While there's much to like about MVRDV's proposal, it goes too far in some respects, and not far enough in others. The firm's celebration of private enterprise over government directive may be appealing in the consociationalist Netherlands; it's less attractive in countries where many urban design problems are aggravated, if not caused, by a singular devotion to free market ideology. Which points to a more fundamental issue: though Oosterwold is based on principles of collaboration and community, its vision of cooperative living is ultimately limited.
The Oosterwold proposal ultimately supports a consumption model based upon ownership, rather than one based upon access. Cooperative housing, transportation, and resource allocation receive little consideration, outside of the basics: water, food, sanitation. The proposal's tossed-off allusion to "villages of collective groups etc" is revealing.
Addressing the significant economic, development, and sustainability challenges cities face will require more than the disruption of the urban planning process. It'll take a re-envisioning of the neighborhood, as a shared platform for innovation and resilience that take a commons-based approach to economic development, production, and consumption. Oosterwold points the way, but if the DIY approach turns out to be merely business-as-usual with a collaborative coat of paint, its achievements will be limited.
Perhaps the best way to consider the proposal was articulated by Almere City Councellor Adri Duivesteijn, who states that Oosterwold "illustrates that the city is a creation and that the people themselves can make the city. In this way, the Oosterwold development is a strong point in the discourse about making cities." Whether or not MVDRV's concept for a collaboratively-planned community matches the firm's lofty goals, Oosterwold presents a compelling and instructive test case for collaborative urban development. But the more interesting, and necessary, question is: how much further could it go?
This article was originally published at Shareable.net.