Port Cities: Diverse and Inclusive


Rotterdam, photo by Iris van den Broek

“Waterfronts have been and in some (smaller) cities still are contact zones of people from diverse backgrounds: public spaces bring together dockworkers, displaced people, casual labourers, and trans-migrants waiting to board ships for overseas travel. However, waterfronts have been looked upon as places of otherness in need of social reform even at the turn of the twentieth century. Since the 1960s, container districts and offshore ports further increased the separation between ports and cities. Following containerization, waterfront regeneration has become a worldwide tool to overcome the range of social, cultural and public health issues associated with the nineteenth-century waterfront. Urban renewal and gentrification have been central to many of these programs that took off beginning in the 1980s in most European port cities. Rebranding has been an essential part of bringing new capital and new people into neighbourhoods next to former dock areas, which normally would not have been of interest to private investors.”

Read our full online column on Port Cities as Hubs of Diversity and Inclusivity: The case of Rotterdam, with Carola Hein, Paul van de Laar, Sabine Luning, Sarah Hinman, Amanda Brandellero, Ingrid Mulder, Maurice Jansen, and Lucija Azman. Happy to be part of the multidisciplinary Port City Futures research programme, an inspiring Leiden-Delft-Erasmus initiative.

Here, my field of urban design and public space is extended again to cultural anthropology, human geography, urban sociology, environmental psychology, and challenged by other domains!

Public Space for all Nations

Good public spaces enhance community cohesion and promote health, happiness, and wellbeing for all citizens.

It has been with this quote that UN Habitat launched the Global Public Space Programme in an aim to improve the quality of public spaces worldwide. Of course, without doubt, the programme stands for a crucial challenge to make our urbanised world better, but what to do? The ideas on this have been matured and agreements seem to saturate the scope at the recent Habitat III conference held last week in Quito. A list of final set criteria is emerging, but this cannot mean that we’re done… By no means this listing will work if stakeholders do not accept that people gather on a variety of places around the globe, in a variety of cultures, hence not just in those urban spaces which are created by Western idealists’ minds: publicly-owned outdoor space.
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