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Wilgenwende or Wilgenbende

Column by Fleur Groeneveld


A neighbourhood surrounded by greenery, aimed at a broad audience. This was the way that the plans for the construction of a new residential area in Dordrecht were described. The new residential area would be called the Wilgenwende. The architecture would have an old-fashioned undertone, drawing inspiration from the '1930s style' and the 'herenboerderij (literally translated; gentleman's farm)' that were already present on the island. But if you look at the area now, little of this can be seen.


View Wilgenwende from Smitsweg, Google Streetview


If we go back in time, to 2009, we can see an old farm, surrounded by several fields, mainly covered with grains and wild flowers. The area was closed off by ditches and different roads. Wieldrecht football club located to the west, the N3 located to the east and the dike that separates the area from the polder located in the south. A family of three lived on the farm and also maintained the farm together. In 2009, this family was bought up and they moved their farm to a new house behind the dike. Leaving the area for plans no-one had ever really imagined.


Preparatory work new fase Wilgenwende, SkyWise


2009 is seen as the starting year for the redevelopment of the Wilgenwende. Final designs were drawn up and a lot of logistics were arranged behind the scenes. Information evenings were held and people started to get an idea of what was about to come. Shortly afterwards preparatory work began, to prepare the area for construction. The area was divided into different parts, which were built in different phases. Most of the residential area is divided into terraced houses that are based on the mansions that dotted the landscape in the past. Although this is not very visible in reality. They are generally blocks of sand-colored rock, which you can find everywhere in the Netherlands and do not seem to be particularly tied to the place itself. They are modern houses that serve a good function for young families, but that is about it.


On the left you can see terraced houses in the Wilgenwende, on the right you can see the maze of independent houses, Google Streetview


In addition to the terraced houses, there is also a strip of a maze of houses that have nothing to do with each other. The plan included some lots for free entries. So people could buy a plot here and build their own house. Part of the idea was that people would have a large garden, which would give people enough space between the houses. This turned out completely differently in reality. People have had their houses built much larger than planned, which means that the open feeling between the houses has completely disappeared. There was a feeling that your house was in the neighbour's garden, with the response that many people started putting fences and hedges around their plot. But because there were no guidelines for this, this also resulted in a tangle of partitions between the houses. This strip of houses looks confusing and chaotic from the road, especially due to the variety of architectural styles and use of colour. The residents of the area are therefore not satisfied with the way the area currently looks. When you walk past it, the idea of a calm, green residential area is hard to find.


Visualisation of the Wilgenwende till the fase Wilgendaal, AM


The question that remains with the people from Dordrecht is whether the park should be called 'Wilgenwende' or 'Wilgenbende'. Looking into the area, I would definitely choose the second choice. The self-designed houses are and remain a major eyesore. However, if you go deeper into the area, you can see a fixed structure and I would stick to 'Wilgenwende'. Even though I do not fully agree with the architectural style, it is a well-organized district that retains structures, whether in architectural style or in green use. I think that the Wilgenwende is a great project to show the contrast of how having people putting in their own design choices, can lead the project to stray far from the general design. In the future, I hope that people will learn from this project and impose stricter requirements on these types of free plots, so that some cohesion can still be found between the different houses.


Top view of phase Wilgenhof, OZP makelaars


The question that lingers in the minds of the people of Dordrecht is whether the park should be called 'Wilgenwende' or better called 'Wilgenbende'. Looking outside into the area, I would definitely choose the second choice. The self-designed houses are and remain a major eyesore. However, if you go into the area, there is a fixed structure to be seen and I would stick to 'Wilgenwende'. Despite the fact that I do not entirely agree with the architectural style, it is a well-organized neighbourhood that holds on to structures, whether or not in architectural style or in green use. I think the Wilgenwende is a nice project to show the contrast, how your own interpretation can stray far from the overall design. In the future, I hope that people will learn from this project and that they will make stronger demands on these kinds of free plots, so that there is still some cohesion between the different houses.

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