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Gabriel Nobre de Souza -GroningenMiniMetropolisRevised

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  University of GroningenFaculty of Spacial SciencesSpatial Problems and Spatial Policy: The Dutch Experience Groningen: The Mini-Metropolis Student: Gabriel Nobre de SouzaStudent Number: S2808889Professor: Paul van Steen    Introduction Urban planning is essential for a comfortable, beautiful and safe environment that provides people a place to be happy (Sitte, C. 1889). The challenge is to understand it taking in account all the countless variables involved. Transportation, residences, commerce, government and politics, economics, urban design, industry, to just name a few of the topics.Thus, studying spatial planning requires a broad knowledge as well as life experiences. Through the theory we can learn what is already know through the experience gathered along the ages - but previous statements are not necessarily correct. With the matching of wisdom from different sources and the perception of our daily life it’s possible to refine thoughts and discover what makes more sense, and then another person can learn this point of view and go further in the analyses.To learn about spatial planning we should first look upon previous information regarding this subject, and a country that is know for its evolved planning skills is The Netherlands. With it’s limited amount of space, planning was compulsory, that’s the reason for the development of spacial planning skills along with the water management to take the most of the land available for a safe and happy life for it’s citizens (Steen, P., 2014).As important as the cities themselves is the relation between them and what it creates. Each city can help the one next to it providing something that the other has lack of. This creates places that gather more people due to what it has to offer.With this small reflection starts the seeking for understanding of the relation of Groningen, a city in The Netherlands, with the others in it’s surrounding and the argumentation to find out if this place can be called a “mini-metropolis”. In order to answer that question, a good definition of what a metropolis is and how Groningen fits on this concept is required, along with facts that can confirm this theory. Metropolis Definition The word metropolis has it’s srcins in the greek language, with “metro meaning mother and “polis”, city (Collins Dictionary, 2011). This was used to designate the city that “gave birth” to another one, or in other words, the “mother” of the colony. Thus, giving an hierarchy to the cities. Also, we can use the metaphor of the “mother to explain that the metropolis would be a city that would provide resources, at least until the colony achieved a state where it would not be needed anymore. This was true for the greek society where cities were built to prevent the older cities to surpass the amount of people considered efficient for the proper working of the system (Morris, I. 2005), but, for example, in the time of the Great Navigations, the metropolis would be the receiver and colonies were created to provide resources, so the relation was the opposite (Eli, M. 2014).This is the perfect example to show how hard is to define a metropolis, even though it’s srcins are straightforward, the concept changed with the evolution of society, and is gradually becoming more and more complex (Derek, K. 2011). We can see how this idea of metropolis changed completely through the time looking of what was showed to us in the movie Metropolis from 1927 as being large scale futuristic city with tall buildings and impressive structures (fig.1).  But even with all this distinct definitions we can se some similarities. A metropolis was always defined as being a city more relevant in its region, showing itself as being in the top of an hierarchy. Thus, in most cases being a city more evolved, and that’s the srcin of the movie concept, but it was showed in an exaggerated way, a “mega metropolis”. Also, there’s always a certain exchange of resources between the metropolis and it’s “satellite” cities, and the resources can be in the form of workers. And metropolis cities, like it’s concept, changes through the time, changing its size, shape, form, functions, etc. (Roy, A. 2009).Nowadays, geography studies understand that a metropolis consists in a city with jobs that draw workers (Demographia, 2014) and the metropolitan area includes these “satellite cities”. A summary would be that the metropolis is like a magnet for people, and can not only attract from its surroundings, but can also welcome strangers (Keene, D. 2011). Functions that can attract people to a certain city include services, industry, health, education, transportation, tourism, leisure, etc., and all of these are sources of jobs.So, to justify that Groningen can be called a certain kind of metropolis, a “mini-metropolis”, analyse the core functions of the city and how they attract people is essential. And now that we already know about the general definition of metropolis, we should understand the “mini-metropolis” concept. Fig. 1 - Futuristic definition of metropolis as seen on the movie “Metropolis (Transpress NZ)  The Mini-Metropolis Concept Probably one of the first notable appearances of this concept was in the statements of Dr. Peter Kurz, mayor of Mannheim, a city in Germany which he claims to be a “mini-metropolis”. He mentions that the reasons for calling Mannheim in this way is that it offers all the courtesies of a large city, like shopping facilities, a lot of activities, good transport, multiple cultures present, jobs, well developed science research, among other things. But, it’s size is small enough to be properly managed, a characteristic not usual of large cities (Kurz, P. 2010).A “mini-metropolis” could be then defined as an city with all the general characteristics of an metropolis, but in a smaller scale, enough to be well managed. Now we have all the concepts required to start the analyses of Groningen to verify if this city fits on these definitions. Groningen as a Mini-Metropolis About the City Groningen is the largest city in the Northern Netherlands with a population of around 196.000 people (Gemeente Groningen, 2014). Is also the heart of the Province of Groningen, with constitutes of 23 municipalities and has around 579.000 inhabitants, and was so important on the old times that was usually referred as just city, because it was by far the most important city on the north area of The Netherlands. The official year of establishment is 1040 and the oldest name was Cruoninga (Steen, P., 2014). It’s mostly know for being a student city and due to that having one of the youngest population in The Netherlands. Education The most powerful tool to attract people into Groningen is the education. With two large universities, the Hanzehogeschool and the University of Groningen together have more than 54.000 students, and for a population of less than 200.000 people that means that 1/4 of the population are university students, that doesn’t include students of younger ages, so, this shows how important the education is for this city (Gemeente Groningen, 2014). Higher education facilities like universities are subject of studies that shows us that they can contribute for the region economy (Drucker, J., Goldstein H. 2007). This shows that not only the education in Groningen serves as educational provider but also strengths the region economy with the research and the students from different parts of the Netherlands and also the world that bring money with them. This contributes to the idea of Groningen being a “provider . Transportation Groningen is the World’s Cycling City. Half of the trips are made by bike. This was thanks to three factors, the compactness of the city, the flat terrain of The Netherlands and the urban planning interventions to provide the most bikeable city in the world (StreetFilms, 2013).Compactness is a common rule in urban planning in The Netherlands, but in Groningen this was accentuated by the fact that the city was near the borders of the country, and the walls that were built to serve as fortification in the medieval times made the city centre a very compact area (fig.2), and after the walls were destroyed, the planners managed to maintain it's compactness, and thanks to this, nowadays all the city is inside a bikeable distance (Steen, P., 2014). This bike infrastructure provides support for commuting through bicycles.

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