Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

‘Healthy Urban Living Lab’ marks Dutch first

AUAS starts research into a ‘healthy’ neighbourhood design based on resident’s ideas

18 Oct 2018 12:37 | Communication

The Bajes Quarter (Bajes Kwartier) in the South East of Amsterdam, a new neighbourhood being created on the site of the former Bijlmerbajes prison complex, will be the first new ‘healthy’ housing development in the Netherlands designed largely on the basis of insights from its future residents. The Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS), is cooperating with project developer AM and (future) residents to find out what is needed to create a healthy atmosphere and healthy behaviour in the neighbourhood. AUAS has recently launched its Healthy Urban Living Lab next to the Bijlmerbajes towers related to this research.

Area developer AM has already approached some 2,500 future residents of the Bajes Quarter to find out about their ideas. AUAS researchers and students will work with future residents to identify which environmental aspects contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

The researchers and AM will then review how these insights can be incorporated into the design of the new Bajes Quarter, where 1,350 homes will be built. This is the first time in the Netherlands that residents are being so intensively involved from the start in making the design of a new neighbourhood on this scale as healthy as possible.

Artist's impression of the new Bajes Quarter

Vertical park

Professor of Health and Environment Lea den Broeder, affiliated with AUAS and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), and AUAS area development coordinator Harko van den Hende are the driving forces behind the Healthy Urban Living Lab. They are working on this issue with a team of students and fellow researchers from various disciplines.

This summer, the researchers held a brainstorm session during the opening of the Healthy Urban Living Lab with a number of future residents, the project developer and other interested parties. This revealed the points which people consider most important for their health: green spaces, exercising together and eating together.

The next step is to determine exactly what the residents want. “Do people want lots of green spaces to look at, do they want child-friendly areas, or do they want spaces for sports and recreation? We're going to look into this,” explains Professor Den Broeder. In any case, the neighbourhood will include a vertical park, in the only Bijlmerbajes tower not set to be demolished.

It has been proven that people feel better with more green spaces in the vicinity

Refugees' vision

The next step is for researchers and students to personally interview the new residents about what they need in the public space in order to feel healthy and lead a healthy lifestyle. Next semester, students of the AUAS minor in Global Health will first interview the refugees already living in the Bajes Quarter. Den Broeder: “These are people who have seen a lot of the world. It is interesting to consider their perspective on a healthy neighbourhood, and not just the views of wealthy buyers.”

Den Broeder: “Amsterdam is a diverse and mixed city, and this will also be a mixed neighbourhood. It is interesting for us to find out whether people from different social backgrounds have different views on their neighbourhood and their health.”