Europan 12, Norway, Asker, Dikemark
Farmer's Boulevard, a proposal for the revival of the old town of Dikemark, done in collaboration with Sebastian Forss and Peter Andrén
pre-selected as top 5 best submissions for Asker
Dikemark’s hospital was once built as an institutional world within an agricultural surrounding, not very far from urban settlements in Christiania (Oslo). Remoteness came to be a remedy to many and is a unique and representative example of the healthcare strategies of the early 20th century. The context and direct surroundings were practically fenced off as nature was tamed and eventually turned into a park.
As this institutional world slowly closed, an interesting condition appeared. Buildings and nature slowly start an interaction and even visitors are now seen, on mountain bikes or as neighbors walking their dogs. The ideas of ruin romanticism might be tempting, with urban explorers running around the cracked windows and broken machinery.
-However we see a great potential in the existing buildings as functional elements, both in terms of building quality, heritage value and the way the buildings are set in the landscape.
At the same time, metropolitan Oslo is steadily expanding, exploiting and developing more and more land.
Rather than playing alongside this uni-central behavior with the consequence of eventually being swallowed by the metropolis, we see an urge for a new urbanism, where energy is taken from the rural solitude. We are inspired by the historical idea of the site as a self sustaining unit.
-However we are rejecting the idea of a fenced off mono-functional island. A contemporary ideal society should instead be based on infrastructure and the exchange of ideas, rather than a perfect conformity to oblige to.
The culture of cultivation
One essential part of the concept around a self sustaining unit is the possibility to produce local agricultural products. For a country like Norway, with an arable land area of only three per cent, every square meter counts. The region has a long tradition of agriculture to lean upon, but we would still like to introduce new typologies, based on small scale, interactive agricultural allotments intertwined with the architecture and recreational paths.
The idea is firstly to sow a seed to a new economy in Dikemark, dealing with concrete sustainable production rather than on abstract financial speculation, engaging its citizens as they farm the land and refine the products. Secondly, it is a contextual way of creating an urban environment that invites farmlands and fields of the direct surroundings, rather than sprawling it!
A diverse future!
When we look at the institution of Dikemark in terms of its buildings, we are also inspired by the often spontaneous nature of additions through the years, which have led to a pragmatic environment with distinct historical layers. Our aspiration is to add to this web, with buildings of variegated character, built over a long time span. This strategy of multi-colored additions will also keep the existing buildings’ institutional grandeur, which is one of the foremost characteristics of the place today.
A piece of urban fabric in a porous web!
A diverse variety of solitaires populate the site today, placed freely along a slope and scattered through a large piece of land. Though many of the existing buildings show a great architectural quality individually, there are some distinct moves to make in order to accomplish a functional piece of urban fabric.
Filling the in-between with buildings through the area would be an easy way to reach an urban density, but totally out of the rural context and particular pavilion-in-park typologies.
Thus we are seeking a different approach; pretty much dealing with what in there already, helping it to survive and thrive in a post-institutional phase.
The existing condition of (1) an institutional centre with official buildings situated according to a grid, and (2) the other hospital pavilions in a scattered park condition in the north are characters to be emphasized and strengthened.
We like the idea of a dense core, where infrastructures and people meet, surrounded by a porous exo-urban pattern of fields and dwellings, hills and streams, as a permeable border to the nature around. We naturally find the existing grid a condition to work upon. In our process, streets were defined and places were created and strategically placed additions were created in order to continue the process of pragmatic add-ons through time.
The pavilion-in-park condition around is kept as an “institutional jungle”; a once well-kept garden which is gradually going back to a natural state. At places we complete the grand pavilions with smaller punctuations for dwelling and recreational uses. A fine web of light infrastructures nestles throughout this landscape, keeping the public nature of a park parallel to the people living inside here.
Additions are only placed at locations where they enhance and strengthen these two desired conditions.
Learning from Rome: Introducing Decumanus+Cardo!
The revitalization process is ignited by the introduction of a defining infrastructural order.
Associated with the idea of a grid structure, we begin the project by introducing a new hierarchy of infrastructures; between local streets and interconnectors, hilly recreational tracks and gentle promenades.
Two existing roads are considered to become the primary arteries; the east-westbound Heggedalsveien connecting Dikemark with Asker and Heggedal and the north-southbound Verkensveien leading from the centre down towards the southern parts of Dikemark.
Today they meet at a hardly recognizable intersection. However this is where Dikemark meets the world, and we felt there was a large quantity of hidden urban energy here!
