The Netherlands faces equivalent housing problems to our own; its need for 1 million new homes over the next decade or so equating to our own official target of more than 4 million. The Municipality of Harlemmermeer has embarked on an expansion programme, part of which involves almost doubling the size of the village of Vijfhuizen, through a limited international competition for 700 new dwellings. Joint first prize went to S333 (formerly Studio 333, including Dominic Papa and Jonathan Woodroffe), for the designs shown here. One is a sketch concept for 62 homes on 17,000m2, the other for 15 apartments for the elderly on a 750m2 site.
The practice starts with a question: in the minority of cases where development takes place in a rural area, how do you prevent the building of mono- cultural communities that isolate themselves from their surroundings? And how could the problem be approached through 'exploring strategies of convergence'? These ideas are concerned with the reinvention of the suburb, avoiding America's 'great leap backwards' - the so-called New Urbanism - where, S333 notes, traditional icons are used in an obsessive way, creating an image that never really existed, reinforced by dubious home-ownership control bodies of quasi-government status. And zoning is still evident.
By contrast, in the Netherlands, 'a cultural history of transformation has facilitated a more investigative approach', where ways of living are readily re-evaluated, and where the idea of planning is three-dimensional, taking in architecture, urbanism and landscape. In this instance, an example is the approach to big plots - redistribute collective space as lanes, more houses, land for expansion, leasing or services, thereby creating a 'regular irregularity' forming an extension of the existing community within a new form.