DESIGNCENTER | DE WINKELHAAK : community
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The 'design' theme was launched in the old station neighbourhood of Antwerp
(Belgium), which suffered intensely from the consequences of prostitution,
drug use, crime and economic regression. A design centre functions as a
generator of activity and creativity. Designers communicate with the
neighbours through the expressive facade and bring about a renewed
commitment and trust.
In September 2002 the city hopes that the opening of designcenter | de
Winkelhaak will create a renewed social mix in the neighbourhood in the long
term. By providing young designers with a platform the local shopkeepers
will also be able to benefit from the new audience that is attracted to the
neighbourhood. The new centre also provides opportunities for new,
specialised shopkeepers; in the long term the objective is to become a theme
neighbourhood for design in Antwerp. Already it is obvious that the quality
of the surroundings around DE WINKELHAAK has improved and that it caused a
barrage of renovations, thereby renovating the neighbourhood in its entirety
and enabling it to shake off its negative image.
The design centre functions as a motor for socio-economical development and
takes advantage of the supra-local character of the station neighbourhood.
At the same time the centre also ensures support at a local level.
The public development company (ontwikkelingsbedrijf) of the City of - Antwerp, architects Coby Manders and Philip Pittillion
Contractor Vooruitzicht, Antwerp
The building :
An economical approach resulted in an effective use of space and materials.
A sustainable structure in concrete guarantees future use for the next
generation in rapidly evolving times.
Business centre for designers :
DE Winkelhaak leases out studios (16), coaches and promotes designers. The
structure of the building incites designers from different disciplines to
get in touch with each other and work together.
Exhibition space :
The exhibition space promotes good design and familiarizes the business
world with design via B2B events.
Design shop :
Sales of Belgian design.
Design management :
DE WINKELHAAK specialises in the communication and promotion of new
processes, products or collections.
DE WINKELHAAK is a public-private collaboration. This new development was
subsidized by Europe, the Flemish Community and Antwerp. We expressly
targeted the business world when looking for shareholders, specifically
businesses with corporate social responsibility. This responsibility is best
expressed in projects that enable businesses to show their strongest asset
and contribute with what they can do best: entrepreneurship and business
expertise. A financial investment was also requested, but sharing
responsibility was just as important.
This kind of project inevitably results in a certain measure of 'social
repression'. Issues such as prostitution, drug use and crime are not solved
but the issues are simply transferred to another location. In this case the
issue 'moved' 300 m until impulse projects were started up there too. The
City of Antwerp's vision regarding prostitution is that it should move on
into a well-defined zone where prostitution is tolerated and concentrated so
that it can be better controlled. This zone has already been defined and
communicated and recently an information and health centre for prostitutes
opened there. In the meantime this phenomenon is 'moving' into the proposed
direction but it will take a lot more time before it will effectively be
contained in this zone.
At the end of the day this popular neighbourhood never requested a design
centre. There was therefore a risk that this prestigious building would only
increase the contrast between rich and poor and that the neighbourhood would
not be interested in its existence. From the very beginning the architects
wanted to anticipate this issue by designing a building that naturally
communicates with its surroundings through increased transparency and
visibility. The exhibition space and facade have been conceived in such a
way that you do not have to enter the building to see what's going on
inside. You can also see what DE WINKELHAAK has to offer free of charge and
without inhibitions. In addition we regularly organise events for and with
It won't be the first time that this kind of urban development tips the
scales and that the neighbourhood will become expensive and elitist in the
short term. In first instance the station neighbourhood does not have the
heritage, nor the boulevards that usually provide the impetus for such a
change. On the other hand DE WINKELHAAK seconds the definition of 'good
design', as defined by the organisers of the "Good Design Award" (Japan):
"good design strives for excellence in the design of products and services.
This excellence does not only imply a pretty exterior but also fundamental
requirements that products and services need to comply with: functionality,
quality and safety. Superior design refers to general high quality,
including a contribution to the quality of everyday life. If we use this
broad assumption as a starting point good design covers all products and
services that make our lives fuller and greater."
In 1999 the City of Antwerp was by no means convinced that it needed a
design center. The city was confronted with a cancerous growth in its urban
landscape and the question was rather: "what can we create here that will
represent an impulse and which will also function in a profitable and
independent manner?'. A survey resulted in 3 important arguments that led to
the concept of DESIGNCENTER | DE WINKELHAAK:
1. Social pillar
More than any other professions, the creative profession is attracted to a
neighbourhood on the eve of its redevelopment. The multicultural,
metropolitan (urban jungle) aspect also functions as a source of dynamics
and inspiration. More than any other profession artists, craftspeople and
designers integrate and interact with their environment and they actively
act (or are easily involved at the demand of their neighbours) to visually
accentuate (develop) their presence (or a certain theme). This results in a
more optimistic and friendly climate of tolerance and optimism, which
benefits the quality of life in the neighbourhood.
2. Economic pillar
The sector of product development and design in Flanders is mainly a sector
of small enterprises. Because of its small scale the sector is badly
organised and in spite of top-class talent it is relatively unknown
internationally. There was an urgent need to coach independent designers in
their entrepreneurship and support them in their self-promotion. That's why
DE WINKELHAAK functions as an incubator in order to support the designers in
their development towards a larger and more stable company. In the long term
the centre wants to create the foundation for a better organised and
internationally renowned creative sector.
The combination of living and working was an important starting point. As
designers aren't really 9 to 5 people, but rather tend to work irregular
hours, this is a target group that is rapidly convinced to set up house in
the neighbourhood and unilaterally broaden the social mix.
In addition to this survey the City of Antwerp also commissioned a study in
2002 that demonstrated that if the city wants to profile itself more and
more with its cultural products in the future, 2 themes provide sufficient
potential to do so in the short term, i.e. fashion and design.