The Independent School for the City is based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. It is a one-year educational program for post-graduate level students from all over the world, in the field of design, planning, sociology, architectural history et cetera. The school is an initiative of Crimson Historians and Urbanists and ZUS (Zones Urbaines Sensibles). It is rooted in Crimson's and ZUS' practice of combining a critical and activist approach to the city with effecting real change through architectural and planning projects. It is founded on a strong belief in an incremental instead of a tabula rasa approach to city planning which blurs the lines between critique and practice on the one hand, and research and policy on the other.
The Independent School for the City is a school in, of, and for the city. It builds on the belief that strategies for the city - architectural and economic, spatial and social - should be based on real, first hand, empirical research. Empirical because the reality of the city offers interesting conflicts and unpredictable synergies to learn from and build upon. The school is independent and has an unaccredited status by choice. Its research is rooted in the different disciplines teachers and participants have been schooled in. It will not be constrained by the formalities of academia or disciplinary boundaries. Participants and teachers form one team in which the advanced and less experienced will inform each other and contribute to the research. Research that is not necessarily solution-oriented or focused on final designs, and may not come to design as such, but will lead to a text, a film, an exhibition or an action. Our approach will be open-minded but critical, inclusive but discerning, flexible but precise. This will offer the participants and their international teachers the full intellectual freedom to research the city in the broadest sense. It will give us the chance to have seemingly coincidental encounters with parts or aspects of the city where clashes of various kinds take place, where otherwise invisible realities reveal themselves. These are, we believe, the instances that can teach us fundamental things about the city in all its complexity.
This year, 2018-2019, is the Test Year of the Independent School for the City in which we will try out the formats we will be using in the interdisciplinary Curriculum. The program in the Test Year and in 2019-2020 has the motto ‘City of Comings and Goings’ and will explore one of the most relevant topics in contemporary urban development theory and practice: the transient nature of the city, its dynamics and permanent temporality and the constant mobility of people, knowledge, money, birds and plants, regulations and policies.
The Curriculum will consist of three educational Blocks. The first Block is titled “Pack”. It is based in Rotterdam and contains a series of masterclasses and workshops led by the Masters, which are aimed at learning various research skills from a variety of disciplines such as (historical) research, spatial and visual analysis, urban design, sociology, photography, film etc. During the second block, “Travel”, the students will spread around the world to visit one of our international partners, with whom they further develop their research in the social-spatial context of the specific location they are at. The final and third block, “Unpack”, will bring the students back to Rotterdam, where they will process their findings in order to show and communicate their work to the world.
Independent School for the City is supported by the Municipality of Rotterdam, Creative Industries Fund NL, Job Dura Fund.