The history of The City at Eye Level dates back to Stipo’s search for true sustainability. The direct reason to start writing the first book was the Plinth Strategy for the inner city of Rotterdam. Since then, the project has been growing. It continues to do so, with new partners and contributors joining the global network.
Stipo was founded at the beginning of the 90s to create urban environments that are truly sustainable. Cities and areas are sustainable and resilient if they are able to adapt to each decade’s and century’s needs and desires.
We study the characteristics of areas that have proven to function well throughout decades and centuries. We analyse their deeper lying characteristics, so we can then use them as a guide for transformation and building new areas. We come to five core values:
- Long lasting quality. Flexibility and the ability to ‘breathe’ according to each decade’s desires and needs.
- Soul. If a place has a distinguishing identity, people will care for it more, and end up keeping investing into it through the ages.
- Function variety. The bigger the mix, the more flexible and vibrant the area. A city should be layered; mono-functional areas are inflexible and vulnerable.
- Ownership. When citizens, the users, feel ownership over their own area, and they are allowed and able to develop this ownership, they will invest into their areas.
- Public quality. Public space must be the backbone, keeping variety and flexibility together and providing space for human interaction.
In our view, public space is not about the horizontal level, but about everything you experience on the street as a pedestrian: the city at eye level. So, creating great streets and places for people is a crucial key to sustainable and resilient cities and communities.
The direct history of this book lies in Rotterdam. Since the bombing in World War II, Rotterdam has been reinventing itself. Until recently, the focus was on rebuilding and building production was sometimes more important than the quality of the buildings and streets. High-quality and successful buildings, plinths and public spaces can be found side-by-side to places and buildings with little quality and little success. From the mid-90s, the emphasis in Rotterdam shifted from quantity to quality.
The expertise of international experts like John Worthington inspired civil servants and market forces. Driven professionals such as Jan van Teeffelen (co-editor of the first edition of the book) embraced the inspiration, and made the lessons applicable. They paved the way for a new view.
In 2011, the inner city planning department of Rotterdam asked Stipo to help invent a plinth approach. We started with three pilots, and ended up developing a plinth strategy for the whole inner city. The great plinth team of the City of Rotterdam made it all possible: Renate Veerkamp, Gábor Everraert and Emiel Arends played and still play an important role in implementing and further developing the strategy. We were privileged to have support from the Economic Development Board Rotterdam, who stressed the urgency of good plinths, and from many stakeholders in the inner city.
First edition, 2013
The development of Rotterdam’s plinth strategy led us to a mild form of professional deformation. Suddenly we saw bad plinths everywhere, and complex and simple ways to improve them. At the same time, by looking around, we discovered many inspiring examples of good plinths from around the world. This was good enough reason for us to compile this book, as an inspiration for all those people working on good plinths and for those who would like to.
This is how the first edition of The City at Eye Level came about. We launched the book in 2013 with 40 contributors. We are extremely grateful for the professionals from around the world who selflessly contributed to the book, by writing an article, partaking in an interview, or developing content.
Designer and architect Paola Faora helped us with the beautiful design of this book. Meredith Glaser, Mattijs van ‘t Hoff, Jan van Teeffelen, Jeroen Laven and Hans Karssenberg interviewed, edited, wrote and developed the first book. The production and promotion of the book was possible due to the help of AIR, the EDBR, the City of Rotterdam, the Delta Metropolis Association, the EFL Stichting, and Locatus.
Second edition, 2016
Since the launch of the first book, the City at Eye Level grew into an international program. The first book appeared in 2013, was written with 40 contributors and focussed on good plinths in Europe and North-America. The second book now brings together 90+ contributors, offers best practices from ALL continents and has a broader view of placemaking and the entire street level experience.
We have new topics that were previously missing, such as the urban soundscape and wayfinding. Again, we drew integral conclusions for action throughout all chapters at the end of the book. This time, we go more deeply into how to turn the insights into concrete action in practice.
We are very proud to see new partners join: UN Habitat, Future of Places, Project for Public Spaces (PPS.org), Gehl Architects, FAU PUCRS University of Porto Alegre in Brazil and Copenhagenize.
Portuguese / Brazilian edition, 2015
Our network partners in Brazil, FAUPUCRS University in Porto Alegre, have translated the new edition into Portuguese. With them we have launched the Brazil version in Porto Alegre and Sao Paulo in October 2015. More than 700 professionals from cities throughout Brazil attended – a wonderful event.
From other countries new initiatives have started to translate the book. From our open source principle we gladly collaborate.
Developing the network further
The coming years, we aim to:
- develop The City at Eye Level into an open source knowledge sharing platform together with our partners
- expand the network of contributors and members on Facebook
- get new chapters on best practices and insights
- share the knowledge through launches, lectures, workshops and on the internet
- set up new projects with cities and communities, in collaboration with the network of contributors and partners
- help develop new translations to open up to new languages.
For lectures, conferences, workshops, projects and translations, please contact us.