“Slippery Squares and Concrete Buildings”

CASE STUDY: Schouwburgplein, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

An interview with René Dutrieux, project manager at the planning department of the Municipality of Rotterdam. In this case study Dutrieux will tell you something about Schouwburgplein, the theatre square in the centre of Rotterdam. He will explain it’s course of time and their challenges, like the low amount of activity on the square. People tend to pass the square or enter the buildings without staying on the square before the beginning of a show. By explaining it’s solution and secrets the reader gets great insight about the improvementof Schouwburgplein through a course of time.

“It’s important to show the cultural richness and modern heritage to the citizens”

Click here to read and download this articlep181 49-2 Schouwburgplein Rotterdam- CREDIT Vereniging Verenigd Schouwburgplein

Both images: Schouwburgplein Rotterdam  © Vereniging Verenigd Schouwburgplein

“Hofbogen; a Vision for the In-Between Plinth”

An article written by Henk Ovink, Senoir Advisator of the Hurricane Sandy National Spatial Planning for the Nederlands Ministry and co-editor of Design and Politics. The plinths in the city are the swinging doors between wet and dry, warm and cold, inside and outside. The plinth tells the story of the building as you enter it, or even before you go in, as its billboard, an advertisement of the inside. And at the same time the plinth reflects the city (sometimes literally) the power of the urban space, the place. The plinth is a border and at the same time, the membrane of the city; the swap space to look at, touch, and pass through.

“There are two scales for the Hofbogen line to fulfil this promise of urban reformer. On the scale of the city, it can re-connect the city centre with the surrounding landscape, by using the former rail track as a biking or hiking path. By rebuilding the mistakenly demolished bridge leading to it, the Hofbogen can become the connector to all layers and levels of the city.”

Click here to read and download this article

p235b 43-3_Hofbogen Rotterdam - CREDIT Maarten Laupman_HQ.jpg

Both images: Hofbogen Rotterdam ©Maarten Laupman

“The Importance of Local Heroes”

Hans Appelboom, owner of Duikelman tells about his experiences as entrepeneur. Duikelman is a specialty kitchen equipment store in the bohemian neighborhood of The Pijp, Amsterdam.

How does ownership and local control over real estate influence plinth redevelopment and revitalization?

“I’d like to make a remark on the often heard idea of a necessity for flexibility in (the use of) property and the levels of rent. Project developers and landlords on speculative base tend not to think on a long term. Often they set for the highest return on their investments, resulting in tenants of the well known kind. Real estate owners should be involved in an early stage in new plans and strategies in order to convince them that a long term vision is better for everyone.”

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de kracht van specialisatie
Both images © Jan van Teeffelen 

“By the Power of 10”

The Power of 10 is a simple idea. The foundation of the concept is that a good place has many activities and good reasons to be there, maybe 10 or more. Norman Mintz, a pioneer of the ‘Main Street’ movement, explains the Power of 10 by using the Bryant Park in New York as a example. Mintz is also Senior Associate for Project for Public Spaces and has many experiences with using the Power of 10 for placemaking processes.


“To bring about change, implementation is where it starts. It’s one thing to look to the city or planning department for guidance and leadership. But the real and best test to any revitalisation project is community involvement. The merchants or the city do not own the downtown, the people own it.”

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p081 12_Carousel-Bryant Park New York USA PPS.org

The carousel in Bryant Park: a good example of the Power of Ten. It also serves as an excellent example to illustrate the principle of ‘Triangulation’. Notice that the Carousel has other activities attached to it, such as a playful and engaging ticket booth and a ‘reading room’ in scale for children. Just beside it (out of the picture) is a ‘game area’ for children and a special area for children parties.

“Iconic Thinkers”

An article in our book written by Meredith Glaser and Mattijs van ‘t Hoff, both urbanist.

The idea of “The City at Eye Level” is not new: many iconic urban planning thinkers have been instrumental in influencing the development of a humanscale urban planning and design in our (inner) cities. In this article you can read more about the great iconic thinkers who are relevant to today’s planning.

