Workshop: Democratic integration in Feijenoord, Rotterdam

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As part of the graduation studio ‘A City of Comings and Goings – Designing for Migration and Mobility’ a workshop was organized by Design as Politics PhD candidates Nurul Azlan and Els Leclercq about political and democratic integration of inhabitants with a migrant background in the neighbourhood Feijenoord in Rotterdam-South.

Just as in many European countries, the influx of refugees in the Netherlands is a prominent issue in the social-political debate. Opponents often refer to the failed integration of migrants who came to the country in the ‘60’s, of mostly Moroccan and Turkish origin. The long-term impact of inhabitants with a migrant background on neighbourhoods, the fear of losing the ‘Dutch identity’ and the rising tension between various groups in society is often a central issue in this debate. Feijenoord is one of those neighbourhoods that has changed a lot over the past decades and the group of non-western migrants has increased up to 76% of the total population. In addition, the district faces an accumulation of socio-economic problems such as high unemployment rated, a low education and income level and a high percentage of school drop-outs. Also there is a lack of services and amenities in the neighborhood and much of the public space is of low quality and underused.

While the Rotterdam authorities have received multiple subsidies from the Dutch government in order to improve the impoverished quarters of the city and a lot of money actually was spend on Feijenoord, it does not seem like the neighbourhood has improved much. Some public spaces were refurbished, but the inhabitants are still facing the same problems as before the regeneration, while the level of participation on any political scale remains low. In this workshop the students were therefore asked ‘how public space or the public sphere could contribute to, not the cultural but the, political/democratic integration of migrants? During a full day in neighbourhood centre ‘de proeftuin’ in Feijenoord, the students were challenged to design spaces or processes that could establish an environment for a new democratic public sphere in which (temporary) migrants (or all citizens) can feel part of the bigger system. Students could either concentrate on spatial design, or also develop apps that could trigger engagement with the public space. This resulted in three totally different, sometimes slightly provocative, proposals.

 

Vote For Space
The first group of students (Anouk Klapwijk, Giulia Spagnolo and Ramon Cordova) imagined a new way to approach participative design. They created a democratic device that allows people to directly choose and intervene in their own environment. The concept consists of an app that allows people to choose physical spaces for potential urban developments. Moreover, it also allows to choose the function that the space would get through a collective decision. The management work would be ultimately translated into a physical intervention based in a collaboration scheme. While the app is developed for Feijenoord, it leaves open possibilities for further development in the rest of the city, the country and even the world.

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The app is based on four steps of participation by the user. The first step is about marking empty spaces. Users take a picture of an empty public accessible space that they feel is suited for developments. This space then gets marked on a map. The second step is called brainstorming. Users can brainstorm about the activity they want to take place in that particular space. Three categories are provided to keep it simple and clear: nature, culture and sports. In order to inspire the user, for each category an example can be found. Step three in the process is voting. Users can vote on their preferences for the development of a particular empty space. The app also allows the users to see the statistics for this space, in order to encourage discussions and campaigns for the development of one space. After the voting process, a decision can be made about the favourable category in which the development for this particular empty space should take place. For the creation and construction of the new space, a responsible inhabitant needs to be assigned within the neighbourhood. The difference between a survey and a more participatory application like ‘Vote for Space’ is that the inhabitants are not only answering the “question”, but also choose which spaces are at “question”.

Istanbul on the Maas – Feijenoord as a test case for an autonomous zone
The second group of students (Alon Sarig, Lena Knappers, Yi Yu) were fascinated by the pirate TV satellite receivers, that characterise the urban landscape of Feijenoord and that could be seen as the most visible physical manifestation of ‘binational urbanism’ in the area. The people who live in Feijenoord simultaneously divide their life between two worlds – the urban everyday life of Rotterdam and the cultural, political and social content from their previous home (in the case of Feijenoord mostly Turkey) that they receive on their TV sets.