The two arteries currently show a slight, but still recognizable perpendicular condition, forming a defining cross that we wanted to strengthen. This approach of urban layout has proved successful all the way back to the Romans, whose theories of urban planning often began with the forming of two streets;
First there was the Decumanus, an east-westbound road of regional character, connecting the city with other provinces. Then there was the perpendicular Cardo, a city’s main street leading north-south with commercial activities along.
The intersection between these two (Groma) was the natural heart of the city and often the Forum and other public functions were placed here.
As the Romans, we are laying out a city whose growth is slow, gradual and a matter of development through time. Thus, the need for an evident structure is strong.
Regional route + Infrastructure as Attraction
The basis for the arteries is already there in Dikemark, but has to be emphasized and consequently strengthened in order to be useful.
Heggedalsveien will remain the regional route between Dikemark and the region around. It is slightly redefined in terms of direction and edges along, according to the central grid, in order to run as a northern border between park and centre and to better engage the dwelling blocks in Dikemark’s eastern context.
Verkensveien is diametrically differently treated. It partly remains a local street, but will at the same time stretches beyond the notion of transportation. Like a Parisian boulevard, it is a linear point of geographical reference, dealing with “place” and “urban activity” more than efficient thoroughfare.
It visually connects north and south as it is extended through a gentle landscape cut up the hill.
Unlike a Parisian Boulevard, it does not encourage military parades and lack a uniform and solely decorative green structure. Rather, it responds to the field condition of the surrounding agricultural land, bringing the culture of farming into the heart of Dikemark. We call it the Farmer’s boulevard.
Thus, it is manifesting the concept of cultivation as a crucial component of the project.
Dikemark is currently an area hard to label. It is neither a city, nor particularly rural or wild; it is a unique location with sympathetic qualities. It is a small piece of defined urban fabric, intertwined with wild and cultivated, land and water. The proposal has the aspiration to build upon this uniqueness and share it with others.
The negative connotations around the psychiatric clinic of Dikemark are still shared among many Norwegians. It is therefore important to work with the location as a destination of positive recreational values, while keeping the heritage of hospital at the same time. We are starting the process by helping the existing tourist branches to expand and prosper, parallel to the work with infrastructure and place-making. New recreational tracks are added or better refined and the history of Dikemark is told in a sort of open air museum environment, with the buildings as crucial components in this story. This is the first step in the urbanization process, together with the introduction of new attractions, such as the Farmer’s boulevard with a cableway transport system that gives the visitor a great overview of the area and gives them access to the remote northern parts of the site.
Apart from buildings and infrastructure our proposal for Dikemark puts an emphasis on generous and distinct outdoor spaces, general in size but defined in their edges. They are all located at strategic points where people cross, visitors arrive and citizens dwell.
We have chosen three loci in nodes that activate certain parts of Dikemark.
The first is Dikemark’s Square, a natural infrastructural hub along Heggedalsveien. This open space brings the different modes of transport together as well as components of building typologies (center+pavilion) and landscape types (forest+agriculture+water). A variety of temporary events are possible to occur here, like the regular farmer’s market or a Syttende Mai Party. The square is the heart of Dikemark, representing the place for citizens, visitors and by passers alike.
The next space is The Lagoon; a brand new water basin located where the lake Verkensvannet turns into a rapid and the built environment encounters the waterfront. The lagoon is a wet square, featuring the possibility of various leisure and recreational activities, forming a link to the recreational landscape for adventurous visitors.
The last locus is the People’s Park, an open green space in the eastern part of Dikemark. It functions as a generous field, large and generic enough to host any sort of event for the citizens of Dikemark.
The tabula rasa condition here is perfect for temporary projects initiated by the citizens as a way of creating engagement with the place through time.
Throughout the area of Dikemark are some distinct vertical elements placed, intentionally diverging from the surroundings, punctuating the architectural web. These are the edu-follies, sculptural elements with public components like tourist info, view point and other open attractions. Many of them also have a practical purpose as refineries for agricultural products. Their interrupting nature in terms of location and expression helps the orientation of the visitor and is a pedagogic tool in order to materialize the complex processes involved in the refinery processes of agricultural products.
Strengthen existing qualities and invite people to the unique milieu at Dikemark, by the development of recreation and a local health care museum.
As a way of developing a destination we would like to introduce a piece of unique infrastructure, a destination in itself, connecting north and south with the center; the Farmer’s boulevard. It includes transport, recreation and cultivation along a soft landscape cut.
The area is zoned according to the boulevard and the existing organizational grid is taken up in the new development. Some squares and places are introduced as spatial resources for visitors, citizens and by passers. Business will gradually grow from this seed of tourism together with a general focus in local agriculture; leading to more permanent developments such as dwellings.