Álvaro Siza’s Negotiated Code: Housing with Citizens’ Participation in the Urban Renewal of The Hague in the 1980s

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In the 1970s, the participation of citizens in processes of urban renewal was championed by several North-European municipalities as an attempt to re-connect housing policies with their social significance. The main goal was to bring together the city and its citizens, collective interests and individual aspirations. Citizens’ participation was used as an instrument to bridge the gap between the planner/designer and the citizen/user. This article examines a case that illustrates the threats and opportunities brought about by this new paradigm in design decision-making. The article discusses the design process of the Punt en Komma housing complex, a project designed by Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza, developed between 1984 and 1988 as part of the urban renewal of the Schilderswijk district, a neighbourhood in the Dutch city of The Hague. The article is divided into two parts. The first part examines Siza’s plan for Schilderswijk’s sub-area 5 (deelgebied 5) and establishes the background against which citizens’ participation played a role in the urban renewal of the district. In the second part, the article examines Álvaro Siza’s project for the Punt en Komma housing blocks in detail, focusing particularly on the participatory design of the layout for the dwelling units. Using Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding model of communication, this article concludes by highlighting the importance of using a negotiated code to enable meaningful communication in citizens’ participation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-264
Number of pages15
JournalUrban Planning
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Architecture
  • Citizens’ participation
  • Housing
  • The Hague
  • Urban renewal
  • Álvaro Siza


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