In the context of Feijenoord, the aim of this group of students was to explore a speculative scenario of a new form of autonomous zone. Instead of an ongoing reality where the migrants in Feijenoord are being forced to integrate in the Dutch society by forbidding for example the satellite dishes on the facades of their houses, they explored the opposite approach: ‘exter-grate’. An exclusive autonomy for the migrants. A place where the migrants of Feijenoord can develop their own distinct social, political and cultural environment (one that does not necessarily correspond to the Dutch or European values or norms). A symbol of local pride that at the same time creates new financial opportunities (such as new forms of tourism and media distribution).

The primary act of ‘Istanbul on the Maas’ was to define the Western part of Feijenoord as a physical and political entity. In order to express autonomy through geo-political operation, they transformed several of the existing informal activities (the informal beach, the community centre and pirate TV satellite receivers) that are already taking place in the island into formal attractions, institutions and landmarks. Ones that will eventually convert and declare the area as a self-governed neighbourhood-state.

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The Burkini beach, that was transformed from the existing informal beach serves as a unique emancipatory space for the island’s women. As a reaction to the expelling of muslim women wearing burkini’s from European beaches. A public space that would shape a new political reality through emphasizing public realm.
The current community centre of Feijenoord, where inhabitants from the neighbourhood are meeting each other, where different residents are working together and where new ideas for the area are developed, could become the governance building of the island. This institution will play an important role in the political and democratic participation of the ‘Feijenoorders’. In the city-state democracy is brought back to the local community.
The TV tower, is formed from the existing three social housing towers at the entrance to Island. The buildings, once represented the welfare state integration oppression governed by the Dutch state, are now transformed into a huge telecommunication tower, that independently receives data from middle eastern TV channels and transmit it exclusively to the citizens of the island
‘Istanbul on the Maas’, will turn the migrant condition (that might be seen as an obstacle in the way for full integration) to a local symbol of pride and economical prosperity.

Come Dine With Me
The last group (Olivia Forty, Jere Kuzmanic, Signe Perkone and John Lau) took the fact that more than 40% of the people in Feijenoord is unemployed and that a correspondingly large amount of people report being lonely. People in this area lack access to common social structures, such as connection between the individual and society, opportunities and inter-personal connections. In particular, there is no public place, where these kinds of connections could naturally arise. The students argued that space needs to be democratised, in the sense that people need to feel that they are in charge of it, and can take full advantage of it in all its capacities. The question is then: what can connect all these people with their various backgrounds and problems? Their answer to this was ‘food’. Food is universal and it is the most easy and common way of engaging with other cultures – which is preferable in areas where people are less open to socialising. While consuming food is generally viewed as a social practice, making it is normally much more intimate, either done in private or with family. The premise is that, if people not only eat together but prepare the food together too, that will create more space for real interaction and productive encounters. For this it is necessary to take the private function – the kitchen – outside of the private realm – the house – into the public. In this way communal cooking and dining can become a platform for dialogue, a step closer to building a strong community that can fight for improvement.  This communal dining can be event-based, or rather in the mood of a festival or weekend-market, with the aim of building interest and encouraging self-organising and taking initiative. This can also involve healthy competition between members of different communities and cultures. The concept is inspired by the old-school game ‘snake’ with the idea that the dining tables can gradually move across the area picking people up along the way. In that way the tables and the dinner parties can become a physical link and an advertisement.

 

Research on Design and Legislation

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The past few months our chair has been intensively working on a research concerning one of the biggest legislative changes in Dutch history. All the laws concerning the (built) environment, twenty-four in total, will be merged into one overarching environmental planning law (‘de omgevingswet’). Let alone the extensive legislative consequences, this system change will undoubtably impact the way that cities are designed and planned in the Netherlands.

The notion of change for Dutch planning and design has been the start of our investigation. In a series of interviews researcher Jelte Boeijenga and research-assistent Nina Bohm tried to find answers to questions such as: What is the new context designers will have to work in due to the legislative change? What are emerging opportunities for local governments to use design in order to achieve societal goals? What expertises and instruments do designers need to develop in order to answer to the ambitions of the new law?

