city, according to Verhagen, 3 factors should be combined: the existence of traditions, the presence of a production sector and an active creative life. It is their balance, according to the urbanist, that can provide an influx of young people who will benefit the urban economy, showing their potential in a variety of areas. It is also important that Verhagen proposes to focus on the development of an urban environment that is interesting to any city dweller. Undoubtedly, such powerful projects as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao or the Tate Modern in London provide impressive capital inflows, but they are little involved in the life of the local population and therefore do not give the city any new opportunities. So, for example, when designing the Safari harbor in Amsterdam, where cruise liners stop for only a day, and their passengers spend up to 1 million euros, Verhagen assigned the lowest level of significance to the part of tourists who come to the city to make expensive purchases, shifting the focus to those who come just to hang out, visit bars, nightclubs, cultural institutions, mixing for a while with the local population and thus creating new economic ties.

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During the strategic session, various experts assessed the potential of Moscow as a financial center, determining its position in various ratings. Each rating has its own set of evaluation parameters, and most of the speakers, in order to strengthen the position of the city, advised to improve certain parameters, according to which Moscow was losing. It looks like Verhagen doesn't quite approve of this approach. He believes that his concept of creating infrastructure for ordinary people will work best in Moscow. “You just need to go out, look and try to see what the urban environment lacks for life to boil here.We need to act, propose different solutions, develop those that are successful, and not be afraid to try new things in the event that one of them does not work,”says Evert Verhagen. Many Moscow experts say to the Dutchman: "You are from Amsterdam, but we have completely different problems, much more complicated, and nothing can be done." But Verhagen is convinced that anything is possible.

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