The Open City

Nowadays we make cities to much as a closed system: segregated, regimented, and controlled. Instead of this 'Closed City' we need an 'Open City' where citizens actively hash out their differences and planners experiment with urban forms that make it easier for residents to cope. This is the main message of urban sociologist Richard Sennett in his new book 'Building and Dwelling' that came out last month. Yesterday he gave an inspiring lecture at the Rotterdam Academy of Architecture and Urban Design where he discussed some highlights of his new book.

Placemaking week 2017: the highlights
It felt like a kid in a candy story. So much inspiration during Placemaking Week 2017 in Amsterdam. With more than 400 attendees from 46 countries the key conditions were fulfilled. Besides the wonderful opening speech of Fred Kent ("We have to turn everything upside down, to get it right side up") and a lot of other interesting presentations and discussions these are my favorite candies.

Playable cities
Well-designed and well-maintained public spaces stimulate social encounters, physical exercise, a sense of community, cultural and economic development. Also for children public spaces are of great importance. Playing outside improves their health, enriches social skills (sharing, collaborate) and puts their brains at work (cognitive development). But how to make a playable city? There are a lot of checklist with do's and don'ts that can guide you. But the most important things for play…

How to make inviting and attractive public spaces? A top 10.
Public spaces come in many different sizes, shapes and forms. Squares, parks, playgrounds, shopping and residential streets, all belong to the outdoor space. They can be found in inner cities and beyond. They can be both big and small. Despite this diversity, there are a number of factors that determine whether a public space attracts or rejects people. In this article, a top 10 - in random order - of items that can serve as a checklist for the realization of an inviting, lively and attr…

Governing Urban Diversity
In the last decades cities have become more diverse than ever before. Individuals who at first sight appear to belong to a fixed group may show different attitudes and behaviours. They may live in the same neighbourhood, but lead very different lives and have access to different opportunities. A European research team examined how cities can deal with and benefit from this diversity.

Privately Owned Public Spaces: curse or blessing?
Last week I saw some interesting information at the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR) about the so-called  Privately Owned Publicly-Accessible Spaces (POPS). POPS are a specific type of open space which the public is welcome to enjoy, but remain privately owned and maintained. What are the pros and cons of these POPS?

Small is beautiful
In order to increase the quality of life in cities, it is not necessary to make major investments or interventions. During the past years unloved spaces in London were transformed into ‘Pocket Parks’ – tennis court sized green retreats for local neighbourhoods to enjoy.

Urban Agriculture
Urban agriculture is hot and happening. Underlined by the opening today of 'De Schilde', Europe’s largest urban rooftop farm. This unique farm stands at 40 meters high, and will grow 50 tons of local rooftop vegetables and 20 tons fresh fish all year round. Taking urban agriculture to a new level.

Toronto Tower Renewal
Toronto, the city of towers, is facing a major challenge as 1.200 high-rise residential concrete frame buildings are approaching the end of their effective service life. In the so-called Tower Renewal Program different parties are trying to improve  the quality and  the energy efficiency of these high-rise buildings. It will also - indirect - generate social, economic and cultural benefits by creating local green jobs, increasing small-scale retail, and upgrading green space. I spoke with Graem…

Arrival cities: the need for precision
In the winter of 2015 the City Builder Book Club, an online book club about cities, is reading Doug Saunders’ award-winning best-seller Arrival City: How the Largest Migration in History Is Reshaping Our World. An interesting book about migration to urban centers around the globe with illuminations on all sorts of paths, policies, and people. I was invited to contribute a short response on chapter 10 ('Arriving in style') about migrant neighborhoods in the Netherlands (Amsterdam), Bangl…

Pop-up City; city-making in a fluid world
After the success of the blog, this summer the book arrived: Pop-Up City. A city where existing urban planning frameworks and architectural landscapes do not hinder spontaneous human activity, but rather serve as an encouraging platform for innovative, inspirational and time-bound activities. In the book a diverse collection of these temporary initiatives pass by. Ranging from funny ideas to interesting improvements to the urban landscape.

We Own The City
Last week the book ‘We Own The City’ was launched in Amsterdam. The book is about the rise of community planning. It focus on the way traditional top-down players are employing to enable and support bottom-up initiatives in cities. The result is a book with descriptions of inspiring urban development processes around the world.

Torre David; informal vertical community
In Caracas stands an unfinished 45-story skyscraper. Despite the physical shortcomings it has become an improvised, continually revised home to more than 750 families. Urban-Think Tank, an interdisciplinary design practice, spent over a year studying the physical structure and the social organization that turned this ruin into a ‘squatters’ home. They summarized this process - were the planned city meets the lived city - in a wonderful book.

Triumph of the city
It is probably the most pro-cities book of the last years: Triumph of the City. Written by Edward  Glaeser, Professor of Economics at Harvard University. The book’s core thesis is that ideas spread easily in dense environments. “We must free ourselves from our tendency to see cities as their buildings, and remember that the real city is made of flesh, not concrete”. A summary and review of the book by using some of my favorite statements.

Arrival City
In 2011, the British-Canadian journalist Doug Saunders wrote the bestseller 'Arrival City' about the drift to the city. Because of this process, there are worldwide more people living in the city than in the countryside since last year. The Guardian called it "the best popular book on cities since Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities." That was reason enough to travel to Leiden, where Saunders gave a lecture.

Making Vital Public Spaces: the power of observation, community wishes and activities
Last Thursday Fred Kent, president of Project for Public Spaces, gave an inspiring lecture in Amsterdam about placemaking: a community-driven, bottom-up approach for improving public spaces. Over the past 37 years, Kent has worked on hundreds of projects, including Bryant Park and Times Square in New York. “We have to turn everything upside down, to get it right side up.”

Places in the making
In the past, remaking cities has been the stuff of big visions and product-focused interventions. Now, as cities try to rejuvenate themselves, there is a new approach: bottom-up, flexible, temporarily and interactive. 

Gurgaon: the unplanned/planned city
Since 1991, India has been going through an enormous economic rise. The new middle class, who in the past sought their salvation abroad, are now looking for accommodations in satellite cities with large houses and a public space that has to be clean, intact and safe. Gurgaon, a suburb of New Delhi, is such a place. In ten years time, three to four big developers have created a new world for about 1.5 million people. An extraordinary urban development in which the correct relations between marke…

What's in a name?
Maps provide a modeled representation of the earth’s surface: a geographical representation of the countryside or the planned city. On the basis of different kinds of lines, shapes and colors, you get an overview of the most important roads, buildings and facilities. Convenient for those on the road. However, there are also so-called typographic maps, these are maps with mainly words. Words that can be places within the physical structures to represent a social theme or an activity: the lived c…