The Dutch Colonies of Benevolence were established in 1818 to reduce poverty and social inequality by building self-sufficient farming villages with model social facilities. Despite their social ideals, the spatial designs reflected social control with the absence of central village squares or other social spaces. However, the colonies evolved over time to meet new insights in social welfare and horticulture which led to social encounters and community activities in emerging social spaces, often related to self-sufficient food production. This research aims to learn from the social spaces of past and present communities to investigate how they might provide meaning to present-day challenges of social inequality (linked to rural poverty) and social cohesion. Future village designs can aim to address these challenges from a historically informed perspective and promote community building.
We provide a disciplinary and multidisciplinary research programme aimed at advanced understanding of environmental problems and advanced training of PhD candidates in this field.