TEST SITE ROTTERDAM
A multiple catalyst for redevelopment
ZUS [Zones Urbaines Sensibles], jointly with International Architecture Biennial Rotterdam – Municipality of Rotterdam
The current financial crisis has devastating consequences for building production in the Netherlands. In Rotterdam it has brought the development of the Central District (RCD) to a stand still. What used to be the lively heart of
the city has become a run-down office boulevard with a tremendous vacancy rate (over 100.000m2) and an inhospitable ground level. The dominant large scale infrastructure makes the area even less inviting for pedestrians.
There are ambitious plans for the RCD but realization at this moment seems highly unlikely.
Since 2006 the urban landscape architects of ZUS have been trying to stimulate the debate about city development by means of a series of unsolicited projects. This attitude led, via the realization of the Dépendance – a podium for urban culture, and the Schieblock -redevelopment of a vacant office building, to an encompassing strategy for the revitalization of the area. To kick-start redevelopment ZUS initiated, as co-curators of the 5th International Architecture Biennial Rotterdam ‘Making City’, twenty-one interventions connected with one continuous route: the Luchtsingel. The Luchtsingel is a temporary wooden bridge that will give the area back to pedestrians, connect the scarce cultural developments in the area and reconnect the city centre with its surrounding districts.
The Luchtsingel will make the area accessible and more inviting. It will be part of a new route running from the central station through the Schieblock, over the Schiekade and the railway, straight to the north and historical centre of Rotterdam.
The Luchtsingel will link up these two parts of the city by landing on the roof of the Hofbogen, a new cultural hotspot, including a Jazz club and artist studios. The result will be one clearly marked route creating coherence and legibility.
But the Luchtsingel is more than a piece of infrastructure; it is and will be a catalyst of city development. It will function as the public backbone for further developments on, besides and under the bridge. The Luchtsingel, the Schieblock together with the other 19 projects make up Test Site Rotterdam; an experimental district where new methods of ‘making city’ can be tested. Each project addresses different issues that challenge our living environment today.
A number of the projects, as well as some spin-offs generated by the Luchtsingel and the Test Site are depicted above.
To work within the current economical context new strategies for city development need to be found. Since both the municipality and commercial developers are at the moment incapable of large scale investments the logical alternative is a collaborative, small scale and incremental approach. As a result also the role of the architect needs to change. For the Test Site ZUS acted not only as a designer but also as initiator and curator. The first step in the realization of the project was the formation of an alliance of stakeholders in the area. Inhabitants, global corporations, schools, small entrepreneurs, cultural institutions such as the IABR and the municipality were all actively involved in the planning process. Workshops and meetings were organized in order to find common ground and create a strong base for the project.
Secondly ZUS investigated new business models. The construction of the Luchtsingel, for instance, is realized through crowd-funding. Everyone, citizens as well as corporations, can contribute to the bridge. Participants pay a contribution in exchange for having their name or another message written on a plank, a section or a component of the bridge. It is an ideal way to pull resources in times of crisis and at the same time create a sense of ownership; strongly rooting the project within society.
Tim Peeters graduated with honours from the Delft University of Technology in 2011. Since 2012 works as an architect at ZUS. At ZUS Tim has been involved in a variety of projects, among which the New Meadowlands proposal, the research project Short Stay City and, most recently, the design and execution of Annabel, a new music venue in Rotterdam which will open in October 2015. Besides his work as a designer Tim has written a number of articles and essays for a number of architectural magazines and websites.