On City

  1. Rotterdam te huur

    Wilhelminaplein te huur

    Vacant NL’ was the title of the exhi­bi­tion for the Dutch pavil­ion at the Venice Archi­tec­ture Bien­nale 2010.
    The exhi­bi­tion has con­cep­tu­ally sum­ma­rized a research high­light­ing unused and empty pub­lic build­ings all over The Nether­lands, while propos­ing strate­gies for tem­po­rary reuse. After 5 years and two other Bien­nales, the theme of vacant space is still of utmost impor­tance in The Nether­lands. Per­haps, Rot­ter­dam is the most afflicted city due to its post-industrial atti­tude. How­ever, vacant indus­trial spaces are cou­pled by a whole array of empty office build­ings, which spread through­out the city center.

    In 2014, Rot­ter­dam was crowned best city in Europe at the Urban­ism Awards and a recent inter­est­ing online arti­cle describes Rotterdam’s post WWII renais­sance (Dafne​.com), while high­light­ing some major issues still affect­ing its urban environment.

    Dur­ing an after­noon of the last year, we crossed Rot­ter­dam city cen­ter col­lect­ing a series of pho­tos that clearly tes­ti­fies how much vacant space is out there. Our focus has been mainly on office spaces to rent. (more…)

  2. Keeping up appearances

    On Wednes­day 12 Feb­ru­ary 2014, a Dutch his­to­rian involved in urban plan­ning was quoted in a pub­lic state­ment as say­ing the fol­low­ing: “By the strength of design, we can draft and draw the cities of the future. But with all stake­hold­ers involved from day one, we have much greater pub­lic sup­port”. At first read­ing, it may seem as a gen­uine attempt to get stake­hold­ers involved in his projects. In order to make cities a bet­ter place, of course. After dis­sect­ing his words more care­fully, how­ever, it becomes all too clear what ulte­rior motives he has.

    “By the strength of design, we can draft and draw the cities of the future”

    This is rather straight­for­ward, albeit a lit­tle old-fashioned: sure, design­ers have the abil­ity to make vision­ary mas­ter plans as blue­prints for a bright and shiny future. But haven’t we sort of passed that phase by now? There’s noth­ing wrong with rigid plan­ning, as Le Cor­busier under­lined in his book Air­plane: “To those who love life, I say pre­pare plans. MAKE YOUR PLANS ! …”. We all wish we could make a plan that –on paper– fixes all of society’s prob­lems and shows us the path to a bet­ter life. That’s ok. But to put that in a pub­lic press release 80 years later and con­sider it inno­v­a­tive seems a lit­tle ignorant.

    “But with all stake­hold­ers involved from day one, we have much greater pub­lic support”

    Right. This is fun: let us involve stake­hold­ers solely for rais­ing pub­lic sup­port. Of course, why bother with all those ideas –based on years of prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence– that each of the stake­hold­ers has of their own? Nui­sance! They’ve already MADE THEIR PLANS! It’s the clas­sic exam­ple of pseudo-collaborative plan­ning: pre­tend like you care, but by all means don’t engage your­self with the true com­plex­ity of spa­tial planning.

    1. Make your plan;
    2. Find any way to get it done.

    Fol­low the path of least resis­tance, espe­cially if there’s lit­tle time and money to invest in an inte­grated strategy.

    Fine, but if you take that route, do it right: force your opin­ion on oth­ers, while cred­it­ing the stake­hold­ers for their input. Van­ity with­held them from doing the lat­ter. The whole pur­pose of col­lab­o­ra­tive plan­ning is to use design as means to visu­al­ize dif­fer­ent poten­tials (final states) in order to be able to reflect on alter­na­tive strate­gies (processes) together with all stake­hold­ers involved. Plan­ning and archi­tec­ture are two dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines. In gen­eral, archi­tects don’t make good plan­ners. Those archi­tects that do make good plan­ners, are often not very inter­ested in archi­tec­ture to begin with. We’ll agree that a project draw­ing can be a visu­al­iza­tion of a future state, but plan­ning most cer­tainly is not merely the process of get­ting there.

