The city centre of Cuijk: a rhythmanalysis

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The Dutch city centers are in trouble. In the last few decades, they have been the buzzing heart of the city. Now, this has reduced because less and less people are regularly visiting the city centre. According to many people, this is the result of the rise of internet shopping. This type of shopping enables customers to avoid a visit of the city centre and makes it easy to sit in safety back home and shop online. This leaves its traces in the urban landscape. Many shops have gone bankrupt, leaving a vacant building in the shopping street. This has caused a lot of problems. Not only the city centre could offer its customer less shopping possibilities, it is also affecting the (shopping) atmosphere in the area. This makes the surrounding shops also more vulnerable. This trend seems not to stop by itself. For this reason , municipalities are searching for a fitting solution to make their city centers future proof. Therefore, the role of the city centre in society should be reconsidered. Is it a place where people can go to in order to go shopping or has it a more social function, a place where people from the city meet each other? To counter vacancy, municipalities attempt to transform the spatial structure of their city centers. Throughout Platform31, a foundation for spatial research, has started a project in which cities are stimulated and guided towards transforming their centre into a compact area. In their vision, shops that are located in the approach roads of the centre, have to move into the vacant buildings within the city centre. This situates the city centre into a smaller area and therefore, it can function as a compact, economically strong city centre. Still, this solution has a couple of disadvantages; many entrepreneurs who have a shop in the approach roads, are unable to afford a building in the city centre. They often stay in their original buildings while others move to the city centre or go bankrupt. Often, only chain stores are able to afford a building in the city centre. This causes the disappearance of the local family-owned businesses. There were often part of the specific characteristics of their city. In order to keep the city centre ‘alive’ and future-proof, further restructuring ideas are required. This research aims to find fields of restructuring of the city centre that looks further than the ‘compact city centre’ by keeping in mind specific, local material and societal characteristics. Therefore, this research demands a specific location. Because the city centre of Cuijk faces the described problems in its city centre, and is participating in Platform31’s project ‘Compacte Centrum’, the city centre of Cuijk has been chosen to be the case of this research. In order to engage with the situation in the city centre of Cuijk, an everyday life approach was used. For this research, this means the usage of qualitative research, focused on daily life processes in the city centre. In order to achieve this, there have been adapted interviews with many different persons in the city centre. There have been interviewed visitors, inhabitants and users of the city centre. The interviews were all focused on revealing their relation to the area. In this way, the way the city centre is felt, lived and used by its people can be studied. In this thesis, the theory of rhythmanalysis by Henri Lefebvre is used as a framework for the analysis. This theory is combined with his perception of space in order to create a conceptual idea of everyday life in urban space. In this thesis, it is assumed the rhythms of everyday life in city space are affected by capitalist rhythms and traditional rhythms. Capitalist rhythms can be described as the influence of the fast, capitalist, money-driven processes on space. By traditional rhythms, the slow, local processes are meant. The results of the research are the result of confronting the influence of capitalist rhythms and traditional rhythms with the rhythms of everyday life. This shows that both of them have a large influence on city space and the rhythms of everyday life that take place within this city space. The capitalist rhythms are into force when there the current function of the city centre is discussed. This is often experienced as an area that is focused on doing fast grocery shopping and directly leave. The parking spots around this area strengthen this idea. This manner of shopping also causes problems for the streets around this area, they are experienced as desolated and unattractive. The vacancy in the city centre increases this kind of experience. In order to increase the amount of customers, several solutions are mentioned; a change in the shopping routes, the planning of parking spots and to increase the amount of shopping events. The influence of traditional rhythms on the city centre is characterized by the local culture of Cuijk. It is suggested local people affect the local economy in a special way, because they grant it the local entrepreneurs. Local entrepreneurs can profit from this small local economy. Also, traditional rhythms are characterized by the function of the city centre, by seeing the city as ‘a place to stay’ instead of ‘a place to buy’. This becomes clear through people complaining about the difficulty of walking through the city centre. They mention the low quality of the infrastructure and the heavy traffic. The municipality is trying to control the different rhythms in the city. Through the policy of the compact city centre, they attempt to counter vacancy and concentrate the shopping public in a compact area. Next to this, the municipality wants to change a focus on ‘spending’ into a focus on ‘staying’. People will not directly be stimulated to spend money but they will be stimulated to spend as much time as possible in the city centre. It is assumed they will spend more money in the city centre in that way. The municipality wants to retain the compact city centre in order to avoid vacancy and have an contiguous shopping district. Hereby, they do not have to walk long distances to reach shops and they will visit some shops more often. Also, this will improve the atmosphere in the area. The municipality wants to improve the aesthetics and atmosphere of the public space. This public space should also stimulate people to walk to parts of the city centre outside the shopping area. The Maasstraat and Grotestraat, should become more involved with the city centre as a recreational area. As a conclusion, it can be stated that the municipality has chosen a direction of redevelopment that more includes the traditional rhythms. It is steering to make the city centre more a place to stay. Though, the focus is not on creating a place for local people but to attract people from outside, mostly tourists. This could be seen as a capitalist rhythm. Also, the predominance of capitalist rhythms in the shopping area should also be avoided. The independent entrepreneur could possibly disappear in favor of chain stores. The unique character of the city centre is ventured. The recommendation to the municipality are characterized by the creation of an awareness of the gathering of the two rhythms, by not only keeping in mind economical interests. In additional research should be studied how the municipality could implement the traditional rhythms into its policy.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen