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.
Today, historiographies seem to have moved away from traditional political and diplomatic histories describing cities towards social and cultural approaches. In general, this current shift of interest follows a Late-Modern turn toward the marginalized and marginalizing evidence, and thus explicit hypotheses are tested, and, among others, unbiased data is collected by current biographers. Still, certain narratives stay manifest. Also in Rotterdam. Here, bifocal narratives on the world port and the cosmopolitan city, and the dichotomy among these territories, remain persistent in the most recent biographies. What is seen in everyday space does not match this ontology generally applied in Rotterdam. To greater extent, as such, the samples of the biographies of public spaces as places help to fulfill the most essential public function of researching and abiding justification, while reinvigorating the critical public present in spaces. By opening up to the multiplicity of narratives, the article ‘The Port-City Portrayed in its Public Spaces: Introducing Micro Biographies of Places’ is able to focus on descriptions of Rotterdam which fall outside the scope of the current conventional. Through the lens of ‘biographies of places’, this study particularly follows the so-called material turn, in difference to stories of lives or narratives on actor networks. Hence buildings and artifacts placed in context, are the principal unit of analysis, for a multidimensional interpretation of urban sites across regions and periods.
The approach is operationalized by linking the urban and architectural design of public space, with studies of urban history, literature, cartography, and other urban humanities. This integrated perspective on port-cities is put forward most recently in a wider variety of projects at the LDE Centre of PortCityFutures, which has been promoted and supported for the approach below.
Harteveld, M.G.A.D. (2021) The Port-City Portrayed in its Public Spaces: Introducing Micro Biographies of Places. In: PortusPlus: the Journal of RETE (Association for the Collaboration between Ports and Cities). Venice: RETE, Vol. 12.
Infographic of the Comparative Analyses on the two Sets of Mental Maps
In the Minds of People: The Case of Rotterdam
Following the geographical ‘Any-Port Model’, urban design has stipulated and enforced the disunion of port and city over the recent decades. In conjunction with other disciplines, the emphasis has been laid at the dislocation of production activities in favour of logistic-productive dynamics. At the same time, the professional focus was on the urban areas where most citizens are. While this practice has led to the redevelopment of abandoned harbour areas too, foremost the approach stimulated stronger physical boundaries between lived city and the remaining and new harbour areas. This article describes the application of the dominant model in Rotterdam over the recent decades, on the basis of literature review, and, it confronts this with the concepts of Rotterdam which are in the minds of professionals-in-training, through the method of ‘mental mapping’. On the one hand, mainly harbour areas are memorised when respondents are asked to draw the port-city of Rotterdam, even though its efficient port infrastructure makes public space in these areas rare, and most harbours are located behind inaccessible borders. On the other hand, civic areas, which have a refined network of public spaces and are places for daily life, reveal also all kinds of tangible and intangible signs and symbols related to characteristics of the port-city when memorised; even more. Various elements, linked to water-land or the flows of goods, people, and ideas, dominate the minds of the people when they think of Rotterdam in general. These outcomes reconfirm the unique unity of port and city and provide a way to find an alternative or supplementary model accepting the complex nature of port-cities.
Harteveld, Maurice (2021) In the Minds of People: Port-City Perspectives, The Case of Rotterdam, In: European Journal of Creative Practices in Cities and Landscapes (CPCL), Vol. 4, No. 2.
Images of Port-City Rotterdam, through the Mental Mapping Methods
This article makes explicit why, at first, we do not usually think beyond water, docks, cargo, moving loads, and ships when we think of port-cities. By reviewing mental maps of port-city Rotterdam drawn by professionals in training, it becomes clear that the adjective ‘port’ modifies the meaning of ‘city’ in such an extent that this echoes in the mind. It does exceptionally when respondents are asked explicitly to draw the ‘port-city’ by mind. Port and city seem to have become conceptual dichotomies. In the case of Rotterdam, the established professional points of views seem to be aligned with this disunion, even though the current trend in practice turns towards a desire to (re)develop the port-city as one. Through similar mental mapping experiments on Rotterdam, yet without adding the label of ‘port-city’ in the question, much richer images of the port-city of Rotterdam are generated. Multi-scalar reviews of such maps help to explicate much more inherited relations between nature and artifice, as well as for example the flows of goods and people. Ultimately, this approach changes the perspectives on the port-city, also for professionals in practice.
Harteveld, Maurice (2021b) Images of Port-City Rotterdam, through the Mental Mapping Methods. In: Portus, the Online Magazine of RETE (Association for the Collaboration between Ports and Cities), No. 42-2021, Year XXI. RETE Publisher, Venice, ISSN 2282-5789
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.
source: TV Rijnmond, Tuesday, November 16, 17:35
Resilient Communities | Comunità Resilienti
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
Resilient Communities | Comunità Resilienti
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
Deserted public space in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Image by Maurice Harteveld.
“After working from home for more than five hundred days, our daily lives and rituals have been severely changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, social distancing and other measures have affected everyone’s access to public space and exposed a range of impacts on different levels. Researchers from more than twenty universities explore those impacts in the new open-access publication ‘2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic’.