    Wait a minute, what exactly is the role of a his­to­rian in all of this anyway?!

  3. no speed limits

    cover last

    In the last two years I have been com­mut­ing, daily, 97.6 km to work.
    That’s the dis­tance between Rot­ter­dam and Antwerp. I first cov­ered it by car even if it was impos­si­ble to get passed third gear, since in rush hours the free­way can get more crowded than a vernissage with open bar.
    Then I decided to turn to the famously effi­cient pub­lic trans­port, con­fi­dent that a respon­si­ble cit­i­zen should make use of a col­lec­tive mode of trans­port. And that’s when things went really nasty.
    Despite many years of Euro­pean Union, the sched­ule of the trains between Hol­land and Bel­gium, two coun­tries the size of a donut, is planned by peo­ple who seem to hate one another, and every­one else on those trains too.
    After the Fyra dis­as­ter, involv­ing a big draw­back for the ital­ian engi­neer­ing pride, there was only one ride every 2 hours to reach my des­ti­na­tion. And most of the time these trains were can­celled, result­ing in long and frus­trat­ing waits at the plat­form. You know your fel­low com­muters by the des­per­ate look they have when con­fronted with the fact that NO, they won’t be able to kiss good­night their kids, again.
    So, I was think­ing, is there a solu­tion to this con­gested mobil­ity? If we can’t save the com­mon man while he is at work, we can per­haps free him on his way there.


  4. City Mall


    Many Dutch cities dras­ti­cally changed and devel­oped their cen­ters from the 50s and 60s onward. In places such as Zoeter­meer, Almere, Rot­ter­dam and so on, the city cen­tre devel­oped around one main activ­ity: shop­ping. So far noth­ing new, but the impres­sive aspect is the extrav­a­gance and mon­u­men­tal­ity reached by new shop­ping roads and malls within the city’s core. In con­trast with the sobri­ety of Rot­ter­dam’ Lijn­baan devised and real­ized right after WW2, Zoeter­meer shows a new scale and image of the shop­ping. In Rot­ter­dam, a sim­i­lar attempt is rep­re­sented by OMA’s Coolsin­gel project, the ini­tial pro­posal was def­i­nitely dar­ing due to its crazy struc­ture and large scale. (more…)

  5. Red Light Xmas


    Every year I tell myself: This is the last time I go home for Christ­mas. And every year I punc­tu­ally go.
    Why don’t I like going home for Christ­mas is because it’s a full time activ­ity. Nobody rests in Christ­mas, if you are rest­ing you are not help­ing! Buy a gift, See the aunt, make a call, tie a knot, rob a bank.. it’s end­less. Christ­mas 2013, How­ever, was unique because it marked the begin­ning of a new city trend: The light­ing fes­ti­val. (more…)


Latest Comments


on 12+ h. a day, 6/7 days a week

2017-08-06 12:09:32

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multitude- multitude

on Survey

2015-04-01 13:27:31

[…] the spon­ta­neous responses to the last ques­tion of the sur­vey car­ried out in […]

Conrad Newel

on 12+ h. a day, 6/7 days a week

2015-03-23 18:10:56

@Colt Sievers I will be the first to agree with you on all counts. I would love to read that article. If you ever want to publish it on my blogg please do not hesitate to contact me.

