Guido Wallagh
partner-advisor Inbo Adviseurs
& associate professor Planning at the Utrecht University

by Christa van Vlodrop

1. Background

Born and raised in Amsterdam. Studied Planning and earned a PhD at the University of Amsterdam. From 1995 to 2008 worked in different jobs including director at ‘De Lijn’ (office for spatial development and housing). With a short interval at Ernst & Young as advisory council. Since 2008 partner-advisor at Inbo Adviseurs.

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

I grew up in the city. I’m a real city boy. When I was twelve I saw my first cow, sailing was the ferry to Amsterdam-Noord and nature was a walk in the woods in the Amsterdamse Bos. The city is in my genes. A city can capture you, around every corner there is something new. Continuous color and sound differences: pressure- resting, beautiful-ugly, emotionally-detached, cool-dark.

3. Best city

Cities where you have the feeling of coming home. Cliché, New York, mainly because the city has been seen on pictures and in movies. For me the best cities, are very classic, Paris, London. But I am also somehow fascinated by German cities. In the last two years I have been to Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne and Dresden. The hospitality of these cities appeals to me, you feel welcome. And the continuous function-mix. All these cities also have very special city parks.

4. Most beautiful building

I am particularly interested in what happens in a building, not the outside. Take for example the Centre Pompidou in Paris. So much happens inside that building, it's banging! In the halls or on the escalator, you are constantly in the city: wherever you look, you're inside and outside.

5. Most beautiful park or square

Millennium Park in Chicago. City and nature are hardly distinguishable. With an outdoor theater / stage. And a square where young and old frolic to the beautiful art work Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor. It gives serenity, playfulness, nullity and is metropolitan. But also a square where I was once, in the vicinity of Córdoba, the orange trees were in bloom: the smells ...

6. Best public facility / urban infill

‘Mercatorplein’, built to a design by Berlage, in the ‘Baarsjes’, Amsterdam. It is a monumental environment, without creating distance. The walls, the program in the plinth and the public space, it is a kind of continuous carpet. It is an open square with a restrained design, does not lead to appropriation, but it invites you to meet.

7. Best 20th and 21st century innovations

Private commissioning. Now we enjoy the Van Nelle Factory and the Vondelpark, these were public initiatives by people who wanted to make something good for the collective. We should explore private commissions again, so it does not become a ‘private party’, but a collective contribution to new interpretation.

8. Next groundbreaking innovation

‘Zwermwerken’ (Swarm-Works). An alternative word for new work. We have already done: flexible working at offices and home working. How do you deal with knowledge workers now. Knowledge was power, now knowledge-sharing is power, look at Wikipedia. Users and non-professionals share knowledge with each other. Knowledge and content are central rather than processes. Good example is the townbike VanMoof developed by input from people around the world. In the spatial sector much more has to be done with and by non-professionals.

9. About the future of cities

We have to celebrate, strengthen and magnify the differences between cities. Cities in Europe had to catch up, every town was decorated, but have become very similar. Same centers, same shops, little difference. Canary Wharf, La Défense, the Zuidas, it all seems the same.

10. Personal contribution to urban development

Bestow attention to existing young cities (as an Amsterdammer!). Since 2005 I have been working in Almere on the so-called preventive urban renewal. Despite being a young city, there are already neighborhoods that are 30 years old. These neighborhoods now need attention. In the three oldest neighborhoods of Almere we look at the qualities of those areas and what socio-economic, programmatic and spatial level need to be done now. What has been and what needs to be doctored.

11. Guerrilla in the city?

First association: guerrilla war is a term from the martial warfare-science, it depicts conflict, which is not part of Dutch urban planning. Second association, well intended: placing plants in mail boxes. But most of all this gives me a different image. After the rediscovery of space in the city, some cities change in the weekend in a big event in which drinking, loud music and traffic diversions are the rule rather than the exception. And if you escape the city, then it is your neighbors that go on late into the night with garden parties. All well and good, but the balance is lost. A little less wouldn’t be a bad thing.