Antwerp— Study to map the livability of neighbourhoods
The City of Antwerp is striving for a renewal process for the city. Three thematic pillars will be used to review the strategic Spatial Structure Plan for Antwerp (s-RSA): Flowing city, Cooperative city, and Livable city. The Livable city component consists of a study of the prerequisites and levers for mapping ‘livability’ in neighbourhoods. For this project Architecture Workroom is working with the anthropologist and pedagogue Ruth Soenen of Simply Community and social geographer Christian Kesteloot from the geography department at KULeuven.
Typically, cities are places where lots of people live close together, where there are large concentrations of amenities and a lot of capital is involved. The surplus value created is distinctive to the urban context. One of the major challenges in terms of urban development is how we want to cope with this surplus in the future. Today, we see the emergence of extractive forces, in which this surplus is extracted from the city, without being replaced by anything or any mutual commitment. While thanks to this surplus, there is scope to create collectivity in the city that transcends the individual. Therefore a livable neighbourhood is a neighbourhood where the value generated by users (individually or collectively), also flows back into the neighbourhood or city one way or another.
For this study related to mapping livability in neighbourhoods we place the user and an everyday perspective of the space central. In its most minimal sense, the user has access to the space. He or she has access to a home, to urban amenities and to employment. But we need more than this to be able to speak of a livable neighbourhood. What this 'more' actually involves; how, where, when and by whom this 'more' is created and how this 'more' could be steered, is the subject of this study.
By viewing the neighbourhood from the user's perspective, we opt for a radical reversal of the conventional approach. Instead of designing a district or a city tailored for pre-established target groups with the help of a specialist range of elements, we go in search of a socio-spatial approach that comes much closer to the existing, more complex and real context of what is already available. We view this as an opportunity to expose, identify and map the multiple identities and multilayered meanings that are concealed in the urban space, and the way in which they generate value that contributes to the vibrancy of neighbourhoods, so that the authorities can assume a more active role in the future.
This study is part of the s-RSA review. We see this study as an opportunity to develop a creative and practical socio-spatial approach, which is complementary and can be applied alongside existing and planned (mainly quantitative) tools for urban monitoring, and which can provide input for urban development processes.
This study kicked off with a public urban debate on 1 December 2016. During this event, city services, experts, organisations and residents were invited to engage in dialogue about livability. To follow this up we will further research how livability can be mapped and how these insights can subsequently be applied, for city services as well as practitioners, using neighbourhood sessions, cartography, observations and discussions with diverse parties.