To understand the challenges of living in the city, we need to gather insights from the past as building blocks for the urban neighbourhoods of the future.
building blocks
To understand the challenges of living in the city, we need to gather insights from the past as building blocks for the urban neighbourhoods of the future.

At Triple Living, we are building a humane city, with neighbourhoods that are lived in. The ideal urban neighbourhood, in our opinion, looks like this:

All of them are logical ideas that we didn't pull out of thin air. Our vision of the ideal city stems from the liveable cities that urbanists such as Jan Gehl and David Sim put forward as an ideal image, but it also draws on the bustling melting pots that cities were in the Middle Ages.

City planning from the past to the present
The Middle Ages

A buzzing city

In medieval times, cities were bustling crucibles with functions as diverse as their inhabitants: monasteries, hospitals, schools, slaughterhouses, forges, guilds, pubs and markets ... all aspects of life took place in the heart of the city. Until protracted wars brought trade to a halt.

First life. Then spaces. Then buildings.
18th and 19th century

Explosive growth

The industrial revolution caused a major turnaround. Steam and steel brought trade and production, economies of scale and expanded transportation options. Cities everywhere began an unprecedented organic growth. People moved from the countryside to the city to try their luck in one of the many factories in the heart of the city. The cities again became buzzing biotopes where living and working merged. People travelled on foot to workshops, shops or factories, and dockworkers unloaded their cargoes in the middle of town to then receive their day's wages at cafes.

First half of 20th century

The monofunctional city

Two world wars later, new technologies had profoundly changed the urban landscape. Concrete, glass and steel made building on a much larger scale possible. Functionalism became the mainstream urban planning movement, separating functions such as living, working, recreation, education, heritage, mobility and health into separate zones in and around the city. It meant the rise of shopping malls, industrial zones and mega-campuses on the urban fringe.

The city literally gave up ground: freight stations became obsolete, port operations were centralised, urban slaughterhouses closed their doors, warehouses and barracks became vacant. People moved away to small plots in the green belt. New city living was centralised in soulless residential towers or large social housing estates. No shops or playgrounds. No bakery or park. No wildlife or casual chit chat. Along with the dismantling of economic activities, life was also erased from the residential neighbourhoods.

The soft city is about ease and comfort, where density has a human dimension, adapting to our ever-changing needs, nurturing relationships, and accommodating the pleasures of everyday life.

Second half of 20th century

The humane city

In the mid-1960s, a backlash arose. From a new batch of urbanists who dreamed of a new kind of city. A people-sized city, with places where people like to hang out and streets that invite strolling. Where welcoming storefronts provide a glimpse of the bustling life behind them and where outdoor cafes offer a welcome respite. Cities where living is allowed again. With trees and parks bringing nature in and cooling the city. Human cities with warm, vibrant neighbourhoods where living, working and relaxing go together effortlessly.

And their insights do work. Copenhagen, Antwerp, Bern, Oslo, Stockholm, Sydney, London: all feature on the list of ‘most liveable cities’. These are all cities in which advocates of ‘liveable cities’ got to work or still are. However, their proposals are sometimes surprisingly simple: not one large residential block, but several smaller ones. Community gardens, benches, meeting places. Playing with volumes. Different functions in one building. And so the human city will again become that historic buzzing city of old. The city of the future, too. Because only human-sized cities can reconcile people, climate and environment. And that will be the challenge of tomorrow.

Urban renewal in Antwerp

The past 25 years also saw a great wave of urban renewal in Antwerp - in 2012, the city was named ‘city of the year’ for it. Triple Living is also making an important contribution to that evolution, with the development of vibrant, green urban neighbourhoods such as Nieuw Zuid and Slachthuis.

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