Paul Schnabel
director of the Social and Cultural Planning Office and distinguished professor at Utrecht University

by Christa van Vlodrop

1. Background

Sociologist, was a member of the National Planning Commission and as director of the SCP responsible for our research in the areas of housing, neighborhoods, integration and mobility.

2. Why are you fascinated with
architecture / urban development?

As a child I wanted to be an architect. It did not happen, but interest in architecture and town-planning remains. Among others as a juror in architectural competitions and as a board member of the Forum for Urban Renewal therefore I remain involved with these issues.

3. Best city

Utrecht. Big, but not too big. Lively and vibrant city center with style and practicality, but fortunately not a tourist town. Beautiful and very diverse surroundings, easily and quickly accessible. Student city and academic center. The Netherlands can be reached within two hours, Schiphol airport within half an hour.

4. Most beautiful building

The House of Rupelmonde in Nieuwersluis and then the side that lies on the Vecht. A beautiful country estate dating back from about 1770. Both regal and civil, imposing and festive.

5. Most beautiful park or square

The Netherlands has many non-real (Square 1813 in The Hague, Cathedral Square in Utrecht) or poor (Theatre Square in Rotterdam) squares. The best are the squares in the old provincial towns and Vrijthof in Maastricht. For me the most beautiful square is the shell-shaped town hall square of Siena, Piazza del Campo.

6. Best public facility / urban infill

Still the upper middle class neighborhoods from the thirties, as in Zeist, Hilversum, Heemstede, The Hague and many other cities and towns were built. Carefully designed spacious homes in an attractive urban setting.

7. Best 20th and 21st century innovations

When it comes to housing: successively the widespread introduction of proper sanitation in every home, then the introduction of central heating (less air pollution and the house is always habitable) and finally the implementation of good insulation because double glazing also has the advantage of less noise.

8. Next groundbreaking innovation

The most important will be the change in homes, offices and commercial buildings to their own power, and possibly even delivery of energy to the grid.

9. About the future of cities

I'm not worried, as long as we ensure that the cities keep fitting the needs of those who want to live in an urban manner.

10. Personal contribution to urban development

Research, publications and education.

11. Guerrilla in the city?

More room for privately commissioned tasks and the redevelopment of redundant offices into homes.