Category Archives: News

A Different Approach To Migration

citta futura


While many European countries, cities and villages are discussing how to solve the ‘migrant crisis’, the rural village of Riace in the South of Italy has found its own way to turn the influx of immigrants and refugees to revive their shrinking village. We at Design as Politics wonder what other places in Europe can learn from the approach in Riace? Why are migrants for example not located in areas where work is available? Can we deal with the refugee crisis not only as an isolated problem, but also as a far more widespread phenomenon? And can we think of ways to bring multiple interests into the picture? … We don’t know the answers yet, but will for sure keep (re)searching, discussing, and talking about this issue. We have an event coming up this week together with Crimson Architectural Historians, and more to come next year, that’s for sure! We’ll keep you posted.

Along the coast in Riace, a small rural village in Calabria, Italy, signs are placed saying: ‘the beach and the sea are free for those who come here to swim, and for those who arrive here swimming.’

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Riace – once an almost abandoned village, which was in danger of becoming a ghost town as people left to northern Italy for jobs during the economic growth – has today secured its own future by offering homes and jobs to migrants who arrive in the village. At this moment over 400 hundred refugees and migrants from twenty-five nationalities are living in Riace and make up one quarter of the total population.

Welcoming refugees allowed the village to preserve basic public services such as schools, as well as shops and businesses that had almost all vanished. “Without foreign children, this school would have remained closed” says teacher Maria Grazia Mittica. “But the number keeps changing. Because foreign children come and go.”

According to the mayor of Riace, Domenico Lucano, the arrival of these people creates optimism – both for the people who arrive, as for the citizens of the village itself. “Whatever the challenges, this has to be a better solution for migrants than being locked up in a holding center where their children cannot go to school.”
Some years ago, the mayor of Riace contacted the owners of since long uninhabited houses asking them to make the houses available for refugees and migrants. The houses would be refurnished and a little rent would be paid. Most of the owners agreed. A foundation was established, named ‘Citta Futura’, which would receive 30 euros per day of the Italian State, intended for housing, language training, medical costs and workplaces. The Citta Futura hands out token that can be exchanged for food in local shops. The refugees receive monthly 250 Euro for their daily needs. They can earn additionally 500 Euro if they work. Special workshops are established where migrants can learn old crafts.

30 Euro per day per migrant might seem like a lot of money, but staying in a huge refugee camp costs about 70 Euro per day per migrant. The Riace funding comes from a national protection programme for refugees and asylum seekers, SPRAR, and is granted for one year stay for each new villager. If the year is over and the refugee has not found employment at that time, s/he has to go. According to Lucano, 10 percent of the migrants can stay after one year in the village. Others look for jobs elsewhere in Italy or abroad. It seems sad that many of the people have to leave after one year of living in Riace, but they at least have had the opportunity to learn the language and a profession, while they also have had access to medical care. Conversely, they keep the village alive. Without these people, Riace would be an empty town.

Riace might seem like an extreme example, but we think lots of European cities can learn from the approach of this village in Calabria.

Can we for example locate migrants in areas where work is available to them, like in Riace? In the Netherlands the majority of the refugees are staying in thinly populated parts in the northeast, while most job vacancies are located in the Randstad. This makes it very difficult for migrants to learn the language and to integrate.

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Can we deal with the refugee crisis not only as an isolated problem, but also as a far more disseminated phenomenon, and can we think about how to bring multiple interests in the picture? Migration has fundamental causes and it is an illusion that one can solve the refugee crisis by strengthening borders and finding ‘regional solutions’ as some people are arguing. Refugees and migrants spend over a billion euro a year in order to reach Europe, while Europeans pay a similar amount to keep them out. Europe’s restrictive immigration policy has been a windfall for the companies that serve it and for human smugglers. Can’t we use this money for creative solutions instead of paying these companies and smugglers?

The real problem in our cities, countries and societies today is not migration, but the inability to take in and adapt to new residents. By looking at the refugee problem in isolation we are denying that migration has become a fact of life and one that will not increase in the coming decades.

