Category Archives: Education

WE CARE A LOT! – Final report

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In the autumn of 2016 we conducted a research and design project commissioned by the Chief Government Architect of the Netherlands (Rijksbouwmeester) as part of his program ‘Oog voor de buurt’. The topic was aging and healthcare in Dutch neighborhoods. Together with students of the architecture master track, two Design as Politics Alumni and the International New Town Institute, we took a closer look at two specific cases: elderly home Humanitas in Deventer and the assisted living facility ‘Buiten Zorg’ in Zuid-Scharwoude – a village in the province of North-Holland. This led to two reports, one for each area, in which we made recommendations and proposed design interventions for a better integration of healthcare in those neighborhoods – responding to the current and upcoming changes in the Dutch healthcare system which is aimed at living at home as long as possible. We also organized a symposium around this topic. Wanna know more? You can now find both reports on our issuu account here and here (in Dutch only)

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.

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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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

New Graduation Studio 2016/2017!

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We are very excited to announce our new 2016/2017 graduation studio: A City of Comings and Goings – Designing for migration and mobility. This studio starts in September 2016 and is open for students of the Architecture, Urbanism and Landscape Architecture tracks at TU Delft. Interested? Send us your motivation before April 18th!

Migration and mobility define how we use our cities and landscapes. Climate change, conflicts and a globalised economy keep us constantly on the move, whether we are rich ex-pats, hard working labour migrants, young international students or refugees. In this studio we are looking for new perspectives, new solutions, new utopias or new research into this topic. How can we design buildings, cities and landscapes that make the best of our restless lives, that profit from the constant exchange of people, that can withstand the pressures of a growing and shrinking, ever changing population?

This studio is framed within the approach of Design as Politics; critical, bold, and design based research, linked to a specific theme but open for your own projects and you own interpretation. We will organize lectures, workshops, and a field excursion to feed you with new ideas and inspiration for your project, while at the same time challenge you to take your own position.

Are you ready to become a Design as Politics Graduate, willing and able to dedicate yourself to a studio that is at once rigorous and experimental, freethinking and super-pragmatic, individualist yet with a strong team spirit? Then apply for this studio! Send us an email (designaspolitics-bk@tudelft.nl) explaining your motivation to join his studio (max 1,5 A4 / 600 words) and some examples of your previous writings and design. Deadline:  April 18th 2016. Only limited places available.

This studio organized 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 urbanization in the near future. The results will contribute to a large public event in 2018.

A City of Comings and Goings

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2. Generation Bataclan - Liberation

Throughout the coming months Design as Politics is hosting a series of seminars around ‘the spatial dimensions of migration’ at the Berlage – Center for advanced studies in Architecture and Urban Design. At the first seminar, we looked at migration, the trajectories and in-between-stations of the students themselves, who came from all around the world to study at the Berlage. During the next sessions we will continue exploring the different facets of migration, seen through the eyes of various groups of people: from the refugees trying to find a better future for their kids, to the exchange student that decided to spend 6 months abroad, or the seasonal worker who travels back and forth between countries in search for employment and fair wages. They will all be coverd during the coming months as as part of a larger program around this issue. More about that will follow soon!

After the Paris attacks of 13 November 2015, a photograph of the young and diverse audience at the concert of the ‘Eagles of Death Metal’ was published in the French newspaper Libération. Underneath the photo was written in large letters: Génération Bataclan.

It turned out that the victims of the Paris attacks did not only consist of students who have seen the world in exchange programs or foreign tourists enjoying themselves in Parisian concert venues and trendy bars. Most of the victims just were French citizens, some of whom had emigrated from Chile as children; others had parents who came to France from Algeria or Congo in 1970s. The ‘Génération Bataclan’ represents an urban class that is extremely mobile, with networks of relations that spread across the whole world and that can be quickly mobilised for work or a place to stay. The Bataclan generation can be seen as a global generation existing out of ‘citizens of the world’, characterised by post-Coldwar mobility.

It is precisely this ‘Génération Bataclan’ that is inspiring the Chair of Design as Politics, together with Crimson Architectural Historians and the International New Town Institute, to consider migration as a fundamental phenomenon in present-day Europe. In their essayA City of Comings and Goings’ Wouter Vanstiphout and Michelle Provoost argue that by isolating the refuge crisis as a temporary situation, we are ignoring the fact that migration has become a part of life.

It is an interesting idea that the students at the Berlage Institute also belong to this ‘Génération Bataclan’ and are part of a group characterized by moving; by coming and going. In the first seminar students made a diagram or visualization of their own trajectories and ‘in-between-stations’ in life. Where do they come from? Where did they live in the past years and how did they come to Delft?

It turned out that for some of the students the administrative procedures upon arrival were not as welcoming as for others. Some are already thinking about their next destination in life, while others are dreaming to go back to their country of origin. And all of them are conscious of the fact that belonging is an active process.

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