From these interviews we recognised two developments of rising importance. Firstly, there is an explosion of information availability on the urban environment. That offers an opportunity to develop a platform, an interface, on which all that information is gathered and can be used to jointly design the environment. Secondly, this decentralising law anticipates on strong local-political forces. There, we see an opportunity for designers to employ design in order to contribute to societal and political agendas.

Last month we tested these hypotheses on two future, urban challenges: ‘City and Highway’ and ‘The Energy Transition’. Two focus groups consisting of lawyers, designers and societal experts engaged in our thought experiment on the future relation between law and design.

At the moment we are finalising a research report that explains all our findings from the past few months. In this publication the designer perspective will be very important, as we all too well realise that a broader conversation in the urban design community on this topic has yet to be started. To help instigate the discussion we plan to organise a public event to present and debate our research findings within the Faculty of Architecture end of this year. Keep an eye on this blog and the ‘Ontwerp en Wet’ twitter account for more information.

Recently an informative article based on our intermediary research findings last may has been published in the Faculty magazine B-nieuws.

The 500-mile City

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The rise of globalisation, the development of internet and the culture of connectivity, increased mobility, and above all, the growth of the global city have radically changed the way we think about migration, citizenship and the nation state. Today, these global cities and nation states are transforming in very different ways. While the nation state is declining – not the concept, but the reality – the global city is expanding.

 During the past decade, scientists have compared the data of Facebook users’ place of birth with their current residential address, in order to reveal the top 10 cities that have ‘coordinated migrations’, i.e. the movement of large numbers of people from one place to another. While the concept of Facebook sometimes might be unnerving – Facebook undermines privacy by collecting sensitive personal information and sharing this information to third parties – the enormous numbers of personal data can also give fascinating insights about the world we live in and how it is changing…

article-2529905-1A4E9A1700000578-353_634x357This map represents coordinated migrations over the world. The map highlights the countries with the largest urbanisation growth between 2000 and 2012, according to data from the World Bank. However, data from China is lacking.

 

As the data comparison illustrates, today the biggest arrival cities are located in countries that are rapidly urbanising. In these nations, at least 20 percent of the population of one city has moved to another city within a decade. For instance, Lagos in Nigeria has grown 18.6 percent between 2000 and 2012 as a destination city.

Furthermore, the research and analysis by the World Bank foresee that in 2040 there will be more than 30 global cities or bigger urban areas that will be located in-between two or three nation states, mainly in Africa and some in Asia. For instance, in West-Africa, there is a conurbation of 70 million people which is connecting four different nation states. This continuous urban and industrially developed area is stretching over more than 500 kilometres. Thus, a new urban system is created which links the cities, Accra, Lome, Cotonou and Lagos. Lagos is the most populated of these four places, every day 2.000 new people are arriving in this city.

What will be the future relationship between these large global conurbations and nation states? What are and will be the effects of these massive, transnational, continuous urban areas on daily life of inhabitants and on local economies? Can design play a role on many different scales in this urban situation where there is no longer a strong role for the nation state? What are the local effects of the global exchange of urban design and development? And what will be the role of citizenship and belonging in an increasingly interdependent and increasingly widely organised society?

mega curch in lagosAs congregations in Lagos are so large, mass is often held in a series of buildings, some resembling hangars.

 

These are merely some of the questions we hope to address in our coming Design as Politics programme. Thus, in next year’s graduation studio we will focus on the topic of migration and mobility. This studio is organised with the support of Crimson Architectural Historians, the International New Town Institute and a great number of organisations and institutions that see migration and mobility as one of the defining factors for urbanisation in the near future. Besides, in quarter 3 and 4, we will have a new MSC2 Design Studio and Lecture Series about Urban Africa: the 500 Mile City. Also these courses will be organised in collaboration with the International New Town Institute, and a number of international global parties such as the Dutch Ministry for Foreign Affairs, UN Habitat, local universities and development agencies. We will keep you updated!

