Towards a new village heart for Spijk

The residents’ association Stichting Actief Spijk tries to enhance the quality of life in their village. A major carrier for a liveable village is a central meeting point, which needs to be developed. A place that provides opportunities for all village activities, that connects the beautiful natural surroundings of the village and its rich industrial history of brickworks.

The 2012 residents village plan for Spijk mentions that ramblers and cyclists passing through the village would appreciate a place to rest, a place to eat and drink and toilet facilities. Additionally the residents themselves prefer more green spaces in the village. Stichting Actief Spijk therefore asked the Wageningen UR Science Shop to help design a new heart for the village, focusing on opportunities to improve its liveability.

The project started in the summer of 2012, with a survey among the village youths to identify their views on a heart for the village. In addition, six landscape architecture students from Hogeschool Van Hall Larenstein chose the Gelders Eiland area for their graduation project. They examined the attractiveness and potential of the local landscape, shaped by the river, as well as the role of agriculture in the area, its relation with water bodies, industrial activities and their history and the potential for recreation. As part of this project some also examined the village of Spijk and produced ideas for a new village heart. A supervisory committee including representatives of the municipal authorities, Stichting Actief Spijk, various experts and the researchers regularly provided feedback on the project.

Key words for the new heart for the village are sojourn and encounters, not only for villagers but also for visitors. The new village heart will have to strengthen the village’s green character and mustconnect with its immediate surroundings. The study concluded that, in a sense, Spijk already has a ‘heart’: it is contained within the residents and their networks. It is the web of interpersonal relations between people which ‘makes up’ the heart of the village: a varied, complex and strong network that could be called Spijk.