In this article two high-rise neighbourhoods build in a Corbusier-like fashion, in the outskirts of major cities, are put under the evaluation spot lights:

  • Bijlmermeer located in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, with an abundance of landscaping, shrubs, green fields and one high density neighbourhood
  • Bellvitge located in Barcelona, Cataluña Spain, looking less like a park but more like a city with open air parking on ground level, many small shops, bars and restaurants

Crime and fear of crime

All over the world millions of people live in buildings and neighbourhoods following the principles of CIAM and Le Corbusier: high-rise ‘residential machines’ in a park reminiscent of a green sea. In Europe and the USA several of these neighbourhoods featuring this architectural design dream became a social nightmare. Nobody wanted to live there anymore and crime and fear of crime flourished which resulted in a stigma that is often long lasting and difficult to repair. 

Money well-spent?

Both neighbourhoods faced enormous problems in crime, incivilities, disorder and drug abuse. Fear of crime and feelings of insecurity were high. Both governments reacted by investing huge sums of money. In Bellvitge the investment was mainly in public transport, the public domain and new approaches in policing while keeping the high-rise buildings intact. In Bijlmermeer a large regeneration project supported the demolition of two-thirds of all apartments and the neighbourhood was rebuilt in low– to mid-rise fashion.

Urban design

This article follows the history of both neighbourhoods and describes the solutions that were implemented. The ‘Western’ high-rise wave faded away but nowadays has become a high-rise tsunami in Asia. Important lessons can be learned regarding current high-rise neighbourhoods in Asia and about the learning capacity of urban design and planning for urban management.

Would you like to know more?

Please feel free to contact Paul van Soomeren.