 

Exploring Alamar

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Together with the International New Town Institute, we recently took a group of TU Delft Master students to Cuba in order to explore Alamar, a new town just east of Havana. This youngest and most adventurous addition to the city of Havana is a large urban area consisting of mainly prefab apartment blocks with 90.000 inhabitants. Built in the 1970s by microbrigades, Alamar was part of the embodiment of the Revolution itself: a large-scale housing complex for Castro’s workers.

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Several decades later, this revolutionary dream has shown not to be resistant against the ravages of time: Alamar’s apartment blocks are in decay, the neighborhood is isolated from Havana’s city center itself and suffers from a lack of identity and a monotonous cityscape.

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After researching the existing challenges and opportunities of the area together with students of the CUJAE university, the student groups presented short and long term visions for necessary improvements, using the area’s local economy and culture, it’s famous tradition in urban agriculture and the potential for (beach)tourism as transformational tools. The results were among others presented to the Dutch Ambassador at the Embassy of the Netherlands in Havana.

Back in Delft the students will further develop their design proposals. Also a travel guide for Alamar will be made as part of INTI’s New town travel guide series. Both the design proposals as well as the travel guide will be presented on June 24th, during a final event at the TU Delft. Professor Jorge Peña Díaz of the CUJAE university in Havana will be present during this event as s visiting critic. During the same week he will talk about urban agriculture in Alamar during the International New Town Day on June 30th.

A Workshop in Amsterdam’s Vijzelbank Building

Rethinking employment in the 21st century

work space air bnb officeUltra-flexible and cosy workspaces in a AirBNB office – is this the future?


As part of the Design as Politics graduation studio ‘Let’s Work!’, a workshop was organized by Failed Architecture about the future perspectives on work and what this could mean for the Vijzelbank, a building at the crossing of the Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht in Amsterdam’s city centre. Due to changing political attitudes, economic conditions and social and cultural preferences, the way we look at ‘work’ in the urban environment has transformed. In the past decades the Vijzelbank building has seen diverging manifestations of working in the city – from rows of cubicles to ultra-flexible and cosy hang-outs.

In his books The Third Industrial Revolution’ (2011) and ‘The Zero Marginal Cost Society’ (2014) social and economic theorist Jeremy Rifkin imagines the transition driven by new information technologies from a capitalist market economy to what he calls the ‘collaborative commons’. Rifkin describes internet technology and sustainable energy as merging to create ‘a third industrial revolution’. Lateral power is transforming energy, the economy and the world. Rifkin’s books are praised for helping shape the debate on technology displacement, corporate downsizing, outsourcing, global labour mobility, and the future of jobs. The Third Industrial Revolution has been on the New York Times Best Seller List and is translated into 19 languages.

While the change of job policies and the digitalisation of manufacturing is explained in the books, not so much is written about the spatial implications for buildings and cities regarding this ‘third industrial revolution’. These changes, however, will have a large impact on jobs for architects and urban planners – on the way they shape buildings, cities work places and thus societies.
Therefore, in the workshop of Failed Architecture, students started to imagine and discuss different scenarios for the future of a concrete project location, the Vijzelbank. Will the boundaries between work and leisure become blurred in the future – due to decreasing working hours in the Netherlands? Can we start creating new forms of living and working in a shared space? Can we think of a new type of workspace in which facilities such as administration, catering and specialist production are centralized and shared by various organizations and demands? Check it out!

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Symposium: We Care a Lot!

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On the 15th of March we presented our research for the Chief Government Architect on elderly care and aging in Dutch neighborhoods to a group of policy makers, researchers and architects during the symposium ‘We Care a Lot.’ Here’s a report of the day ( in Dutch) by Design as Politics’ Mike Emmerik and Architecture student Hedwig van der Linden.

