The IJ Industrial Buildings Guild, Amsterdam

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de stad als casco


the city as a hull

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The ‘casco’ or hull philosophy initially started as a way to make the industrialization and change-of-use of buildings far easier. If you provide a skeleton and the user can decide on the elements to be built in, a far more flexible system of design, use and maintenance of a building would be born.

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The casco philosophy extended to the scale of the city – and city planning. Here, it stands for an approach in which the cities itself (and it premises) are taken as a skeleton which hosts a large number of exchangeable elements. Users would be able to define their surrounding (being an infill of such a hull, or, in more recent terms, a plug-in). Ultimately, this also calls for paying more respect to the existing premises in a city – to see them as part of a cultural and social commodity, not just as a short-life economic commodity.

In Amsterdam, representatives of housing corporations, investors, experts and members of the Guild strived for the introduction of this idea into the city’s planning policy. Their 2nd extended manifesto was published in 1997 under the title De Stad als Casco. With this they claimed an alternative to the existing urban planning policies. It is important to understand that, in this way, the Guild moved forward from its role as a squatters’ collective to becoming a partner in urban policies.

The Guild explains it like this: “The alternative city-development-theory ‘Stad als Casco’ (‘City as a Hull’) explains a town-planning strategy in which the focus lies on city-development from underneath, the user himself. They form the basis for urban development. The main objective is to gain as much as possible in social terms and social profits in order to ensure a lively and industrious city where people are responsible for the built environment. In this way they are no longer anonymous and will gain a sense of self-esteem. Thus the manifesto ‘Stad als Casco’ promotes the provision of basic structures where people can develop their own activities and manage themselves. The basic elements of this urban economy are production, trade, consumption and culture. A blending of various activities produces favorable conditions for economic cross-fertilization and social cohesion.
First and foremost, everything is based on the value of what already exists: the built environment and the people who use it. But change is also valued: in terms of development, the emphasis is on a constant process of making new connections rather than on a final product. Hence a building, a street or a city is never finished. It’s up to the town-planners and the architects to define structures and to the users to determine their contents.

The co-operative segments of a so-called ‘hull-building’ is financing and developing the carrying-structure, distributing the public utilities and it can also be the collective support-facilities, right of say and management of the surrounding area. As to say, in this theory the emphasis not only lies on the building structure, but also on all sorts of collective agreements.
As a matter of speech the housing corporation is re-invented but thus on a scale of one building. This is in fact how some of the Guild buildings in Amsterdam manage to function. The credo is: “to earn money in the building and not to speculate with it” . The building is an instrument and not a good of luxury.”

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(source: the IJ Industrial Buildings Guild)

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