Vacant militairy airbases
´Jo Colley, 31-12-2011, I went to school in RAF Laarbruch (Royal Air Force Base) between 1960 and 1962. lived in Slessor Crescent, right opposite the playground. The cinema was one of the most important buildings for me´. Nowadays the cinema is an abandoned, destroyed and an old building on airport Weeze. With a total of more than 2000 soldiers, approximately 1570 families, more than 2000 children, 2 schools, 2 store chains, post offices, 2 banks and its own community was RAF Laarbruch more than 40 years similar to a village. Nowadays this area, of about 1460 hectares and more than 90 vacant buildings, has changed into one big abandoned historical military airbase. To me this is an inspiration and starting point for this research to vacant military airbases.
Many military airbases around the world are vacant and the number of vacant military airbases is still increasing, amongst other things because of the cuts andreorganizationsinthe government andRoyalAir Forces. The main question is what can be done with the former military airbases. Traditionally there is a program that needs a building; in this case buildings and areas are looking for a program.
I would like to divide the military airbases in three categories: military airbases still in use, vacant military airbases and already transformed airbases. These already transformed airbases are a starting point for me to do a comparable research. The time when the airbases were transformed plays an important role in this. In the 20th century the architects and urban planners had a different approach of transforming these areas in comparison with the present time. As an example of an earlier approach Gert Urhahn used the instant city which he sees a development of ‘ready-made, ready-to-use space’ who are ’ tailored to serve one specific, immutable purpose’. In here, the urban user was just consuming everyday products. To me, the new way of thinking and philosophy of the spontaneous city in the 21th century, what Gert Urhahn explains in his book, is an inspiring and useful approach of the role of architects and urban planners. This concept serves as a guideline and inspiration to me during my research development.
In his book ‘’spontaneous city’’, Gert Urhahn writes about his philosophical approach of the 21 century role of the architects and urban planners. The concept of the spontaneous city seeks to establish a link between the city and its residents. Important principles in this concept are: more space for residents’ initiatives, mixed programs, and small-scale initiatives. The spontaneous City is a marketplace, where supply and demand sculpts urban form. To me this an important aspect because the balance between supply and demand of available living- and working space in The Netherlands has been lost completely. This new approach of the city is shaped by its occupants, in a never-ending process of transformation, growth and adaptation.
'Urhahn Urban Design’ uses four principles by outlining this concept in practice:
To continue, the ideas spread out in the book ‘Spontaneous City’ helps me further exploring new concepts in the transformation of vacant military airbases. The connection between a place, the user and the flexibility of space is an overall concept for modern architecture in my point of view. I want to explore how I can transform military airbases using the norms of the spontaneous city. It is important to search for flexible and interactive programs for this blank spot, that changes with time, so that it becomes time independent and stays attractive and functional.
Source: Gert Urhahn book ‘Spontaneous City’