Assignment: Zoetermeer Africa Road zone
Client: City of Zoetermeer
Design: Monolab, team: J.W. van Kuilenburg, L. Veeger, W. Hoogerwerf with N. Vauth
Year: 2001


…freedom-driven urbanism


Dutch urbanism has been in a state of crisis for quite some time. In our time it is a coincidental mix of separate processes. National and local government, the market and the lobbying of pressure groups force their way in support of their own party. It seems to work out well, but we all know the result is not one, but a number of -more or less- parallel processes which are fuelled by self-interest. A lack of coherent strategies results in a random process that can be experienced everywhere. Is this urbanism?
In our present time this Pavlov-urbanism operates through buildings. It is easy and quick. But the apparent advantages are at the same time the Achilles heel of this practice: buildings are realized by short term planning, they have a small scale and they are built with architecture. Buildings seem to be flexible and changeable, but in the end they are not.
Dutch structuralism, trying to build cities with architecture, unfortunately already has demonstrated that architecture alone is not capable of realizing social cohesion and a healthy public realm.
Through strong urbanism we can develop visionary planning with wider horizons. Buildings are planned within five years, this is quite a difference in tenability and responsibility. In strong urbanism we first work with urban tissues while buildings and architecture come in view only many steps later.


…significant in our present day urban practice is thinking, reasoning and acting by laws, rules, regulations and constraints. The resulting friction causes lots of damage to concepts.
We plead for a strong urbanism through various degrees of freedom. Urbanism is loaded with much more potential than we are using these days. We propose to work with six rude kinds of freedom, like for example ‘freedom for unlimited high-rise’, ‘freedom for unlimited density’ or ‘freedom for building over infrastructure’. We apply these types of freedom in limited areas, in enclaves. By these types of freedom rich varieties of urbanism will flourish, varieties that do not grow elsewhere. Each enclave is different from the other, a rich collection…


…young, expansive suburban area in the green heart of the Randstad…suburban area almost without a past… …unburdened by nostalgia…


The city of Zoetermeer recently launched its Master plan 2025. After the launch we were asked to work on the zone Afrikaweg, one of the rungs of its ladder-concept. This zone is planned to accept urban program and to stretch the present city center towards the A12-highway. Zoetermeer is one of the fastest growing urban areas in Holland. The current concepts for Southward expansion could not occur without stretching the size and position of the present city center. Our work was to generate urban life along the 1400 m-Afrika road. We considered this strip too large to use standard urban strategies. We proposed to work with several types of freedom to allow the development of a number of enclaves. This freedom-driven urbanism could generate new types of urbanism, urbanism which is rare in the Randstad, urbanism that normally evaporates by friction in our consensus-society.


To generate urbanism in the low density of Zoetermeer we introduced three steps:
a. …anticipate beyond the expire date of buildings and make use of urban tissues,
b. …think with various types of freedom, operate by freedom and operate by opportunities instead of constraints,
c. …utilize urbanism instead of architecture to generate coherent enclaves with a strong identity.


To illustrate this new freedom-driven urbanism we proposed the PTE, the Private Transport Enclave.
As Paris is perfectly served by one (metro-RER)system, in the Randstad eight transport companies are active within their own territory. They do not cooperate well, connections can be considered primitive. To beat everything, Zoetermeer is even served by its own railway track from the city of The Hague, which circles through Zoetermeer’s almost empty suburban residential areas.

We propose for Zoetermeer to give its inhabitants the freedom to operate, whenever suitable, as a taxi. Every inhabitant with a car is allowed to join and compete. Their signal is a removable fluorescent green strip placed on the car top. The enclave has no fixed stops, raise your hand and you get a lift. We propose tax-free conditions in this enclave with free fares to allow many participants and free market competition.
To avoid any doubt, we calculated the equivalent of a people mover along the Afrikaweg and a serie of brand-new cars. One people mover with a tiny trajectory of 2 km length with 3 stops and 2 terminals and a capacity of 600-1200 p/h/d is the financial equivalent of 1680 brand new cars of 25.000 euro each, spread in a dense cloud over Zoetermeer.