Introduction

Squatting elicits many connotations depending on its relative context, but as practiced by over a billion
people world-wide, simply denotes the appropriation of a space for an informal use, usually without the
consent of an owner or proprietor. In Holland, the cultural acceptance and legalization of squatting spawned
a relatively large and diverse group from its citizens, transcending the stereotypical image of the destitute or
similarly perceived undersireable inhabitant. In many instances, squatted structures became cultural centers
forming spontaneously from small groups of motivated individuals, growing in number over time. Involving
many cultural, political, and economic concerns, the movement became a polarizing subject that eventually
came to the forefront of a national discussion, culminating in the illegalization of the practice in 2010. At the
heart of the discussion was the right to exercise free will in the ownership of property in a capitalist system
versus the civic responsibility and moral duty to be proper stewards of necessary and critical infrastructure
(the housing stock), needed for a population. The research in squatting is not only in the documentation and
analysis of the post-squat condition, but also in understanding and distilling ideas and concepts that can re-
frame process structures, professional paradigms, and design potentials in the architecture of the city.


Affordable Housing in Holland
One of the factors in the popularization of squatting in Holland is the shortage of “affordable housing” as
waiting lists in Amsterdam and Rotterdam can be 7 and 5 years respectively. While cities like Rotterdam
have a certain capacity for low cost housing, the conditions are often poor, or at least far from what might be
considered an ideal situation for many families. Common problems, already well understood in other parts
of the world, are the driving factors behind sprawl or the interest in low density detached housing, quiet safe
locales, and privatized yards.

Vacancy and the Post-Bubble Economy
Despite the high demand for housing, vacant spaces are plentiful in Holland with an abundance of empty
residential towers and 1.2 million square meters of empty offices in Amsterdam alone. Ironically until
recently, office towers have been the focus of developers, banks, and other parties who, due to market and
tax incentives (or at least perceived incentives), have been driven to maintain and even construct new empty
office spaces. Vacancy has only been exacerbated in the post-bubble economy as seen by the ubiquitous
over-sized signage hanging from facades, advertising rentable spaces.


The Bottom Up Hierarchy

One way to understand hierarchy in the city is through the division between a top down oligarchy versus a
bottom up approach, by defining its members and constituencies. One interpretation of this division might
be between policy makers, corporations, and other hegemonic entities verses a larger number of private
individuals and local groups. Squat cultures in Holland such as OT301, were founded upon a diverse group
of creative individuals who became an institution through a degree of organized yet spontaneous activity
in this bottom up approach. Due to low initial startup requirements and risks, the bottom up approach also
benefits from scalability, and sometimes transforms into “legitimized” institutions with complex hierarchical
structures, government funding, and gentrification.

Capitalism and Hybrid Markets


The Role of the Architect

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