Dutch city Rotterdam crowdfunds a bridge

bridgerotterdamModern development had cut off a pre-war thriving core of Rotterdam from the rest of the city and officials said a connecting bridge would take 30 years to finance.

So a team of young architects decided to crowdfund it.

More than 1,300 planks later, each one stamped with the sponsor’s name, the first 18 metres of the wooden Luchtsingel bridges two downtown halves of the Dutch city.

The project’s slogan: “The more you donate, the longer the bridge.”

“Looking at it I still sometimes don’t believe it’s happening,” Koreman said.

“It’s a new reality. We have retreating governments and an ongoing economic crisis. But people are no longer simply going to wait for things to happen.

“There is a soft revolution going on.”

ZUS architects, founded by Koreman and Elma Van Boxel in 2001, and the International Architecture.

Biennale Rotterdam managed to raise $130,000 in the first four months of the project in 2012.

The city plan called for property development and building first, then the bridge. ZUS decided to do it the other way around.

Ultimately, the Luchtsingel (air bridge) will zig over the highway and rail lines and zag into the cut-off area called Hofbogen with 17,000 sponsored planks.

A plank costs $32.50 and a segment $162.50. The project, I Make Rotterdam, was underway when it won a popular vote competition for a government grant that kicked in another $4 million in infrastructure money that speeded construction.

Rail lines and a highway had split the centre and north parts of the city for decades, Koreman said.

“Rotterdam has adopted this way of planning, that if you just keep on building, the rest will come afterwards.

“After the war, a very modern regime had taken place: Big-scale, car-based high rises. This is still determining the main fabric. What we are currently finding out is that we have to rediscover the potential of those places.

“Right about now, we are on a turning point, we have all these beautiful skyscrapers but now we should spend our time rethinking those buildings, streets and places created but not yet fully occupied.”

Given their experience, ZUS is keenly interested in other city core developments, including Toronto, Koreman said. He has joined in workshop discussions in Vancouver on alternative architecture and would happily do the same in Toronto, he said.

“We want to see if maybe that’s our next step. We have developed a model here and would love to test it on other locations.”

Koreman and Van Boxel developed their model gradually.

“We had a healthy suspicion against things that would be normal in the ’90s,” he said.

They took on projects “we believed should happen but there wasn’t a client yet. It slowly turned into our core business. Project developing and the business case for a building.”

Their own office was in a derelict multi-story building in Hofbogen that the city wanted to tear down. They persuaded officials to give them five years.

“The city just wanted to build more new buildings that basically there is not a real demand for. They said it’s ugly and we want to build towers.”

ZUS set up a development company and started renovating. Now the building houses 80 different companies (factories, offices, restaurants, clubs, a bike shop and a roof of urban agriculture), the start of the resurrection of an area that made the need for the bridge even more pressing.

Next they’ve got their eye on an abandoned tower near the eventual 320-metre bridge.

“We’ve got the keys for two years from the owner. He gave us carte blanche to experiment. We’re tapping into all kinds of events which are being programmed in the city: exhibitions, lectures, hotels, bars.”

For 24 hours in June, the tower will burst into life with something different on every floor: Camping, a hotel, a roller disco on the 21st floor.

ZUS’s germ of an idea for the tower, though, is to gut it and leave just the frame where shipping containers could slot in spaces for whatever a business wanted to try: plug-in modules spawned with microfinancing.

“Financing doesn’t happen in big chunks any more, but more gradually. Designing time is more important than designing space. That’s what’s happening right now in Europe,” said Koreman.

“This is a paradigm shift from the top-down organized planning.”
source: Torstar News Service

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