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Review - Book - WiMBY! Hoogvliet: Future Past and Present of a New Town

By Joshua Bolchover

WiMBY! Hoogvliet: Future Past and Present of a New Town, or The Big WiMBY Book.
Edited by Michelle Provoost (Crimson Architectural Historians).
NAI Publishers, 2007,
42 euros (£29)

This book chronicles the WiMBY project, which aimed to transform one of Rotterdam’s less desirable districts, Hoogvliet, into a viable new suburb. It’s been compiled by Rotterdam-based collective Crimson Architectural Historians and journalist/politician Felix Rottenberg, who were commissioned by Rotterdam City Council in 2001 to make Hoogvliet hip.

A counterpoint to NiMBY (Not in My Backyard), WiMBY stands for Welcome into My Backyard. Crimson coined the term as a statement of its intent to take a ground-up, rather than top-down approach – using participatory techniques of urbanism to work with the physical/social infrastructure that was there.

Hoogvliet had an all too familiar history of 1960s optimistic town planning, compromised realisation, industrial collapse and remedial planning blunders. By the 1990s, white middle-class residents had fled, leaving empty properties, migrant ghettos and no-go areas.

In 1999 the Dutch government called for Hoogvliet’s complete reconstruction, planning to demolish one third of all the dwellings and replace them with single-family homes. At the same time, Rotterdam’s city officials thought of creating an International Building Exhibition (IBE), along the lines of Germany’s acclaimed 1990s Emscher Park, hoping to bring some pizzazz to the programme and put Hoogvliet on the architectural map.

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