Accepted Paper:

Vanishing trust: the story of the Bijlmer housing estate  
Marion den Uyl (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

This paper offers a case study of intervention by policy-makers in the built environment. The researched neighbourhood, the Amsterdam Bijlmer, was built in the 1970s, ran into trouble in the 1980s, was partly demolished in the 1990s and is presently under reconstruction.

Paper long abstract:

This paper deals with the interventions of policy makers in the built environment in order to create a stable and prosperous community. The researched neighbourhood, the Amsterdam Bijlmer, was built in the 1970s, ran into trouble in the 1980s, was partly demolished in the 1990s and is presently under construction. It will be argued that different conceptions of harmonious communities played a role in the different plans for building and rebuilding. The successive interventions are analysed with the use of concepts of social cohesion, Putnam's notions of bridging and bonding social capital and Fukyama's notion of trust - and its disappearance in modern times.

The building and rebuilding plans are focused on the Bijlmer, a neighbourhood with around 50,000 people, which was constructed in the 1970s, inspired by ideas of Le Corbusier's La Ville Radieuse, The City of the Future. Although the neighbourhood was built for the white middle classes - in a time that Amsterdam was still a predominantly white city - these original residents soon started leaving the neighbourhood, while their places were taken by different groups of migrants from non-western societies, especially from former Dutch colony Suriname, the Antilles and West-African countries. These different migration flows have resulted in a population which presently consists of more than eighty per cent migrants from poor non-industrialised countries. These processes of migration mean that the story of the Bijlmer not only tells a story of building and rebuilding, but also one about the problems and possibilities of an increasingly multicultural neighbourhood.

It is argued that the renewal plans, which involve the large-scale demolishment of the original high-rises (of what once was promised to be a modern city with light and spacious apartments within a vast green landscape) can be seen as a reaction on increasing problems of insecurity and criminality, as well as on vanishing trust. New conceptions of the built environment not only reflect changes in time, but they can also show the ways in which planners, architects and policy makers try to control the perceived lack of social cohesion and trust in parts of present society.

Panel W021
Responses to insecurity: securitisation and its discontents