“Take Action #2 – District: Bottom-up meets top-down at eye level”

Jeroen Laven (STIPO), Gert Jan te Velde (Vanschagen architekten) and Paul Elleswijk (Havensteder), write in Take Action #2 about the transformation of ZOHO, the Zomerhofkwartier in Rotterdam. They explain how they’ve used slow urbanism in this former industrial/business area and the use of local key-players like Roodkapje, Hostel de Mafkees and Restaurant Gare du Nord. Since this is a continuance development, follow their Facebook page for more news and recent developments!


“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.”

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

Both images: Hofbogen Rotterdam ©Maarten Laupman

“Reinventing the Ground Floor After 50 Years”

An article written by Arjan Gooijer, Gert Jan te Velde & Klaas Waarheid, all three architect at Van Schagen architecten. An important cause of poor housing and living quality in the post-war Dutch residential areas is the unattractive appearance and mis-use of the plinths of many residential buildings. The post-war areas have been developed from abstract urban conceptions at a district level with merely programmatic targets. The daily use of the dwelling, surroundings, and streets were regarded as less important. But precisely in the everyday use a good plinth is of crucial importance. Fortunately, we can still change things that are 50 years overdue.

“In order to include the high-rise in this urban set-up, a new programme and image has been developed for the plinth of the Florijn-building. By expanding the ground floor space has been created for a new programme of atelier dwellings, entrances, business space and patio dwelling in the ‘plinth of the building.”

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p225a 65-1a_Vissenkommen_old Rotterdam Pendrecht NL BEFORE - CREDIT Stijn Brakkee

BEFORE: Vissenkommen Pendrecht, Rotterdam ©Stijn Brakkee
p225b 65-1b_Vissenkommen Rotterdam Pendrecht AFTER - CREDIT Stijn Brakkee
AFTER: Vissenkommen Pendrecht, Rotterdam ©Stijn Brakkee
Cover image:  AFTER: Schuilenburg, Amersfoort ©Stijn Brakkee



“Uncovering Hidden Treasures”

An article written by Gerard Peet, Frank Belderbos & Joep Klabbers, lecturer, project manager and architect and all close connected with the Nieuwe Binnenweg. In this article they tell the reader about one of the most authentic shopping streets of Rotterdam West, the Nieuwe Binnenweg. The street is already a while under reconstruction. Over the last few decades the street suffered from economic decline and degradation. With a vacancy rate higher than other streets and a rather low variety in shops, the Nieuwe Binnenweg was in need for an upgrade.

“Although the situation was challenging, close observation of the storefronts demonstrated that not all had been lost; over the years, every new shop owner added a new layer to the storefront, avoiding the hassle of deconstructing the old one. (…) These hidden treasures only had to be unveiled to restore the facades to their original quality.”

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p221b 61-2_Nieuwe_Binneweg_Mei2013_70 Rotterdam NL - CREDIT FFH Frank Hanswijk

Both images: Nieuwe Binnenweg, mei 2013 ©FFH Frank Hanswijk

“The Time Machine: Same Building, Different Demands”

An article written by Jos Gadet, urban planner at the City of Amsterdam. Although migration to cities is as old as cities themselves (slightly distorted by the economic and social suburbanization of the seventies and eighties in the 19th century), the nowadays growth of the preindustrial cities in the western hemisphere is rather a specific one. It is based on knowledge and human interaction.

“The transformation process in and around the Frans Halsstraat and the Pijp District as a whole demonstrates an area coming into view of the new bourgeoisie and the emerging ‘creative class’ not only to use and visit the diverse mix of facilities and shops, but also to buy or rent a dwelling. The plinths in this case were not a sufficient, but a necessary condition.”

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p169a 22_P1010344 Frans Halsstraat Amsterdam NL Jos Gadet

Frans Halsstraat Amsterdam by Jos Gadet

“A Plea for Flemish Parking”

An article written by Wies Sanders, urban planner at Urban Unlimited, about parking in Belgium. She explains that not all plinths are equipped with cosy storefronts and restaurant terraces. It would be irritating if every street, without end, enticed you to buy, drink  and eat, especially if you are penniless. A city needs some boring fa.ades, if only to be unseen in the midst of all these people. A city also needs garages, containers, service entrances, connections, and installation spaces and it is needed that they are not denied or hidden in a ludicrous way, but treated as equals in public space. Maybe it requires even more attention because the functioning of the city is increasingly dependent on installations and suppliers. Therefore, this is a pledge for more attention to the interaction between the plinth and the car and technical communication, with the Flemish parking as an example.

“Access to a parking lot does not need to exceed a 2.5 meters width to unlock a new world and a wide range of functions. No wonder it is immensely popular in Belgium! But like elsewhere in European cities the fun is over.”

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p166a 24-2_ArtNouveauGarage Antwerp Belgium Wies Sanders.jpg


“Japan: The Machiya Concept”

For this article Birgit Jürgenhake tells the story of Machiya’s. They are wooden townhouses, with different variations built throughout Japan. Ma means ‘space’ or ‘between’, chi means ‘road’ and ya means ‘shop’. So in other words: a space along the road with a shop. A machiya is usually a dwelling with a shop situated towards the street. The machiya first appeared in the 11th and 12th centuries when merchants in Kyoto, the former capital of Japan, used tables to display their products in front of their house. Eventually the shop was built into the living space with patio gardens bringing light and nature into the relatively small and long house. Although some machiya houses are protected as Japanese heritage, many are disappearing.

“Today machiya are part of the old city centres and streetscapes are filled with them, creating a beautiful and lively urban area, with modern high-rise towering next to them.”

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p161 46-1_Machiya Japan Nozomi Birgit Jurgenhake


“History of the City, Street and Plinth”

An article in our book written by Jouke van der Werf, Kim Zweerink & Jan van Teeffelen, architectural historians and urbanist. Cities are hubs for the exchange of goods, culture, knowledge and ideas. For centuries city streets had a natural vibrancy and dynamic, where various functions came together. This changed in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Throughout the article the writers guide you through the changing ages and the effect on the city, street and the plinth.

“In search of small scale urbanity (between 1970 and 1990) old structured from the 19th century were demolished and replaced n many inner cities by new buildings characterised by human-scale architecture.”

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New York, around 1900

“Close Encounters with Buildings”

An article in our book written by Jan Gehl, Lotte Johansen Kaefer and Solving Reigstad, architects and urban design consultants at Gehl Architects. This article has first been published in URBAN DESIGN International (2006) and was summarized with permission of Jan Gehl.

Historically, town emerged as a result of the exchange between travellers and vendors, selling their wares from booths. Booths became buildings and the pathways became streets. Many urban functions moved indoors. Urban buildings have become bigger and correspondingly introspective and self-sufficient. What we want from the ground floor of urban buildings is different from what we want from the other storeys. The ground floor is where building and town meet, where we urbanites have our close encounters with buildings, where we can touch and be touched by them.

“If the ground floors are interesting and varied, the urban environment is inviting and enriching. If the ground floors are closed or lack detail, the urban experience is correspondingly flat and impersonal.”

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Small units, many doors