In preparation to Design as Politics’ contribution to the 5th International Architecture Biennale of Rotterdam, we organized a series of research & design studios. In each studio two subject cities from the IABR test-sites were lined up with each other to reveal similarities and differences in development and approaches.

1. Sao Paulo vs. Randstad Holland: Urban Region Networks
2. Istanbul vs. the Randstad’s Green Heart: Managing the Unmaneageble
3. Rotterdam vs. Detroit: Can Less Be More?

1. Sao Paulo vs. Randstad Holland: Urban Region Networks
In the Design Studio Urban Region Networks students worked on a vision and spatial development strategy for the integration of mobility and urbanization for the Amsterdam region, as a subregion of the Randstad.

Part of this work were investigation of spatial developments at the regional scale, interpretation of them through analysis of social, economic, and technological driving forces, consideration of the implications for sustainable development and social equity, and examine the potential for effective intervention through spatial planning and design.
The studio used a subregion of the Randstad as a case study and analyzed its transformation from a ‘network of cities’ into an urban region network. Students position this subregion within the Randstad and in its European context. They create spatial strategies based on future demands for mobility and space, the dispersal of economic activities and other forces.

The emphasis is on research by design; linking theory, case-study analyses, vision forming and design interventions in frequent interactions.
Students work in teams and use a range of methods in analysis
and design. Their outputs combine vision statements, regional design concepts, strategic plans, key-project interventions and other planning

2. Istanbul vs. the Randstad’s Green Heart: Managing the Unmaneageble

The second studio carried the theme ‘managing the unmanageable’. It  investigated the organization of diverse, conflicting powers on highly urbanized territories of both Istanbul in Turkey and the Randstad in The Netherlands. The seemingly contrasting planning regimes [one of them top-down and the other more or less self-organized] of Istanbul and the Randstad are facing a comparable future urban challenge: the question of the Public Realm and public space in the new city-extensions on the one hand, the thread of rapid urbanization of natural forest, water and agricultural land reserves in northern peripheries of Istanbul and the water and polder landscapes of Green Heart on the other. The notion of the ‘public realm’ refers to the space in society where people meet, where they can ‘be heard and be seen’, where ideas are exchanged and associations can be formed. According to the philosopher Hannah Arendt, this is a crucial realm in a vital democracy. This notion is definitely but also loosely related to concrete public and collective spaces. Thus in architecture and urbanism, this notion is extensively questioned as well.

3. Rotterdam vs. Detroit: Can Less Be More?
In seemingly two parallel universes two cities show an extremely accurate and similar evolution. Therefore the third Twin City is about the challenge faced by Rotterdam and Detroit to create a vibrant, metropolitan urban atmosphere and economy, while the city as a whole is not growing, even might be shrinking, and has an extensive, even fragmented structure. A city facing this challenge needs to make strict choices about concentrating program in certain places, needs to sometimes trim and triage underused buildings and infrastructure, in order to concentrate the existing program in such a way as to become vital and attractive again. After negative experiences with top down urban renewal projects, this process of optimizing the structure of a city in relation to its size, needs to be done in a responsive way however, making use of the existing actors and political dynamics; and of the existing urban and landscape qualities and heritage, while also imposing a strong and comprehensive new program on the city. This the challenge that both the city of Detroit and the city of Rotterdam are facing the coming years.

Student Projects:
Roderick van Klink: Urban Emptiness – Re-Financing Hofplein
Sylvester Klomp: A new Detroit
Tim de Rijk: Detroit Bowling Community
Joep Kuys: Detroit as a Linear City