Urbanization series: Towards a new urban identity on Curaçao (6)
Written by Caspar Tromp
Even though implementing densification policies is challenging, the most important challenge is culture. Home-seekers, private developers and policymakers need to be convinced that giving up the car and a large garden for a life in a thriving urban area is not a loss but a win. Even if the mentioned sustainability and social arguments are leading, people want to be assured that their new home and environment are comfortable, peaceful and accommodating. Secondly, we have to maintain the belief that even though implementing such progressive urban approaches is not easy, that it is possible and that yes, we can do things.
David Sim, as a member of the worldwide famous Jan Gehl Architects, describes in his book “Soft City” the Danish concept of “hygge”. Related to the English word “hug”, it describes the feeling of togetherness, a cozy convivial atmosphere that is soft and comfortable. David argues that the success of densification lies in the creation of “hygge” or softness in dense, mixed-use urban areas. Although “hygge” applies especially to Scandinavian culture, variants of “hygge” could be adapted to other local contexts. If the Netherlands has “gezelligheid” (coziness) in their cities and Costa Rica famously calls its way of life “pura vida”, Curaçao could have its own local version as well. The famous Aruban musician Jeon calls the Aruban way of life spot on with his song “dushi bida” (sweet life), which could also hold true for Curaçao. You could also say that Curaçao has “ambiente” (atmosphere), or “kaya kaya” (streetlife), also the current name of a popular street festival in Otrobanda.
Sustainability should not only be about survival for future generations and other lifeforms. It should also be about thriving as a human society, of course in harmony with nature. Maybe we could design a new urban Curaçao to enhance the spirit of a local form of “hygge”. As such Curaçao will not only become a regional leader in sustainability but also present an attractive tropical urban culture that once again brings people and ideas together.
My question to you is: how would you name a Curaçaoan “hygge”? What should be the captivating slogan of Curaçao’s attractive urban culture?
This story is part of the ‘Urbanization’ series on Willemstad written by Caspar Tromp. In this six-part series, Caspar takes us on a journey to learn about how urban life in Willemstad has developed over the past decades.
Gehl, J. (2010). Cities for People. Washington: Island Press.
Sim, D. (2019). Soft city, building density for everyday life. Washington: Island Press.
Sennet, R. (2018). Building and dwelling, ethics for the city. Allen Lane.