The crisis in early 2020 immediately brought together the global community of experts on the design of public space. Maurice Harteveld (Urbanism) is part of the scientific board of the Journal of Public Space and distinctly remembers how the initiation of lockdown upon lockdown sparked debate: “Chief editor Luisa Bravo was already in lockdown in the north of Italy, another colleague soon followed in Hong Kong. The progressively worsening health situation led to images of abandoned public space. We started to share local insights, forming a global perspective on the issues arising from the pandemic for the current situation of public space. By connecting with UN-Habitat, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, this became an opportunity to re-think how cities should be.”Deserted public space in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Image by Maurice Harteveld.
Health Disparity, Public Space Restrictions and the Future of Public Space
Shared online initiatives resulted in experts from across the world exchanging experiences of care, solidarity, entrepreneurship, academic perspectives, artistic interpretations, and creative practices of human resilience. The resulting key learnings from the early stage of the pandemic are encapsulated in the publication. The research addresses questions like how we can prepare for the consequences of this unprecedented emergency, particularly health disparity, but also addresses the impact of public space restrictions. More generally, the learnings reflect on what the future of public space might be.
At first glance, the challenges for each urban region might look different. Harteveld: “I vividly remember how Casper Chigama, a community developer from Zimbabwe gave an online presentation from his car, addressing how the local concerns there were about how social distancing might be achieved in the short term. But in the long term, pre-existing concerns on urban hygiene were the main challenge. Another colleague from New York City, Setha Low, mentioned how, even with urban hygiene relatively well organised, she still noticed disparity in access to qualitative public space between different population groups of the city.” In the end, the solutions to these challenges might lie within the same realm of making public space more recognisable on a local scale. People should not only have access to public space from their own homes, they should also be able to identify themselves with these places. “We stay closer to home, shown by trends like the increase of working from home and online shopping, and the consecutive decrease of commuting and going to the city centre,” explains Harteveld. “We clearly saw this in 2020, but the trend already emerges in the 1980s. Today, that means we need to be able to feel at home within the public space. As designers and planners of urban space, we can actively contribute to the detailing and programming of the public space to make such attachments possible.” Harteveld calls this the ‘domestication’ of public space. Fellow researchers observe the same, also at places where urban hygiene and inequality is of urgent concern. Josephine Mwongeli Malonza mentions for example how neighbourhood streets function as public space in Kimisange, Rwanda. The future of public space is local, equitably accessible, and very much an interesting and continuing challenge for urban designers, planners, legislators, and other city dwellers.”
The 500th day at home passed by on Monday 19 July, 2021
2020: A year without public space
Domestication Will Shape Future Public Spaces
A Report from Rotterdam
This commentary aims to provide a window on the future by studying actions, taken to control the spreading of the coronavirus, while obviously affecting public space over a year. What have been the effects on public space directly linked to these actions during the pandemic; what values play a role, and what can we expect for the future? We have seen how immediate responses induced by the COVID-19 crisis influences traveling, gathering, and public life in general. Now, it is time to look further. Having a base-point in Rotterdam and taking The Netherlands as an example, the commentary argues that some shifts in using, appropriating, and experiencing public space will remain. Yet, mainly
those not just being immediate responses to sudden societal change, rather those which
are embedded in long-term change.
Read Open Access Article: Harteveld, Maurice (2020) “Domestication Will Shape Future Public Spaces”, The Journal of Public Space, Vol. 5, No. 3, pp. 53-66. doi: https://doi.org/10.32891/jps.v5i3.1379.
2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic!
new publication of The Journal of Public Space
The Journal of Public Space published ‘2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic’. This monumental publication of 280 pages witnesses the year we all lived on social distance dictated by COVID-19 health emergency, a measurement severely affected everyone’s access to public space and with it creating a range of impacts on different levels. Delft University of Technology, as a worldwide recognised leader in the field of urban design and public space, united with more than twenty universities globally to question; how can we face this unprecedented emergency and get prepared to its consequences, with specific regard to health disparity? Will public space restrictions stay in place after the recovery period? Should we just aim to return to a pre-COVID status quo, or for a ‘better normal’? And more generally, what will be the future of public space?
Maurice Harteveld, part of the scientific board, remembers how the situation induced by the COVID-19 crisis in early 2020 immediately brought together the global community of experts on the Design of Public Space; “I remember how the alarm bells didn’t stop anymore in the third week of April. Health situation worsened progressively in China, and a new decree imposing quarantine became in act in Northern Italy. Public space was abandoned there. Without doubt, we started to share local insights and form a global perspective on the issues arising from the pandemic for public space the current situation of public space.” Together with UN-Habitat, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, this became an opportunity to collaborate to re-think how cities should be.
As the pandemic was moving across different continents and urban conditions, through shared online initiative public space experts across the world exchanged experiences of care, solidarity, entrepreneurship, academic perspectives, artistic interpretations, and creative practices of human resilience, engaging more than 100 speakers during 20 webinars from May to September 2020, and more than 2,700 registered attendees from over 80 countries, including representatives from UNHabitat. Global impact of the online initiative ‘2020: A Year without Public Space under the COVID-19 Pandemic’ has been even broader by counting more than 72,000 page views in that same period. This publication encapsulates key learnings globally from the early stage of the pandemic, which stand relevant to this day when we face squarely the same issues as we step into gradually and navigate the post-COVID era.
Download full issue here