independent school for the city


A two week studio mapping Superdiversity in Rotterdam, taking place between 14 – 25 February 2022

Because of the port and its connection with the rest of the globe, Rotterdam has attracted people from all over the world for decades already. Nowadays over 170 different nationalities call the city their home. The population has become so diverse that Rotterdam has become part of a worldwide family of Majority-Minority cities – cities in which more than half of the population has a migration background. And, not just the number of nationalities has increased: as generations pass, also the diversity within the different migrant groups has become increasingly complex.

Recently the term ‘superdiversity’ was used by anthropologist Steven Vertovec as a way of looking at the mix of identities of our cities in a less reductive, less statistical way. Superdiverse cities like Rotterdam bring with them a next stage in the integration process, where ethnicity is no longer the most important let alone the sole factor with which people define themselves. Instead of the old dividing lines of ethnicity or language, superdiversity seems to create new connections. Communities also start being based on other factors like education level, religion, profession, sexual orientation, or neighbourhood, in which many ethnical backgrounds and languages are mixed. In other words: the simple pie chart of ethnicity becomes mixed up into a fluid composition of overlapping and mixing colours.

Such a transformation is nearly impossible to catch using the conventional bureaucratic and scholarly statistics. To see it we must go on the streets, into the restaurants, listen to the radio and go on social media. In this studio we aim to do just that: to do empirical research in a superdiverse part of Rotterdam with the aim to understand how (parts of) the city, its facilities and its public space are being used by many different groups of people. To make sense of it, to synthesize it in a new model of how the city works, we need to learn how to draw different kinds of maps. We will use sketching, photography, and interview techniques to map the superdiversity of the city. Not so much the ethnicities of its inhabitants will have our attention, but the myriad ways in which the city is being used and experienced. Mappings and observations will help us in seeing Rotterdam through the eyes of others.

Course Structure

For this studio the Independent School for the City has teamed up with visual artist Neeltje ten Westenend and sociologist Arnold Reijndorp. Together we will map and explore how superdiversity manifests in Rotterdam’s Afrikaanderwijk – a working-class neighbourhood on the southern bank of the city, which started out as a hub for the first generation of harbour workers who came from the Dutch countryside around 1900. Later, in the nineteen seventies the area became home to a large Turkish community and throughout time it has developed into a Superdiverse neighbourhood with dozens of different identities.

While suffering from social tensions and negative economic trends for decades, the area has been subject of numerous plans, and a plethora of social, physical and art projects over the past years. By now, most of these plans have been executed: a new neighbourhood was built adjacent to Afrikaanderwijk (‘Parkwijk’), social and artistic projects were created to strengthened communities, and the controversial demolition of the Tweebosbuurt has taken place, displacing a few hundred inhabitants of social housing. A result of this period is that the Afrikaanderwijk has come to be known as the “frontline of gentrification”.

During these two weeks we aim to understand this Superdiverse reality in the Afrikaanderwijk through participatory research: observation, walks and talks. We will meet people, get involved with key players and learn from locals to explore the manifestation of superdiversity further. We ask you to step up to people and engage with them in conversation about what they are doing and how they are living, and to capture hidden, unlocked experiences and phenomena about their life. Where, for instance, do different people with different backgrounds, lifestyles and languages take their breaks and at what time? Which public places are visited and at what specific times? Where do people work, shop, and go to school? What are the binding factors? By returning to the Afrikaanderwijk on a regular basis, we aim to create a certain sensitivity towards people and communities, towards signs and languages. Various lectures by researchers and other professionals will provide you with a theoretical background to superdiversity and the social composition of our cities. By the means of collecting and editing our observations, we will eventually create a series leporellos (foldable booklets) to present our findings on the Afrikaanderwijk.


Neeltje ten Westenend
Neeltje ten Westenend (1975) is an artist and designer in the context of the public domain, based in Amsterdam. Interested in an anthropological approach within her artistic practice, she works on long-term research projects that operate as umbrellas under which a growing series of (choreographic) interventions, (film) installations, cartographic works and book publications is gathered. In 2003 she graduated cum laude with a BA from the Design Academy Eindhoven, majoring in Man and Public Space. In 2017 she graduated with a MA in Interior Architecture from the Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam. Besides the physical environment she mostly studies and portrays the social and narrative aspects implicated therein. Like a movie director, she develops scripts and studies in which the fields of architecture and urban design function as playground. A recurring theme in her work is the question how private identities become manifest in public. Her various projects include Perfect Day (2008), Contour (2013) and Tractordans (2014). Alongside her exploratory practice, Ten Westenend tutors at the Design Academy Eindhoven, where she developed the course ‘Mapping’ for first-year students.