Wat is de relatie tussen zorg en verstedelijking en de sociale functie van het verzorgingshuis als ontmoetingsplaats voor de hele buurt? Een interdisciplinair team van studenten en onderzoekers van de TU Delft, medewerkers van het International New Town Institute en twee jonge ontwerpers ging in opdracht van Atelier Rijksbouwmeester aan de slag met een ontwerpend onderzoek. In het kader van ‘Oog voor de Buurt’, werden woonzorgcentrum Humanitas in Deventer en de woonzorglocatie ‘Buiten Zorg’ in Zuid-Scharwoude onderzocht. Op 15 maart werden de resultaten van het onderzoek gepresenteerd tijdens het symposium ‘We Care a Lot! Zorg, Stad en Ontwerp.’ In de aanwezigheid van de Rijksbouwmeester en verschillende professionals op het gebied van zorg en ruimtelijke ordening, werd gesproken over de toekomst van zorg in de buurt, en wat de bevindingen uit dit onderzoek voor andere locaties kunnen betekenen.

Probleemstelling: Zorg en ontwerp
Design as Politics’ Hoogleraar Wouter Vanstiphout, binnen wiens leerstoel dit onderzoek is uitgevoerd, trapt het symposium af met een toelichting van de probleemstelling rondom zorg en ontwerp. Hij beschrijft hoe het huidige beleid van extramuralisering in de zorg resulteert in een aantal belangrijke vraagstukken op zowel ruimtelijk als sociaal gebied. Zo zal een groot aantal verzorgingshuizen de komende jaren haar huidige functie verliezen. De raad voor de Leefomgeving en Infrastructuur (RLI) heeft berekend dat dit, samen met gehandicaptenzorg en ggz-locaties, zelfs kan oplopen tot ongeveer 4 miljoen m2 vrijkomend zorgvastgoed. Dit leidt niet alleen tot grote vraagstukken op het gebied van transformatie of sloop, maar heeft ook een sterke invloed op de leefbaarheid van onze wijken, zo stelt Vanstiphout.

Verzorgings- of verpleeghuizen kunnen relatief eenvoudig getransformeerd worden tot bijvoorbeeld studentenflats, maar daarmee krijgt de wijk niet de verzameling van ook voor de (oudere) buurtbewoners toegankelijke functies terug, zoals de cafés, apotheken, huisartsenposten of andere publieke voorzieningen die dikwijls de begane grond van de instelling bezetten. Met het sluiten van verzorgingshuizen in de wijk komt de ‘sociale functie’ van het gebouw als ontmoetingsplaats waar bewoners, en omwonenden uit bijvoorbeeld aanleunwoningen of serviceflats samenkomen om te eten, koffie te drinken of een potje biljart spelen, te vervallen. Hierdoor wordt het moeilijker voor ouderen om sociale contacten te onderhouden, met als gevolg dat sommigen van hen dreigen te vereenzamen. De vraag is nu hoe voor hen een woonomgeving gecreëerd kan worden waarin deze voorzieningen een plaats hebben en waar zij zich geborgen en veilig voelen. Juist rondom de rol die architectonisch en stedenbouwkundig ontwerp kunnen spelen in het faciliteren en vormgeven van deze toekomstige leefomgeving is nog weinig kennis en ervaring ontwikkeld. Dit onderzoek richt zich specifiek op dit vraagstuk.

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Progress Presentations Graduation Studio Let’s Work

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By now our graduation studio Let’s Work! is already up and running for more than half a year. The midterm review is behind us, and coming Thursday we will have another progress presentation in the faculty of Architecture in room C. Mayor decisions about program, location and composition have been made by the students. The presentations will be open for the public, so you are very welcome to join!

Check out what our students are up to by clicking in the links below:

Gintare Norkunaite –  Second Life of the Atomgrad
Martin Dennemark Foundation for Transportation
Zuzanna MielczarekTowards a post-carbon Silesia
Ludo GroenConsumption & Production in Vrin
Wyn Llord Jones – Housing as a means of renewal in the Rhondda
Frederico Riches – Urban Factory
Matiss Groskaufmanis Life That Works