Announcements and upcoming events:

  • The first event around this topic  will already take place this week in the New Institute, together with Crimson Architectural Historians, Wouter Vanstiphout and Michelle Provoost will discuss the  Spatial Implications of the immigration Crisis.  Reading Migration – Nieuwe Instituut, Thursday 17 december 20.00 – 22.00.
  • Starting in January next year, we will host a series of seminars around the spatial dimensions of migration at the Berlage – Center for advanced studies in Architecture and Urban Design. More info Soon!
  • At the beginning of next year we will publish a Design as Politics Long Read on migration and design – coming soon!
  • In the course of next year we will organize a symposium on his topic together with the OTB Research institute for the built environment. More info Soon!
  • And more… (but you’ll hear about that later)

Wouter Vanstiphout wins Pierre Bayle Award for art criticism

Pierre BayleDe Rotterdam_Ossip van Duivenbode

The Board of the Pierre Bayle Foundation has awarded this year’s Pierre Bayle Awards for art criticism to Design as Politics’ professor Wouter Vanstiphout and design critic Ed van Hinte. Both prizewinners will receive their award from Guus Beumer on the first of December in Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam.

The jury praised Vanstiphout for its strong social commitment, his outspoken and literary way of argumentation and the great political urgency of what he addresses. The jury report states:

His quirky and independent vision is practiced from an ongoing construction of knowledge and a deep understanding of the cultural complexity of the architecture and its creation. Vanstiphout hereby often takes up the gauntlet against the establishment that has determined the architectural culture in recent years. This laid the foundation for a profound and challenging oeuvre that breaks open and boosts the architectural debate, sharpens our judgment and gives the built environment relief and meaning. “

 The Pierre Bayle Prize for art criticism has been awarded every two years since 1956 to a critic who, according to the regulations, ‘over a period of years has executed his or her mediatory role in a constructive, systematic and literary manner worthy of respect’. The Pierre Bayle Prize is an oeuvre prize awarded every two years to critics in various art disciplines (visual art, letters, drama, dance, music, film, architecture and design). Those eligible are art critics who operate from a position of independence, with a keen understanding of and critical distance from their subject, and who offer not only sharpness in debate but also perspective.

The Award ceremony is free of charge. Please register in advance at: Language: Dutch


Book: Are We The World? Available soon!

Available soonD&P#6 Are We The World

We are extremely proud to announce that our first book ‘Are We the World? – Randstad Holland, São Paulo, Istanbul & Rotterdam’ will be for sale from November 1st!

In this book we look at the export of Dutch design and planning, which has been exported for decades across the globe. After a successful period in which the polycentric Randstad model was held in high esteem, followed by the fresh, modern approach of the Super- Dutch architects, the resources and expertise of Dutch institutions have been employed for projects in Asia and South America.

But, are Dutch ingenuity, pragmatism and process management the ideals that the explosively expanding or shrinking cities of the 21st century are most in need of? Isn’t the city more of a political question – of accessibility, equality and democracy? What does the Dutch model offer global cities and what can the Netherlands itself learn?

‘Are We The World?’ is part six of the Design and Politics series, an initiativefrom the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, which examines the relationship between planning, design and politics. This part has been put together by the chair of Design as Politics, under the supervision of Wouter Vanstiphout at TU Delft. The book compares the Randstad with São Paulo and Istanbul, and speculates about alternative visions for city planning and idealistic architectural intervention for the cities involved. ‘Are We The World?’ is not only a plea for a central role for city planning, and an active exchange of ideas, but primarily for new political involvement.

Colour Your Space


One of the important factors leading to attractive cities and neighborhoods, is the quality of the public space. Still we know very little of what people really think of their immediate surroundings, while they are the ones who use it the most.

This is one of the reasons our PhD candidate Els Leclercq is currently developing an app as part of her dissertation. The app allows anyone to assess, rate and record the quality of their public spaces in a simple way in their own time. This does not only generate empirical data about the status of our public space by a variety of users, but the tool could also be used to increase the input of local residents and users in any regeneration project. Based on an unbiased assessment, spaces can then be reconfigured with design interventions that are responsive to the experiences and aspirations of daily users. 80% of the Dutch population now has a smartphone and could potentially engage in new more democratic forms of changing cities.

In a first step to test this new form of interactive consultation, a pilot project was launched at Tiendplein in Rotterdam. Local residents, business operators and passers-by are being encouraged to give their opinion of the public realm in an easy and straightforward way via their mobile phones. The output will eventually be used for the re-design of the square.

Also interested in rating  your local area, wherever you are in the world? Then download the app Color your Space from the app store. All feed back is at this stage enormously helpful to be able to further develop Color your Space.

Follow the progress and results of Color your Space on facebook.