Mike Emmerik
Mike Emmerik is school coordinator of the Independent School for the City and partner at Crimson Historians & Urbanists. He is educated as an urban designer at the Delft University of Technology and subsequently worked in the Faculty of Architecture as a teacher and researcher within the Chair of Design as Politics. Mike took part in various research and design projects at the intersection of urban development and policy-making and is affiliated with the Dutch Board of Government advisors from which he advises the Dutch central government and local authorities about issues related to urbanisation and mobility. He has been involved in various international teaching and design projects amongst others in Lebanon, Germany, Ghana and Cuba.

Michelle Provoost
Michelle Provoost is part of the Dean Team of the Independent School for the City, co-founder of Crimson Historians and Urbanist, and director of the International New Town Institute. She is an architectural historian specialised in urban planning history, postwar architecture and contemporary urban development. Michelle teaches at various universities in the Netherlands and abroad and continues to be in great demand as a public speaker. She lectures regularly throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and the United States, and has been involved in many municipal, national and private committees and juries.

Arnold Reijndorp
Arnold Reijndorp Studied architecture at the TU-Delft. A growing interest in the social and cultural developments in cities brought him as a lecturer in urban sociology to the Sociology department of the University of Amsterdam, trying to bridge the gap between urban practice and academic discourse, for which attempts he was rewarded the Rotterdam-Maaskant price 2012. He acted as ad-interim professor of ‘Entwerfen und Architectursoziologie’ at the TU-Berlin and held the Han Lammers chair of ‘socio-economic and spatial developments of new urban areas’ at the University of Amsterdam. This resulted in various publications about Dutch new Towns and new approaches to public space.

Wouter Vanstiphout
Wouter Vanstiphout is an architectural historian and researcher who has written extensively on urbanism and spatial politics. He is part of the Deans Team of Independent School for the City and founding partner of Crimson Historians & Urbanists. He held the chair Design & Politics at the TU Delft, which explored, researched and defined the boundaries, commonalities and tensions between the fields of politics and design. He has directed the renewal of the Dutch industrial satellite town of Rotterdam: Hoogvliet and advises municipalities, the national government, housing corporations and Project Developers on matters relating to urban renewal, cultural heritage and spatial and urban politics. From 2012 to 2016, he was a member of the national advisory council on the environment and infrastructure (RLI). 

Course Schedule

Monday 14 February 2022
10:00 – 10:30 Welcome, introduction by Mike Emmerik
10:30 – 11:15 Explanation of the assignment and introduction by Neeltje ten Westenend
11:15 – 12:30 Presentation on the Afrikaanderwijk by Michelle Provoost
12:30 – 13:30 Lunch break
13:30 – 15:30 Presentation by Leeke Reinders on research methods
15:30 – 18:00 A brief introduction to Superdiversity

Tuesday 15 February 2022
10:00 – 12:30 Collective visit to Afrikaanderwijk
12:30 – 13:30 Lunch break
13:30 – 18:00 Field research in the Afrikaanderwijk

Wednesday 16 February 2022
10:00 – 12:30 Presentation on a City of Comings and Goings by Crimson
12:30 – 13:30 Lunch break
13:30 – 18:00 Field research in the Afrikaanderwijk

Thursday 17 February 2022
10:00 – 12:30 Field research in the Afrikaanderwijk
12:30 – 13:30 Lunch break
13:30 – 18:00 Field research in the Afrikaanderwijk

Friday 18 February 2022
10:00 – 12:30 Conversations about progress and next steps
12:30 – 13:30 Lunch break
13:30 – 18:00 Work on further research

Monday 21 February 2022
10:00 – 12:30 Work on further research
12:30 – 13:30 Lunch Break
13:30 – 18:00 Presentation of progress and conversation on next steps

Tuesday 22 February 2022
10:00 – 12:30 Work on further (field)research
12:30 – 13:30 Lunch break
13:30 – 18:00 Work on further (field)research

Wednesday 23 February 2022
10:00 – 11:30 Lecture (to be confirmed)
11:30 – 12:30 Tutoring
12:30 – 13:30 Lunch Break
13:30 – 18:00 Tutoring

Thursday 24 February 2022
10:00 – 12:30 Work on final output
12:30 – 13:30 Lunch Break
13:30 – 18:00 Work on final output

Friday 25 February 2022
10:00 – 12:00    Presentation of final results
12:00 – 13:00    Conversation about the outcomes
13:00 – 14:00    Lunch Break
14:00 – 18:00    Finalize and document output