The Subsurface as a Building Block for the Future-Proof City
The approach to urban transformation tasks is undergoing a major overhaul. After all, there is insufficient space to accommodate today’s major challenges – in the areas of climate, energy, circular economy, mobility and housing. It is high time we learned to look at our cities through three-dimensional glasses and to view the public space and buildings in relation to the subsurface. By tackling tasks from the cross-section (instead of the plan view), new and surprising solutions are brought to the table, which not only lead to an improvement of the living environment but also encourage multifunctional use of space.
Urban design, architecture, and landscape architecture student teams within the City of the Future Lab, and multidisciplinary design teams from practice have set to work in Amsterdam, Leuven, Maastricht, Mechelen, Ostend and Rotterdam. Together with academic and municipal experts, they have developed design propositions and exemplary solutions for city making in times of major transitions, and they have reflected on the importance of the subsurface and designing from the cross-section.
This design research resulted in a publication in Dutch. ‘Ontwerpen vanuit de Doorsnede’is the result of a collaboration between TU Delft, the COB Platform of Subsurface Construction, the Environmental Department of the Flemish Government, and the Delta Metropolis Association.
Title: Ontwerpen vanuit de Doorsnede
De Ondergrond als Bouwsteen voor de Toekomstbestendige Stad
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Centrum voor Ondergronds Bouwen / COB Platform of Subsurface Construction
Departement Omgeving Vlaanderen / Environmental Department of the Flemish Government
Deltametropolis Association / Vereniging Deltametropool
Health is an important societal topic in the Netherlands. In one of the most densely populated countries in the world, healthy living environments reduce diseases, deaths, healthcare costs, and shifts focus from prevention and medicalising on the individual levels to taking care of communities. Still, for example, the air quality in the Netherlands is considered moderately unsafe, resulting in the highest rate of asthmatic children worldwide. The same goes for recordings of diseases related to polluting substances on land and in water. This makes public spaces social determinants of public health. We see similar correlations when it comes to the presence of infectious microbes and parasites, and environmental stress. Especially in world port-cities like Rotterdam unhealthy conditions coincide with unequal socio-spatial patterns. Here the impact on individual health is largely untraceable. Understanding the impact of inherent industrial and human activities on urban areas at the neighbourhood level and crossing it with heterogeneous data sets help us understand the socio-spatial impact of pollution-related and vector-borne diseases on cities. Measuring environmental pollution in public spaces can tell us e.g. more about the impact of air quality on citizens as a group. Statistical time series and cross-sectional data analyses can be applied to generate valid correlations if they are made geo-specific. By using machine learning and AI technologies we cross data on environmental pollution with other heterogenous socio-spatial and temporal data sets. The use of mapping, spatial statistics, and urban narratives including historical data can lead to a better understanding of the lived experience at the local level. Through workshops at the local level and notably in the public spaces of the city, we engage the general public and local decision-makers in discussions on public health using advanced computer models for visualisation. The Rotterdam case study provides insights applicable in other cities internationally.
Rosalie Moesker, an urban designer in training in our team, makes the cross-over to health. As the campus of Erasmus Medical Centre densifies, not only accessibility is at stake, more so, the human experience while traveling. In the city of the future, the medical centre needs new mobility concepts. When we design for these, we can relieve users of worries by reducing urban stress at their arrival, and rethinking public space as a healing environment during stay.
Following earlier presentations of the Design of Public Space research group from Delft, Maurice Harteveld participates in the ‘Empowering Resilient Communities’ event organised at the Italian Pavilion at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, on Friday 12 November, from 2 pm. As part of the international scientific committee of the pavilion, he will reflect on various Italian projects, which will be presented in this session. His review relates to a broader inventory of actions, which are being currently taken in the networks of public space to strengthen community resilience. Rotterdam serves as an exemplar, and as such these actions challenge the design of public space, and with that among others the disciplines of urban design, landscape architecture, and architecture.