The Republic of Veneto


“Ballot” is not originally an English word: It comes from the Venetian word ballotta, or “little ball.” For centuries, councils elected the Doge of Venice, who ruled the city-state, with small silver and gold balls. Now Venetians have put their modern equivalent to good use in a bid to declare independence from Italy. And they have a pretty good case to make for restoring their once-mighty republic.

Last week, in a move overshadowed by the international outcry over Russia’s annexation of Crimea,, an organization representing a coalition of Venetian nationalist groups, held an unofficial referendum on breaking with Rome. Voters were first asked the main question—”Do you want Veneto to become an independent and sovereign federal republic?”—followed by three sub-questions on membership in the European Union, NATO, and the eurozone. The region’s 3.7 million eligible voters used a unique digital ID number to cast ballots online, and organizers estimate that more than 2 million voters ultimately participated in the poll.

On Friday night, people waving red-and-gold flags emblazoned with the Lion of St. Mark filled the square of Treviso, a city in the Veneto region, as the referendum’s organizers announced the results: 2,102,969 votes in favor of independence—a dubious high number of 89 percent of all ballots cast—to 257,266 votes against. Venetians also said yes to joining NATO, the EU, and the eurozone. The overwhelming victory surprised even ardent supporters of the initiative, as most polls before the referendum estimated only about 65 percent of the region’s voters supported independence….

……Read more of the original article on Atlantic Cities

Wouter Vanstiphout’s office ‘Crimson’ @ X São Paulo Architecture Biennale

Track Changes CCSP1

While political unrest and even riots reverberate through the streets of Brazil’s major cities, in São Paulo the 10th Architecture Biennial was opened on 12 October 2013. Wouter Vanstiphout’s office Crimson Architectural Historians in collaboration with The New Institute will organize the Dutch contribution, titled Track Changes.

Track changes will contain conversations, presentations and encounters about the drastic changes that a society undergoes during periods of economic, political or social crises, as well as the role that architects and urban planners can play in this regard.

An international group of architects, city planners, economists, architectural historians and critics will discuss whether a small-scale, participation-oriented way of working can offer relevant answers to current economic, political and social questions, or that they on the contrary should be designing large scale infrastructure, masterplans and services. Through publicly comparing and discussing concrete projects from five different continents the participants will try to find common ground and in that way try to make design socially significant and politically relevant again.

“In three days of open discussions, we’ll explore what we have in common, but not without first precisely defining our differences,” say the Crimson historians. “Perhaps our most important ambition is to bring architecture and city planning out of the academic ghettos and the black boxes of politics and the market and return them to the centre of public debate.”

The participating professionals will discuss specific projects as they relate to issues raised by Crimson. Three discussions will take place: We the People, on the democratic value of master plans, particularly the new one formulated for São Paulo; What’s Your Crisis?, on how a sudden lack of financial resources, political crises and dramatic social changes are forcing architects to reevaluate their way of working; and Bottom-Up Is Not Enough, on how bottom-up projects can exceed their small scale and become integrated into top-down plans.

Track Changes takes place from November 4-7 at Centro Cultural São Paulo (CCSP). Amongst the invited guests are Fernando Botton, Elma van Boxel, José Armênio de Brito Cruz, Fernando de Mello Franco, Rupali Gupte & Prassad Shetty, Charles Holland, Luís Pompeo, Damon Rich, Nanne de Ru, and Carlos Teixeira.

British Pavilion at Venice 2014


Wouter Vanstiphout and his office Crimson Architectural Historians have been selected together with FAT Architecture and writer Owen Hatherley, to curate next years British Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale.

The ‘super group’ had to compete with a team consisting out of architect David Knight, journalist Oliver Wainwright and planner Finn Williams to the job, which will see them put together an exhibition relating to Rem Koolhaas’ call on national pavilions to respond to the theme Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014.

Crimson, FAT and Hatherley proposed a project titled ‘A Clockwork Jerusalem’ with an exhibition concept that critically responds to Koolhaas’ statement that modernism has erased all national and regional differences in architecture.

Vicky Richardson from the British Council, said: “We look forward to working with FAT, Crimson and Owen Hatherley on ‘A Clockwork Jerusalem’. The selection committee felt their approach was both challenging and poetic, and that their work will make an important contribution to understanding modernity in British architecture.”

The 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale is being directed by Rem Koolhaas and has a working title of Fundamentals.  It takes place from June 7 to November 23, 2014.