Plan Documentation
Published in DASH #03 – The Woonerf Today
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Plan Documentation of the Woonerf

The plan documentation for the woonerf in this third edition of DASH presents a series of projects, historical and recent, national and international, that the editorial team regard as exemplary in any discussion of living on a woonerf.

The core of the selection comprises a series of exceptional Dutch housing estates, dating from the heyday of the woonerf in the 1960s and 1970s. In the wake of strict regulation of post-war reconstruction, it was a period in which a new spirit seemed to infuse the Netherlands, giving birth throughout the country to new ideas regarding ways of living and different ideals for the design of housing estates. In the search to improve the connection between dwelling and residential environment, estates were developed in which a significant role was played by small scale, informality, soft boundaries and communal amenities.

This is apparent in the documentation for the Emmerhout estate in Emmen, the first neighbourhood in Nederland to be associated with the designation woonerf. An explicit objective was the segregation of dwelling area and parked cars, in order to make the space in front of dwellings once more suitable for encounters between residents and relaxed neighbourhood life; another was great attention to the privacy of the individual dwelling. Less well-know, but exceptional in its clear layout and structure is the small De Negen Nessen estate in Bergen (NH), where car and woonerf are combined in a zone with a relatively low density. Park Rozendaal in Leusden and the Krekenbuurt in Zwolle represent the period of a decade later, in which the woonerf concept had been further developed and adapted to provide solutions for higher densities. Here too, residential area and parking were interwoven, by allocating extra dimensions and functions such as children’s play areas to the outside space. On both estates there is a second, communal zone behind the houses, serving as green areas between the various sections of the neighbourhood. In its strict yet far from monotonous repetition, Park Rozendaal displays the qualities of structuralism, which the woonerf parallels and relates to in its development. Krekenbuurt, however, shows how variation in dwelling type and the way in which dwellings are attached can achieve a communal appearance in combination with a unique situation for each individual dwelling.

Developments in the Netherlands did not occur in isolation. In other northern European countries renewed attention was also being paid to communal living forms and the quality of the outside space, or continued as part of more long-standing traditions. In Scandinavia and Finland interesting examples of woonerf-style living appeared long before Dutch initiatives, inspired in their turn by early twentieth-century influences from England and the USA. An early forerunner of the woonerf, where the outside area was laid out quite literally as a wooded garden or yard, is the attractive Puu-Käpyläestate, situated to the north of Helsinki. Influences from English garden cities and a northern neo-classicism were combined here in a small estate for blue-collar workers from the then adjacent port industry. In Malmö, Sweden, a bold building contractor developed the Friluftstadenestate, a blend of modern strip building, the openness of American front gardens and an inventive attachment of dwellings.

At the same time as the Dutch woonerf was appearing, the progressive English developer SPAN was creating various estates conspicuous for their strong interweaving of houses with communal and green surroundings. SPAN’s most appealing plan was for the new village of New Ash Green; the Punch Croft estate, built entirely to plan specifications, is documented here. Two projects in Denmark show that the Scandinavian tradition of radical communal living continues almost without interruption. In Fuglsangsparken the communal character is reinforced by a range of gardens and collective inner areas. The Kvistgårdhusene estate shows that these traditional ideas effectively combine with contemporary architecture. Finally, renewed interest in the quality of shared outside space in the Netherlands is represented by the Veranda Homesproject in Almere, where an architectural reference to old barns gives a new dimension to the woonerf concept.

The documentation comprises the following ten projects:

  • Martti Välikangas, Puu Käpylä, Helsinki 1920-1925
  • Eric Sigfrid Persson, Friluftstaden, Malmö 1942-1948
  • Niek de Boer, Emmerhout, Emmen 1960-1965
  • Hein Klarenbeek, De Negen Nessen, Bergen (NH) 1965-1968
  • Eric Lyons & SPAN, Punch Croft, New Ash Green 1966-1968
  • David Zuiderhoek/Henk Klunder, Park Rozendaal, Leusden 1970-1971
  • Benno Stegeman, Krekenbuurt, Zwolle 1974-1975
  • Tegnestuen Vandkunsten, Fuglsangsparken, Farum 1980-1983
  • Onix Architecten, Verandawoningen, Almere 2002-2006
  • Tegnestuen Vandkunsten, Kvistgårdhusene, Kvistgård 2004-2008

All the plans have been redrawn in a similar drawing style to allow comparative analysis. Attention has principally focused on the relationships between private dwelling, private outside space, communal green space and public outside space. The ground-floor plans for dwellings have been inserted in a section from every estate, and the various kinds of green indicated in gray tints. Elevations of characteristic façades and estate sections provide a picture of the spatial cohesion. The drawing work is based on original drawings from architects’ collections and archives kept by local authorities and other institutions. Wherever possible they represent the original situation, which does not always correspond with the present. The floor plans, sections and elevations of characteristic dwellings are drawn separately, to make clear the variation in dwelling size and type. These are on the same scale for all projects, to facilitate comparison.

Analysis diagrams of buildings, motorized and slow traffic and communal green structure have also been included, to aid the understanding of each estate’s overall layout and structure. Some of the images consist of panoramic collages, whose aim is to represent the spatial quality of the various collective areas. In the case of historical projects old photos provide a picture of the situation shortly after an estate was completed or during the early years of its use.

The following sources and archives were used in the process of creating the drawings and tracking down photos: Helsingin rakennusvalvonta, Helsinki; Museum of Finnish Architecture (MFA), Helsinki; Ulla Hårde, Eric Sigfrid Persson: 1898-1983: skånsk funktionalist, byggmästare och uppfinnare, 2008 (1986) Holmbergs, Malmö; the municipal archives of Emmen; the municipal archives of Bergen (NH); the image collection of the regional archives of Alkmaar; Eric Lyons archive, RIBA Archives, London; the municipal archives of Leusden; the municipal archives of Zwolle; digitale byggesagsarkiv Furesø Kommune; Onix Architecten; Tegnestuen Vandkunsten.


Drawings by: Michiel van Hennik & Imke van Leuken