The Italian Pavilion has organised the event as an opportunity to present and discuss some of the experiences already included in the research project Mapping Resilient Communities, while providing a platform for knowledge transfer and capacity development, especially in most vulnerable areas, in Italy and beyond, with the participation of UN-Habitat.
Friday 12 November
17th International Architecture Exhibition
Venice Continue reading →
With the event, the Italian Pavilion aims to raise awareness on urban resilience, from the environmental, economic, and social point of view, in relation to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda, on the occasion of Urban October promoted by UN-Habitat. The event has also been scheduled on the occasion of the UN75 celebrations before the Venice Biennale was postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
An expert from the Joint Research Center of the European Commission will introduce the Agenda 2030, and invited Italian speakers will present case studies, which already are included in the research project Mapping Resilient Communities – co-created by professionals and urban activists who have experimented and implemented multidisciplinary practices of resilience in Italy and abroad. The event includes a thematic session coordinated by TU Delft, Netherlands, with professors and students affiliated to the Design of Public Spaces Research Group. Finally, a round table discussion is planned with the involvement of the audience attending the live streaming.
Friday 6 October
17th International Architecture Exhibition
Venice Continue reading →
In this video, you will get an explanation on how mental maps help us to (re)imagine port-cities in two steps: First, by explaining generally why people draw what they draw, and second, by explaining how images of port cities, as displayed in mental maps, are rooted and influenced by cultural frameworks of experience, and how they are biased according to the particular background of the beholder.
In this video, you hear more about the concept of a ‘mental map’, the mapping method, or the underlying theory, and why it matters, and how you can use it to educate others.
But before you watch, choose a port-city, and do a small exercise: sketch a map of your port city from memory.
If you have trouble getting started, just imagine you are walking through your port city. What would you see on the way? Are there specific elements or landmarks that stand out? Those are the kind of elements to include in your map. And don’t worry about getting all the details exactly right, it is just a sketch…
Do this all by yourself: close your laptop, put your tablet to sleep, turn your smartphone around, do not consult any books, and do not talk to anyone…
Draw your map on a blank, unlined sheet of paper, and don’t spend more than ten minutes on this task!
Don’t worry about details; this map is not meant to be perfect!
Propositions under Continuously Changing Urban Conditions
Massive urbanisation puts pressure on public space and demands new programmes along with alternative gathering places such as public interior spaces and a variety of forms of collective spaces. Moreover, in the rapidly changing city, infrastructure and mobility remain of vital importance. A co-evolving diversity of programme cannot be planned, but interventions in the city need constantly to be grounded on sharp design approaches to respond adequately to the necessities of the time: While being environmentally sustainable, given the available resources.
In general, infrastructure, mobility, and public life manifest themselves in various forms as carriers of such urban development. Design experiments, as put forward in our new book, show how to work with continuously changing urban conditions, with mobility transforming cities whilst with public spaces taking various forms, with programmes which hybridise, and with new technologies to keep up with the urban dynamics. Given these themes, designs should carry awareness of the inclusiveness and accessibility of various systems and places, facilities, and technologies. Spatially this means questioning how to keep the city open and connected, attractive, and liveable? Continue reading →
Imagine: You are asked to draw a port city from memory. What would you put on paper? Do you think of harbours? Water, docks, cargo, moving loads, and ships? If your drawing shows these elements, don’t be surprised. Sixty-five graduate students also took on the challenge. In answering: “draw the port city of Rotterdam by mind”, the drawings of the participants (fig.1) displayed exactly the above features. Of course, this makes sense. A port just happens to be a place on the water in which ships shelter and dock to (un)load cargo and/or passengers. A harbour is a sheltered place too, and in its nautical meaning, it is a near-synonym for sheltered water, in which ships may dock, especially again for (un)loading. So, all the above linguistic lemmas are there and all these are connected to imaginable objects.
