independent school for the city

Dirty Old Town; Act Now! 2021

From 01 February until 23 April 2021, we offered our first 12-week programme on contemporary urbanism that took the modern city as its subject and Rotterdam as its testing ground. Together with the participants and a diverse team of urban specialists, designers and researchers, we explored the inescapable contradictions and complexities of the city by bringing together different disciplines from historical research to artistic expression trough topics such as climate change, crime and superdiversity. We aimed to look beyond Rotterdam’s current popularity and tried to see the city as it really is, and as we can imagine it to become. As a place that can be old, new, dirty and beautiful at the same time. Through lectures, excursions and workshops, we offered the participants the freedom to deepen their knowledge and to develop their own position towards the pressing urban issues of our time. The individual projects that have been developed during the last four weeks of the programe can be found below.

THE NEW WEENA BY ANAÏS LE GRAND

CONTEMPORARY GUILD-HALLS AND RADICAL COOPERATIVE CARE: HOW ROTTERDAM IS SCALING UP THE COMMONS TOWARDS A POST-WORK SOCIETY

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ANTHROPOCITY BY ALEXANDRA COUTSOUCOS

A BOARD GAME TO STIMULATE DEBATE AROUND ATTITUDES IN THE CITY OF THE ANTHROPOCENE

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MOSAIC OF ME AS A CITIZEN OF THE ANTHROPOCENE BY SIIRI HANNINEN

A GRAPHIC NOVEL

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A POCKET GUIDE TO GETTING LOST BY LAURA MEULEMANS

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BIRD GAZE BY JONAS ALTHAUS

A NON HUMAN STROLL THROUGH TOWN

BIG DEEPER BY BLISE ORR

A STUDY INTO THE UNDERGROUND

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IN A BURNING SEA BY EMILIE STECHER

ABOUT THE PROGRAMME

METHODOLOGY

The course used the Independent School for the City’s methodological triad of Research, Stories and Strategies.

#RESEARCH
Through lectures by the best experts, precisely planned excursions through Rotterdam and mapping exercises, we will uncover the invisible layers of the city, look at sites through various lenses and collect the data needed to take a position vis-à-vis the city’s challenges. We will look at the city as a palimpsest of different systems, ideas, infrastructures, policies and ideologies. Each time, we ‘ll consider Rotterdam as a means to get a close-up view of global trends and networks.

#STORIES
To share our position on the city with others, in order to turn it into action, we need to construct a strong narrative. That is the subject of the second week dedicated to each theme. Lectures and workshops will be held on the different formats and techniques, the different languages and methods with which a story can be told. From the written manifesto to the exhibition, the political campaign to the utopian plan, the movie to the historical essay. We will discover how a narrative approach not only carries the message we want to share but will shape and influence it too. Through the stories we tell, we start to change the reality of our cities.

#STRATEGIES
The last part of the programme was dedicated to translating insights and stories into strategies and concrete action. We took a broad view of what constitutes action. A precisely written and timed manifesto could have as much influence as a government funded masterplan; a tactical policy change can have as much impact on the shape of a street as an iconic piece of architecture.

TUTORS AND LECTURERS

Tutors in this course include: Crimson Historians & Urbanists (Ewout Dorman, Mike Emmerik, Annuska Pronkhorst, Michelle Provoost, Simone Rots, Wouter Vanstiphout, Cassandra Wilkins), ZUS (Elma van Boxel and Kristian Koreman), De Dépendance (Thijs Barendse & Sereh Mandias), Failed Architecture (Rene Boer & Mark Minkjan), Jord den Hollander, Herman Kossmann, Arnold Reijndorp, Dirk Sijmons, Neeltje ten Westenend, Leeke Reinders, and many more.

SCHEDULE

WK 1-2 (01-12 FEB 2021)
GENERAL INTRODUCTION
During the first two weeks, the participants were introduced to the School and to the city of Rotterdam. Through expeditions and lectures, we looked at the city from various perspectives and became familiar with different disciplines and crafts. They explored the physical but also the invisible realities of the urban landscape. We introduced the participants to the main tutors of the School, whose diverse backgrounds, works, professional experience and opinions will sharpen your own professional position and helped them navigate the rest of the programme.

WK 3-4 (15 – 26 FEB 2021)
THEMATIC BLOCK #1 – INEQUALITY IN A SUPER DIVERSE CITY
150 years ago, Rotterdam began to attract people from all over the Netherlands to work in the port; nowadays migrants come from all over the world. The city has become super diverse in terms of cultures and ethnicities. A constant is that the differences in income, housing situation and development opportunities between the various groups in the city are large. The spatial spread across the city is also beginning to show signs of segregation. During these two weeks we aimed to understand this reality through observations, photography and interviews.

WK5-6 (03-10 MAR 2021)
THEMATIC BLOCK #2 – CRIME A PART OF A GLOBAL NETWORK
In the recent drug-related crime wave in the Netherlands, the port of Rotterdam plays a significant role as the import and export harbour of drugs. In industrial areas on the periphery of the city, garages are combined with prostitution and human trafficking. These areas are on the outskirts of the city or even far beyond, invisible to the average city dweller. We’ve been mapping and visualizing this aspect of Rotterdam to make it part of the narrative of the city.

WK 7-8 (15 – 26 MAR 2021)
THEMATIC BLOCK #3 – CITIZENS OF THE ANTHROPOCENE
Many small-scale spatial initiatives in Rotterdam are taking steps towards a resilient and CO2 neutral city. These steps differ from technological solutions to the promotion of changes in social behavior. Other parties simply deny climate change or retreat into post-apocalyptic visions. We looked at how is Rotterdam still stubbornly depending on fossil energy, in daily life as well as in its economy and discussed what positions can we distill from the city’s policies, existing initiatives and from our own ideas.

WK9 (29 MAR – 02 APR 2021)
TAKE POSITION
During this week the participants took time to organise their thoughts and to reflect on the ideas and stories that emerged during the previous weeks. Which conflicts did you discovered? What issue or problem do you want to engage with? What position do you want to take as an urban professional? And how do you see the future of the city? Through various exercises and conversations with critical minds, you will both look back and ahead. 

WK 10-11 (05 – 16 APR 2021)
STRATEGIZE
During these two weeks, the participants took the step from research to strategy and made plans in order to reach their ultimate goal. They wrote articles, made a short movie, designed an object or a campaign, planned a landscape or a revolution. As long as it was in line with their position and puts their research results to the best use.

WK 12 (19 – 23 APR 2021)
PRESENT
Time to show our work to the world! We organised a final collective event to show Rotterdam what we’ve got and finished this intensive programme with a bang!

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