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.
In-class on-campus settings have been cancelled due to the situation induced by the COVID-19 virus. Participants of the courses have been distributed over a wide variety of time zones (from -11h to +8h). As a consequence, the graduate course on ‘People, Movement & Public Space’ and graduate design studios on ‘Architecture and Urban Design’ and ‘The City of the Future’ run fully online and on-distance for its 100 registred Delft students and exchange students. This includes an on-demand video lecture series and small weekly assignments that go along. Remote education includes sharing info, presentations, student peer-review, and, in the studio, tutorials, workshops and whiteboard sessions.
The course on ‘People, Movement & Public Space’ provides an overview of vested theories and cutting edge applied research on people’s movement, urban vitality, and public space. This includes seminal works and continues by updating understanding by today’s challenges. The role of citizens and designers in shaping vibrant urban public space is explored through readings, film, and active discussions among participants. The course material, provided in a virtual learning environment, comes alive through active discussions and the direct application of theories in analysing real urban settings.
In the interdisciplinary Master’s design studios, participants discuss and overlap their updates and translate this to urban analytical approaches in a group setting. These approaches are presented to peers and a broad team of interdisciplinary supervisors at least twice a week. The collaborate focus is particularly on the consequences of urbanisation for the major foundations of the city of the future – urban infrastructure and public space –, and with this focus, the ultimate aim is to envision an illustrative and inherently experimental design within the larger set of visions produced by fellow students. In these designs, students and staff are interested on one hand to the urban intervention in the built environment and its effect on architecture, and on the other hand to the architectural treatment of the city and its effect on urban design.
In a special event Chief Government Architect Floris Alkemade gives a glimpse into his new essay “The Future of the Netherlands” and urban designer and architect Maurice Harteveld will explain how the city of the future can continue to offer everyone a place. Discussion is open to the public.
At its 178th Dies Natalis celebration, the Delft University of Technology has announced to remove the boundaries between the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities to cope with big societal challenges. The energy, mobility and resource transitions, increasing urbanisation and populations, and changes in demography need convergence: the integration of sciences in order to accelerate research and generate revolutionary outcomes. Manifold and intertwined problems that come along will be solved by pooling scientific resources if we collaborate in entirely new ways. Delft University of Technology will create a network of living labs, where science and innovation can be put into practice and tested in Rotterdam. Delft is doing this together with Erasmus University Rotterdam and Leiden University, with industry and government.
Design has evolved from largely being product centred through being more user-centred to now becoming human or society centred […] Technology is never neutral, which is why we have to be aware of its implication very early on in its development, in its design phase. Today we are focussing on that particular aspect. Making design choices which do justice to our moral and social values. And, I believe this is a key element for achieving our mission ‘to create impact for a better society’.
For example, more shared and self-driving vehicles will require fewer parking spaces. That results in more public space and greenery, which in turn improves air quality and biodiversity. Moreover, vegetation can serve as water storage, and reduce heat stress due to climate change. Furthermore, if we design those public spaces to encourage walking and cycling, this will stimulate a healthy lifestyle and lead to a better quality of life.
Tim van der Hagen, rector magnificus and president of the university
“After 9 months of researching, designing and discussing new ways of making a city, the results of the design research De Stad van de Toekomst (The City of the Future) have been presented in a festive closing event on 30 November. Over the course of 2018, design teams, municipalities and a large network of involved experts worked on integrated designs for five test locations of 1 × 1 km in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, and Eindhoven. The central question: How can the major transitions that we stand for as a society help to create attractive and future-proof urban environments?” (source)
On January 10, 2018, our research ‘The City of the Future’ has starts. This study explores new ways of city making by using five test locations of 1 x 1 km in the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Eindhoven (five most populated cities in The Netherlands). We question how we can interrelate urban development, whilst urban design, planning and engineering, to upcoming challenges like shifts in transport, energy transition, circular economy and other system and network innovations, in times of the next generation of densification. Continue reading →
Socio-Spatial Processes in Rotterdam
Challenging the City by means of Urban Design
Each year, collaboratively a mix of about 100 students have been challenged to improve the environment of people by strategically intervening in the urban fabric. They have been asked to do so in a sustainable and feasible way, and on a small scale. Next to a majority of urban designers and landscape architects, we’ve seen architects and planners joining the design teams too, and incidentally a social-geographer and a civil engineer. The multidisciplinary approach has added not only to the richness of the scope of solutions, but also and foremost to new understanding of the complex problems the city is facing.
On-Site Expo Hofbogen Project
Exhibition of Design Ideas for the Urban Area around an Abandoned Railway Line at
10th-12th April 2013
This expo exhibits a project focused especially on socio-spatial transformation of the city, as a base for the urban design profession. Nearly two hundred participants illuminate the particular level of scale of the urban project, the scale where urban design meets the human scale. As such, urban design is closely related to (landscape) architecture. By strategically intervening in the urban fabric urban design improves the environment of people in a sustainable and feasible way. These designers understand the design and use of public space in its conjunction to the built programmes, because in the end people make the city.
Delft University of Technology
Aula Congress Centre, Senate Room
‘Interior Public Space, On the Mazes in the Network of an Urbanist’ is the result of ten years of scientific research on the evolution of interior public spaces. It explores the development of the phenomenon in a time era when general accepted theoretical understanding on public space in urbanism has been established, increasingly neglecting or even rejecting the existence of public spaces within the interior. The subject is, and the research cases have been very international. They uncover relatively unknown knowledge and in syntax they are recombined to achieve new and unexpected insights.
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