Compounding social problems have been decades in the making in the Wildeman neighborhood in Amsterdam New-West. With Station Wildeman, an attempt is being made to turn the tide through the realization of a new community center.
|Already for several decades, the national government has labelled the Wildeman neighborhood to underline the severity of social problems. Budgets were briefly aligned for a large scale renovation effort but the Great Recession of 2008 stopped these in their tracks. The disappointment among the Wildeman’s residents was especially harsh; all these years the neighborhood has been struggling with mounting health problems, poor housing, unemployment, poverty and crime.
To turn the tide, Stichting Samenwonen-Samenleven – previously of the Ru Paré Community – took the initiative to realize Station Wildeman. The project is more than just a community center; located in the heart of the neighborhood it is to become the impetus for the socioeconomic and spatial transformation of the Wildeman neighborhood.
Station Wildeman will be a public building where young and old can meet, either for an informal chat or to take part in one of the countless programs aimed at increasing the residents’ resiliency. Homework classes are offered to children in an effort to combat dropout rates and the tempting decent into crime. Grown-ups are offered life-coaching, language classes and are accompanied to promising labor markets such as those in information technology and sustainability. Where social programs have a tendency to be fragmented, it is the ambition of Station Wildeman to offer a single platform for a concerted and integral effort.
|The second objective of Station Wildeman is to stimulate the spatial development of the neighborhood. New life is breathed into the former school building by repurposing its very suitable classrooms for the many neighborhood organizations. With a few minor interventions, the ground floor is transformed into a welcoming public foyer. Incentives are offered to upgrade the surrounding public space by opening up the previously introverted structure. As such the previously hidden entrance is relocated to a prominent position in the axis of the building. A cost-efficient addition in between the existing stairwells furthermore strengthens the project’s cashflow and adds more visible public program.
The existing school is a quite good looking and clearly designed building from the 1960s. In the quest for a suitable new contemporary layer, it was important that the new additions would make a subtle contrast to the existing while fitting in neatly in the tradition of post-war architecture. The very flat detailing allows the new additions to play along with the original volumetric composition of the building. In the warmer months, the rigid structure is animated with sliding windows and awnings. In both the new-build and the restoration, an attempt has been made to revive the optimism of the 1960s.