Port cities are a particular type of territory and are often long-standing examples of resilience, bringing opportunities, wealth, and innovation to their nations and their citizens. They have developed at the crossroads of international trade and commerce and the intersection of sea and land. Flows of people through trade and migration have played a key role in their spatial, social and cultural development. Their strong local identities share legacies of diversity and cosmopolitanism, but also of colonialism and segregation. The Qingjing Mosque in Quanzhou, Fujian speaks of the exchange between Arabia and China along the maritime silk road. Hanseatic cities stand as an example of far-flung networks with districts for foreign traders—think of the German merchants who established Bryggen, the German dock, in Bergen, now a UNESCO world heritage site.
Port cities are places that accommodate change —and often thrive as a result. As logistical patterns, economic organization, spatial structures and technological devices have evolved, port cities have consistently provided spaces and institutions to host changing social, cultural and demographic needs and have built their local identities around them. Chinatowns, for example, are emblematic of many port cities worldwide. For many centuries, traders and merchants depended on the interaction between local traders and short- and long-term migrants of all classes. To maintain and facilitate shipping, trade or organizing defenses, traders, workers, and citizens have come together and developed long-term strategies and inclusive governance systems. Built around trade, these shared practices have not always benefitted everyone. Colonial port cities hosted the buying and selling of enslaved people as well as minerals, animals and opium. Many workers lived in squalid conditions in walking distance to the port. The degree of tolerance and inclusion depended on the extent of ethnic diversity overall, the degree of spatial and social segregation in the city, and the economic structure of the urban economy.
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. In select cases—such as HafenCity Hamburg—planners and politicians have consciously opted for spatial and social inclusion.
Rotterdam as a port city reflects the long-term history of migration traditionally related to shipping and trade in all aspects, but since the 1970s the working port is no longer a decisive pull factor. Other international, national and local factors have changed the city’s population characteristics. The past decades have seen increasing diversity in ethnic groups and religions but also increased variation in socio-economic statuses among inhabitants with a migration background. Rotterdam hosts so many ‘minority’ migrants that it is now considered a superdiverse city where 52%, and in some districts, almost 70% of the population have a migrant background.
Rotterdam’s hyperdiversity—a term meant to acknowledge the multiple causes of diversity—has challenged existing local integration policies. The city government’s development strategy focusses on a balanced composition of the population and regeneration programs in combination with new residential, sustainable urban planning and branding strategies aim to assure integration. Like other cities with major waterfront revitalization activities, Rotterdam is witnessing a gap between cosmopolitan aspirations boosted by international capital and symbolic waterfront architecture and the existing reality of a hyperdiverse population inhabiting the urban fabric. Redevelopment projects of former waterfront port areas, such as Lloyd Quarter, RDM and M4H stand as examples. Yet, like other cities with major waterfront revitalization activities, the question arises: to what extent is Rotterdam widening the gap between diverse neighbourhoods and gentrified port-city redevelopment projects? There is a potential risk of economic segregation as authorities, educational and cultural institutions aspire to build the post-industrial economy on the port industrial foundations of the past, neglecting those areas where a linkage to the maritime mindset of Rotterdam as a port city is hardly felt let, alone visible.
Rotterdam needs to find ways to come to terms with political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of its port city. That is one of the major challenges for Rotterdam in becoming an inclusive city. What is needed to connect Rotterdam’s migration narrative (and that of other port cities) to further the inclusive city ambition, using its present hyperdiversity, and acknowledging the value of diversity for creativity, innovation and making the next port city? Exploring the key values of an inclusive post-industrial, hyperdiverse port city drives the research agenda of our multidisciplinary LDE PortCityFutures program.
The Leiden-Delft-Erasmus PortCityFutures program employs multi-disciplinary methods and longitudinal perspectives to understand and design political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of spatial use in port city regions. It explores how the flows of goods and people generated by port activities intersect with the dynamics of the natural environment, hydraulic engineering, spatial planning, urban design, architecture, and heritage. It examines the spatial impact of competing interests among port-related and urban spatial development needs and timelines. It explores creative solutions and design measures to problems and considers their implications for the future use of limited space that will allow port, city, and region to thrive.
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