18 January 2017 – Ever more people like city living. There is ample space available, yet many people do not find a proper place. Especially older people, starters on the housing market, entrepreneurs and urban families find this difficult. The event City Heart Dwelling, an initiative of Groningen City Council, wants to change this.

City Heart Dwelling considers the possibilities to realise more space to live. This is particularly about solutions which fit into the city and which are designed and developed with care. City Heart Dwelling is more than design research. Apart from the design of the sites it is also a call on architects, developers, real estate owners and of course residents to present plans and ideas themselves. The objective of the event is to actually implement the plans.

Currently 21 sites are part of the City Heart Dwelling event. Much study work is undertaken at this moment by architect from Groningen and other cities. Much progress has already been made. On 17 January a first selection of that work was revealed. The architects presented their plans to one another and to all those curious to the results. Alderman Roeland van der Schaaf was present until late.

Amongst those there were some particular beautiful projects. Donna van Milligen Bilke showed impressive images of her conversion of a historic bank. She is using the typology of the building for a differentiated housing program. New materials were added to existing ones, resulting in a coherent palette which is both old and new. Jan Nauta presented a design for a new urban block in which old and new dwellings establish a laid-back symbiosis. Shakeeb Zahir explained his conversion of a school in which the routing and typology are put on their head drastically. The historic spaces and facades provided convincing dwellings.

There were times in which architects started off by having an old building painted brightly white, followed by an ad hoc subdivision with plasterboard panels to finish the exercise with a brightly shining glass railing. Looking at these proposals this modus operandi has become history. These architects are not afraid of old buildings anymore and feel free to use these and to profit from them. Ideas are not formulated a priori anymore. Solutions are not regarded to be universally valid, but are taken as tailor fit responses. That is encouraging.

I showed my first ideas for the conversion of the so called Glaudé Mansions at Hereweg.