“Another key feature of the street is retailing – stores, windows with displays, signs to attract your attention, doorways, people going in and out of them. Big new office buildings have been eliminating stores. What they have been replacing them with is a frontage of plate glass through which you can behold bank officers sitting at desks. One of these stretches is dull enough. Block after block of them creates overpowering dullness.” – William H. Whyte (1980)

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William H. Whyte, The Social Life of Small Urban Space

“In the Meanwhile”

An article from our book by Emily Berwyn, director of London-based company Meanwhile Space. In 2009, the recession was beginning to hit hard in the UK; businesses were going under, developments stalled, high streets were declining and unemployment was soaring. We noticed that vacant property and lapsed developments were a missed opportunity in the ‘meanwhile’, and it was almost impossible to access these spaces. The abundance of empty properties compound the decline of high streets (also called main streets), yet local people who need space to develop new business ideas and innovative uses for high-street spaces are excluded by the archaic property industry. It seemed to us that there was a great opportunity here—if only we could get hold of the space!

“Our vision for an ideal ground floor is one where vacant space does not exist; that vacant periods are foreseen and ‘curated’ to give people a chance to test an idea, in a highly visible, low risk and affordable way, even for a few weeks or months. This requires a transparency of ownership, a flexible approach to bureaucracies, and a central point all the knowledge on an area so it is easily accessible.”

Click here to read and download this article

p260a 71-4. Queens Parade, Willesden Green BEFORE London UK - CREDIT Mike Massaro

BEFORE: Queens Parade, Willesden Green London UK ©Mike Massaro
p260b 71-5. Queens Parade, Willesden Green AFTER London UK - CREDIT Mike Massaro
AFTEr: Queens Parade, Willesden Green London UK ©Mike Massaro
Cover picture: Cottrell House, Wembley London UK ©Dostofos



“Street as Places”

In the second article of the book, Fred Kent, founder and president of Project for Public Spaces, and Kathy Madden, co-founder of PPS, have a conversation about placemaking with The City at Eye Level. Project for Public Spaces, also know als PPS, a backbone organization in the United States, acts from the ideology that placemaking belongs to everyone.

Practically speaking, placemaking is turning physical public spaces into places that support human interaction, economic exchange and well-being. Placemaking aimes to transition the street back to a series of places, a series of activities. We call it the art of the path. These are all places that attract people in different ways.

“In Italy everyone knows what a piazza is. It’s the gathering place where people come together. It’s a way of life. People are deeply attached to their local piazza. That’s the feeling we’re trying to create.”

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Stockholm at Eye Level

Last October we spent 5 very busy days in Stockholm delivering a Plinth Game, Stockholm Edition. We very much enjoyed our days in Stockholm; there was great enthusiasm and momentum, it was great to walk the streets with the 40+ participants. We learned so much from the process and from their questions. We hope this will lead to many new collaborations in the new year.
We are very pleased to share the final, extensive report, with all the results of the workshops. It consists of three parts:
  1. an introduction to the why, what and how of investing in a better Stockholm at Eye Level;
  2. the overwhelming results of our plinth game, visiting 12 locations in Stockholm, giving ideas for concrete improvement and conclusions for criteria for better plinths (bottenvåninger!) and
  3. ideas for your follow-up strategy, also based on the open space workshop we held on Friday with the whole group.

To stay informed, we’d like to invite you to become a member of our Facebook and our LinkedIn Group. It would be great if you could contribute to the discussions; starting soon, we will launch the plinth of the week (each week on Monday, a new plinth to be discussed, sharing international examples of good and bad examples), the chapter of the month (calling for reactions) and other discussions and inspiration.

Thank you Stockholm!


Museumplein: from space to place

About 30 participants came to the placemaking session on Friday, including the Director of Concertgebouw, the Alderman, urban planners, entrepreneurs, and city- and neighborhood-level leaders. After an tntroduction by Fred from PPS and a short summary of Thursday’s placemaking game at the Pakhuis de Zwijger, we all headed out into the cold October air to walk  Museumplein and the surrounding areas.

At one point Fred conducted a mini-placemaking game with the group and that really got the juices flowing! Everyone split into smaller groups and came up 10 programs for 10 spaces in different parts of the square. There was lots of enthusiasm!

What were the goals of the day? It was basically a reconnaissance mission: we were trying to connect the institutes, users, (residents, entrepreneurs, institutes, visitors), with the space of the Museumplein. We wanted to rediscover and reconnect the different parts of Museumplein to the places and destination they have the potential to be. We also had in mind the Power of 10, to take it down a level and think in terms of programming the space.


What were some immediate results, quick wins of the day? No doubt about it: a growing energy and a growing network between the participants. A sense that it doesnt have to be difficult: it can be simple, short-term, experimental solutions that make the difference. In the end, iterative place-based strategies means that nothing is permanent. So when can we begin?