There is heritage and there is real estate. Two worlds that are miles apart as regards mentality and mission, but that coincide forced by circumstances of a diverse nature: the financial and economic crisis, the slump in the building trade, the rampant lack of occupancy, the manifest economic pinch and the political decentralisation. The Netherlands have been brutally awakened from the Reconstruction slumber. Suddenly, the pitch has changed: we must make do with the existing buildings, large scale new developments being no longer an option. There are simply too many empty buildings and the population growth is faltering. Massive lack of occupation is socially undesirable. Empty buildings suck their immediate surroundings into a spiral of disrepair and decrepitude. Lack of occupancy also means unnecessary waste of capital, because we can make good use of the buildings. On the one hand, there are enough spatial demands to be fulfilled, while on the other hand we wish to save the landscape and care for the open space left to us.
These developments place adaptive re-use in the heart of the political, spatial and economic turbulence. The shift from new development to redevelopment has enormous consequences. It raises many practical questions – with regard to construction and design, regulations and financing – but in the long run also questions the way in which we organise society, both literally and metaphorically speaking. Adaptive re-use is, in fact, a cultural assignment.
From exceptional to quite normal
This is exactly the field of influence in which the H-team operates. The team was an initiative by the National Adaptive Re-use Programme. The group of real estate and heritage professionals provides solicited and unsolicited independent advice on government measures that promote or oppose adaptive re-use. Wim Eggenkamp, the National Advisor for Cultural Heritage, established the team on 24 June 2010.
Adaptive re-use is always a matter of monuments and characteristic buildings that have lost their original function (the churches, farms, industrial heritage). The heritage sector is an old hand at this game, whereas for the real estate sector it is still taking some getting used to. With the surplus of offices, shops, companies and houses, adaptive re-use should shift from something exceptional to something quite normal. The H-team intends to bridge the traditional distance between the worlds of heritage and real estate. That message is inherent In the composition of the team. A deliberate search has taken place for members from across the spectrum with a reputation and an extensive network in their field of activity.
In addition to Marinke Steenhuis, the H-team consists of chairman Duco Stadig (former Amsterdam alderman for town and country planning), project developers with ample experience in the field of adaptive re-use, Arno Boon (heritage developer Boei – a non-profit organisation dedicated to reallocating industrial heritage), Rudy Stroink (initiator TCN – transformation and improvement of existing buildings and urban areas) and Jean Baptiste Benraad (Transformation Team and Stichting Tijdelijk Wonen - Foundation Temporary Accommodation), the architect Wessel de Jonge, and housing corporation director Helen van Duin (Amsterdam housing corporation De Key).
If you need to describe the modus operandi of the team, it is an action group rather than a think tank. All open and above board, of course. The activities undertaken are explicitly intended to bring about change. Although subjects such as legislation and fiscal regulations are certainly being studied, the main issue is the practical input. Not the parallel reality of policy options, but concrete proposals for changing the rules, for incentives and for removing barriers.
That spirit of practicality also resounds in respect of the more abstract objectives of the team. The activities of the H-team are to be captured in five themes: regulations, finances, sustainability, end users (programme), external appearance.