The Polder of Babel - a superdiverse city in the anthropocene, is a community of learning in parallel to the Dutch contribution to the 17th Venice Biennale of Architecture, in which the question “How will we live together?” as posed by Biennale curator Hashim Sarkis and the counter-question “Who is we?” which is central to the Dutch contribution, will be connected to urban development of Rotterdam. The Polder of Babel is developed at the request of Het Nieuwe Instituut, commissioner of the Dutch pavilion, and the municipality of Rotterdam.
The Netherlands and in particular the port city of Rotterdam has an international reputation for the invention and development of new landscapes and urban areas. This development has always relied on a sense of collective urgency and pragmatism in the face of the direst of circumstances. Today Rotterdam – like many cities around the world – is struggling to find a new balance in ‘living together’ between people and with nature. While on the one hand Rotterdam has proudly become the most diverse city of the Netherlands with a fantastic bazaar of languages, cultures and identities, it also has to cope with large differences in income, housing situation and development opportunities between the various groups in the city. Simultaneously it wants to be a green and resilient city while it still very much depends on its fossil-based industry and economy. In this learning community we will explore how a city that is as diverse and confusing as the biblical Babel, can create the collective sense of urgency needed to build a new, green future for all?
Following the approach of the Independent School for the City as an interdisciplinary meeting place and knowledge exchange center for (future) urban professionals, the community of learning will on the one hand scrutinise the city through the lens of the Anthropocene, the era in which the Earth’s climate and atmosphere are strongly influenced by human activity. On the other hand, Rotterdam will be examined as a Superdiverse city, which means a city of which more than half of its population consists of a diverse mix of ethnicities. The Independent School has recently started “The Polder of Babel” with a preliminary study in which the topics of the Anthropocene and Superdiversity are being further explored and concretised through desk research, interviews, the analysis of illustrative projects and public (online) conversations.
In the next phase, the School will work together with a group of 20 employees of the municipality of Rotterdam from various departments as well as a selection of other spatial professionals who are active in the area. Together we will explore different cases in Rotterdam through the lens of the Anthropocene and Superdiversity in order to ground these comprehensive and sometimes unclear topics in the reality of Rotterdam. As part of this exploration the participants will also study the various contributions that are shown at the Venice Biennale during a visit to the exhibition in July 2021. The community of learning will result in a public event in September next year, during which the collective results and observations of this community of learning are presented to a larger audience. More information about the exact dates of the public (online) events will follow soon.
In both Amsterdam and Rotterdam, a parallel program is being developed for the Dutch pavilion. The Amsterdam parallel program ‘Values for Survival’ is curated by Caroline Nevejan, Chief Science Officer of the Municipality of Amsterdam.