Colt Sievers

on 12+ h. a day, 6/7 days a week

2015-03-23 16:58:10

@Conrad having worked in one of those offices that you mention, I have found your post as much provocative as naive and simplistic. I should make an entire post to explain why... will leave that for later. Thanks, anyway, to keep the discussion alive

Conrad Newel

on 12+ h. a day, 6/7 days a week

2015-03-23 16:45:07

Besides my terrible diction or lack thereof this raises another issue. Should we really feel outrage or sympathy for these interns? After all the ones who can afford to take these kind of jobs are the sons and daughters of the wealthy. What this letter is, is infact symbolic capital and social significance for sale. The rich kid can buy this piece of significance for among other reasons to go to a party and say to his less affluent counterpart, "hey I work for SANAA, or DS+R or whoever. Where do you work again?" Its a status symbol, just like a porsche, or a private jet. Affordable to a selected few that can afford it.


on 12+ h. a day, 6/7 days a week

2015-03-23 16:33:21

right... irony or sarcasm in non-audible communication... a class of its own.

Conrad Newel

on 12+ h. a day, 6/7 days a week

2015-03-23 15:54:17

@slartibartfast I think you are missing my specific sense of humor as agata pointed out. :)


on 12+ h. a day, 6/7 days a week

2015-03-23 12:15:26

@Conrad Newel You are draw­ing quite a career minded sce­nario there in your post­ing, in an imag­i­na­tive world of glam­our and star­dom. If this image is, what keeps your engine dri­ving… fine. Oth­ers might have dif­fer­ent moti­va­tions work­ing in this pro­fes­sion, than brag­ging at a party about ones ‘cool’ employer. Isn’t archi­tec­ture about social issues in the first place, rather than build­ing sky­scrap­ers in Dubai? If interns are con­tribut­ing to an offices work­force and thereby to its suc­cess, they should be com­pen­sated accord­ingly, at least to cover bare exis­ten­tial needs, such as rent and food. Sim­ple thing.

multitude- multitude

on Amplifier #0000

2015-03-23 00:27:29

[…] On Work […]


on 12+ h. a day, 6/7 days a week

2015-03-22 18:00:15

@Conrad is this article you wrote on unpaid interns for real or do you just have very specific sense of humour? Same with your sexist article on female architects. Hopefully you are joking :)


on Survey

2015-03-22 17:52:22

brilliant, thanks a lot.

Conrad Newel

on 12+ h. a day, 6/7 days a week

2015-03-22 11:32:20

Hi This is Conrad Newel. The question should be why would this project manager think that anyone would want to take a job under such horrendous conditions? There are in fact lots of compelling reasons! The economy of the starchitecture profession is such that value is not just simply a matter of money in exchange for labor. There is symbolic value in working for a firm like SAANA. They know it, the hundreds of students that bombard them with CV's asking for internsips know it, the whole architecture profession knows it. So this should not be as draw dropping as everyone seem to be making it out to be. There is a whole culture and system of symbolic values that made such a situation and such an email possible. And everyone is culpable here, from the people who award the prestigious prizes, the schools that invite and celebrate starchitects, the magazines that publish them, and the centers of architectures around the world that put their works on a pedestal. I wrote more about it here in this post. http://famousarchitect.blogspot.com/2015/02/103-unpopular-proposal-argument-for-why.html I am playing devil's advocate here with tongue firmly in cheek. But it outlines some of the more compelling reasons why this is a fanatically attractive offer for any student who wants to assimilate the world of high architecture. And until this culture changes, this event will be a temporary glip of outrage until another starchitect firm gets careless and makes another fuck up of an email.

Robert Shimer

on 12+ h. a day, 6/7 days a week

2015-03-20 22:04:47

I hope the applicant replied, thanks for nothing I can starve at home , and I doubt I would learn that much there except how to take advantage of others for my personal gain. I hope to provide my architecture as art to make the world a better place, not make my self rich on the backs of others

Starchitecte cherche stagiaire exploitable et corvéable à merci. | L'Abeille et l'Architecte

on 12+ h. a day, 6/7 days a week

2015-03-19 11:40:20

[…] par le site Multitiude, en novembre 2013, mais ressortie des tréfonds d’internet cette semaine, une […]

Colt Sievers

on Survey

2015-03-18 14:27:32

Hi Agata, the survey ended up in a digital publication that is available online on ISSUU, below the link: http://issuu.com/multitude/docs/amp_0000_2014