At the The Hague Erasmusveld, a new city district is emerging. Property developer BPD and Woonpioniers have teamed up and are jointly pioneering area development in the years to come. In this way, they hope to add value to the area’s more permanent future. Part of the plan is to establish the Netherlands’ very first tiny house community in the area. We checked in with them to hear more about their unconventional partnership.
Woonpioniers is a tiny multidisciplinary agency that explores altogether new kinds of living environments, develops residential concepts, and builds a range of homes. Their collaboration with market leader BPD has sent them into uncharted territory.
“At times, I’m still impressed with the unwieldiness of a large market player like BPD,” Arthur Van der Lee, partner at Woonpioniers, describes their collaboration. “We both have had to find our respective roles by way of trial and error. It’s been an process that has brought to life the fruitful collaboration that we have today.”
Hans-Hugo Smit, area marketeer at BPD, agrees. “At BPD, rather than merely building homes like we have done for decades, we aspire to truly create living environments,” he says. “In order to do so, we need to accept that this requires a process that is far less rational, risk-focused and efficient than we’re used to. I hope our joint project will set an example in this way.”
Pioneering area development at Erasmusveld
Together, they have developed an innovative temporary concept to set in motion the development of the area that has been renamed Proeftuin Erasmusveld. As a result, the very first tiny house community in the Netherlands will take root here shortly. In addition, city farmer Suzanne will cultivate a permaculture garden to expose urbanites to the origin of their foods.
“It’s our mission and vision to develop this area together with its future residents,” Hans-Hugo says. “We believe that the temporary arrangement will positively determine the future demographics in the area.”
“The iconic value of a pioneering tiny house community and permaculture garden have a far reach,” Arthur argues. “We hope it will trigger people to reflect on what it means to lead a good life. In addition, we hope the stories that will come into being at Erasmusveld will encourage BPD to continue on this path.”
“Redefining core business takes time and energy. (…) We’re going against a strong undercurrent that doesn’t change overnight” – Arthur Van der Lee, partner at Woonpioniers
When space becomes place
“The real challenge for us is in finding a way to unite the temporary character of our project with the permanent impact we hope it will have on the area,” Arthur points out. “How to make sure that this ‘space’ becomes a ‘place’,” he extrapolates.
Arthur adds, “This is exciting stuff we’re doing. Personal stories will take shape here that will go on to influence the future of the area. I doubt there’s a place for this dimension in a more traditional, project-focused approach. The fact that BPD has committed to this joint adventure is truly a beautiful thing.”
Fear of the unkown
Collaborating hasn’t been easy per se, both parties admit. “We come from vastly different worlds,” Hans-Hugo says. “What’s more, within in a big organization like BPD, we sometimes fear the unknown. It’s inherent to property development to interpret the unknown as a risk that is to be mitigated.”
“Redefining core business takes time and energy,” Arthur Van der Lee adds. “I think that’s what we’re doing essentially. We’re going against a strong undercurrent that doesn’t change overnight.”
“I’m grateful that our collaboration has been granted the time and space to grow,” Arthur says. “Our collaborative effort sets an example for the real estate industry at large,” Hans-Hugo concludes. “I hope it will inspire other parties to do the same, so that it will take place on a much larger scale in the future.