Reweaving BrabantStad

IABR–PROJECT ATELIER BRABANTSTAD was set up in 2013 by the IABR in alliance with the Province of North Brabant, BrabantStad (the municipalities of ’s-Hertogenbosch, Eindhoven, Tilburg, Breda, and Helmond) and the water boards of North Brabant, to look for the opportunities that lie hidden in Brabant’s urban tapestry.
What would joining forces bring the cities of Brabant that they could not achieve on their own? What were the opportunities and which the obstacles? What would make Brabant cohesive, what would productively integrate different ambitions and actors? And how was such a bond best governed on the basis of interplay between the different parties?

Water as a Hidden Strength
Preparing the design of an alternative spatial vision and new development models in response to the stalled spatial and economic development of North Brabant, the Project Atelier conducted research by design in close collaboration with local stakeholders and informed by international experts.
BrabantStad is in fact a dispersed city, or better yet: an urban landscape. It is a mosaic, as extensive as it is varied, a carpet metropolis involving many forms of land use in high and low densities. The crisis hit the municipalities of North Brabant hard and many planned developments had to be discontinued. The question was how to address major socioeconomic and environmental challenges on a regional scale.
The water system proved the catalyst that got the spatial and economic development of the region going again. Economic vehicles concerning residential quality, agriculture, leisure and innovative enterprise were cleverly coupled with the water challenge, which resulted in an accumulative development strategy.
The Project Atelier BrabantStad has emphatically addressed governance issues as well as the spatial qualities of the region. It turned out to be the sum of local coalitions and projects that was able to reactivate the urban landscape of North Brabant, with the government facilitating social dynamics – provided that such developments also contribute to answering some of the major challenges.

BrabantStad Carpet Metropolis
The results of the Atelier were presented at the main exhibition of IABR–2014–URBAN BY NATURE– in Rotterdam. The dynamic playing field of the urban carpet of BrabantStad was made legible and tangible by literally creating a tapestry, designed especially for the main exhibition in collaboration with the Tilburg TextielLab.
The Atelier's outcomes were widely discussed by a large and diverse group of policymakers, entrepreneurs, and residents during the ‘BrabantDag’, organized by the Province of North Brabant on the platform of URBAN BY NATURE.

Travelling Carpet
After IABR–2014–URBAN BY NATURE–, Provincial Executive for Spatial Planning and Housing of the Province of Noord-Brabant Yves de Boer initiated and headed a Tour of the results of Project Atelier BrabantStad – tapestry first and complemented by an intensive debate program – through North Brabant from September 2014 to February 2015. The exhibition ‘MozaiekBrabant’ called on Eindhoven, Tilburg, Helmond, ’s-Hertogenbosch and Breda and became the platform for a province-wide public debate about the future of North Brabant: about how to use the Project Atelier’s results as a firm basis for the new Regional Plan for the Province of North Brabant that has to be completed by 2018.

At a number of locations, work on the translation of regional development principles into local project proposals continues to concretize. A pilot project proposal is being prepared for the Dommel valley and pilots have been launched in East Tilburg and ’s-Hertogenbosch. In the coming years, the water boards of Brabant will also further develop the Project Atelier’s proposals.

The results of Project Atelier BrabantStad were published in a book entitled Reweaving the Urban Carpet, which is available through the IABR.

In the film Het Mozaïek van Brabant (The Mosaic Metropolis of Brabant), administrators Yves de Boer (member of the Provincial Executive North-Brabant) and Frans Stienen (alderman in Helmond), and designers Joachim Declerck and Floris Alkemade talk about the Project Atelier. The film can be accessed through this website.

Project Atelier BrabantStad is a collaboration between the IABR, the province North Brabant, the municipalities of Den Bosch, Eindhoven, Tilburg, Breda and Helmond and the water boards of North Brabant. The design research is carried out by Architecture Workroom Brussels, Floris Alkemade Architect and LOLA Landscape Architects.