olympic ambition

An Olympic ambition, who joins in?

We, in the Netherlands are stumbling from crisis to crisis.
From the climate to the energy transition, to health and through the nitrogen and biodiversity crisis, and to housing. It is becoming clear to more and more people that these crises can only be tackled structurally in conjunction with each other.

This is where De Zwarte Hond wants to help, because these issues are not entirely new to us. In fact, we already take this approach in many of our projects, albeit still fragmented, for example, through timber construction, building in existing towns and villages, tackling renovation and transformation projects, and investing in areas and buildings that are already there, also referred to as urban recycling.

However, the ways in which we put this into practice through our projects can be made even more explicit and coherent, which is also what these times call for. That is why we want to work more coherently on the major transitions which we face, both in the Netherlands as well as in the rest of the world. We will do so in a way that does justice to and shows respect for both current and future generations, by balancing systems and closing global cycles. Being an agency with a large size and scope, we can and want to make an impact.

Five systems in balance
We identify five systems that need to be better balanced and/or whose cycles need to be closed more quickly. In our view, these imbalances are the causes behind the various crises we face. The five systems which we have distinguished in relation to this are: abiotic, biotic, human, technical systems, and raw materials.

Abiotic: Water, air, and soil

Biotic: flora, fauna, and food

Human: Social balance, cohesion, and economic resilience

Technical systems: Mobility, installations, energy systems (heat and electricity), solutions for water management, etc.

Raw materials: material scarcity and the transition to a circular economy

How do we keep these systems healthy and sufficiently available?
Whereas the abiotic and biotic systems and cycles involve natural processes, the last two cycles are technical in nature. Humans themselves, with their social and economic (eco)systems, exist somewhere in between. Where possible, we want to become less dependent on these technical systems and scarce resources. Preferably, we create attractive, healthy living environments with natural solutions that tackle various challenges.

How does this work in practice?
For both the field of urbanism and architecture, guiding themes can be formulated that serve all five cycles and address (almost) all crises.
In urban planning, this theme is 'proximity', upon which we elaborate in the latest OutThere publication: 'The future is near'. In architecture, the guiding theme is 'passive construction' with 'generous shells'. This will be covered in the soon-to-be-published OutThere 'Never demolish again'.
Together, these diptychs form a plea to tackle the array of social issues we face as a society in a coherent way. Whereas 'The Future is Near' focuses on the scale of the city and neighbourhood, 'Never Demolish Again' deals with the scale of the building.

The overarching message of the plea is that the existing (built) environment has to be the starting point. We deploy natural solutions wherever we can and structurally address multiple social issues, because plans are only good if they contribute to the health and happiness of people, animals, and plants, both inside as well as outside of our ‘construction fences' and project boundaries.

Speak to us, we are not perfect.
Our ambition is Olympic. We tackle the transition challenge coherently. You can address us and hold us accountable for this. After all, we are not perfect and bound to make mistakes, be inconsistent, and not deliver on everything at once. However, we will always remain committed to these ambition, with a view on the long-term and the bigger picture. Together, we will learn what the good solutions are. Fail, fail again, fail better.

We are aware of the urgency and no longer want to procrastinate. We make use of our (working) energy to help along all these transitions at the hand of our projects. This Olympic ambition is certainly not exclusive to De Zwarte Hond, but we explicitly call on our professional community, our clients, and other social partners to think along, to participate and to embrace this great ambition.