independent school for the city


The Independent School for the City is a post-graduate educational platform based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The school is an initiative of Crimson Historians and Urbanists and ZUS (Zones Urbaines Sensibles) and is rooted in their practices of combining a critical and activist approach to the city with effecting real change through architectural and planning projects. The independent school for the City 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.

Crimson Historians and Urbanists

Crimson Historians and Urbanists is Ewout Dorman, Mike Emmerik, Annuska Pronkhorst, Michelle Provoost, Simone Rots, Wouter Vanstiphout and Cassandra Wilkins. Since 1994, when Crimson published its first books and became part of the urban planning team for the extension of Utrecht ’Leidse Rijn’, the office has developed a hybrid practice with a background in architectural history that focusses on the contemporary city. Crimson designs for the city, researches it, writes texts and books about it, shows it in exhibitions and works of art, teaches about it, gives advice on it and makes policies for it. More info: www.crimsonweb.org

ZUS [Zones Urbaines Sensibles]

Founded in 2001 by Elma van Boxel and Kristian Koreman, ZUS is an interdisciplinary design bureau for city and landscape, with offices in Rotterdam and New York. ZUS is currently working with an international team on a metropolitan vision for Marseille (France), a plan for the New Meadowlands in New Jersey (US), and the design for a music venue and a cinema in Rotterdam (NL). Their unsolicited advice and activist attitude saw them win the Maaskant Prize for Young Architects and receive a nomination for Architect of the Year in 2012. They are Visiting Professors at Syracuse University School of Architecture, lead the ‘Gentrification Lab NYC’​ and recently published a new book, “City of Permanent Temporality – Incomplete & Unfinished”. More info: zus.cc


The Independent Universe consists of an ever-expanding group of urban professionals that you might encounter in the School. Through lectures, workshops and masterclasses, they will give you different perspectives and new insights, that will help you to strengthen your own position in the world and provide you with new tools to reach your goals.

Independent Universe

Alfredo Brillembourg

Alfredo Brillembourg was born in New York, where he studied architecture at Columbia University. He undertook his master’s degree at the Central University of Venezuela after which he co-founded the Urban-Think Tank – an interdisciplinary design practice dedicated to high-level research and design on a variety of subjects concerned with contemporary architecture and urbanism in complex environments. Notable projects include the Caracas Metrocable, the Vertical Gym typology, and more recently the documentary and publication on Torre David – a 45-storey unfinished office tower in Caracas that has become a node for the study of informal vertical communities. Brillembourg has taught at Columbia University, where he co-founded the Sustainable Living Urban Model Laboratory (S.L.U.M. Lab), and held the chair for Architecture and Urban Design at ETH Zurich.

De Dépendance

De Dépendance works from the premise that the city of Rotterdam is intrinsically connected to global trends – from growing flows of capital, labour, goods and information to geopolitical shifts of power. In order to explain, interpret and critically reflect on these transformations De Dépendance researches how they manifest themselves in our cities and urban regions. They do this by initiating public programs that bring new perspectives, divergent opinions, alternative solutions and (radical) imaginaries. More info: dedependance.eu

Dore van Duivenbode

Dore van Duivenbode studied history at the University of Utrecht, after which she has worked for various media platforms such as VPRO, KRO-NCRV, NRC Handelsblad and Vrij Nederland. In 2018 she published her first book called Mijn Poolse huis (My Polish house) for which she has been nominated with the Bob den Uyl-award, for best journalistic travelbook of 2018. Recently she worked together with director Britta Hosman on the television series Moja Polska! during which she shows the viewer a Poland as it has not been portrayed before. She investigates how it is possible that her motherland has changed so much during her life and looks at the county’s turbulent history from communism to western democracy and more recently a return to conservatism. More info at: https://www.dorevanduivenbode.nl/

Georgeen Theodore

Georgeen Theodore is an architect, urban designer, and Professor at New Jersey Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture and Design, where she is the Director of the Master of Infrastructure Planning (MIP) Program. She co-founded and leads Interboro, a New York City-based architecture and planning research office, with her partners Tobias Armborst and Daniel D’Oca. Since its founding in 2002, Interboro has worked with a variety of public, private, and not-for-profit clients, and has accumulated many awards for its inventive and inclusive approach, including the Curry Stone Design Prize Social Design Circle (2017), the Rice Design Alliance Spotlight Award (2013), the Museum of Modern Art PS1’s Young Architects Program (2011), the Architectural League’s Emerging Voices Award (2011) and Young Architects Award (2005), and the AIA New York Chapter’s New Practices Award (2006).

Jord den Hollander

After having finished his master’s in architecture at the Technical University of Delft, Jord den Hollander followed a course in scenario writing at the Filmschool in London. Throughout his career he has often combined both disciplines. He has made documentaries about art and architecture, has written and directed internationally acclaimed television series for children about art and science and is curator of the Architecture Film Festival Rotterdam (www.affr.nl), the world’s biggest architecture film festival, which he co-founded in 2002. In addition, he has designed a unique oeuvre that includes an architecture centre for children in Almere, a mobile kid’s library, a floating hotel and a tensegrity bicycle bridge.

Liza Fior

Liza Fior is a lecturer at the MA Architecture: Cities and Innovation at UAL’s Central St Martins and was previously a Visiting Professor at Yale School of Architecture. Fior is also founding partner of MUF Architecture/Art, a legendary London-based practice that combines dreamlike compositions of shapes and materials with gripping narratives. Established in the mid 90s as a new type of practice that would blur the ‘fuzzy edges’ between buildings and city, architecture, art, and the structures of society, MUF has worked on various public spaces, buildings and exhibitions that have the depth and complexity of places with a history of centuries. One such project was a development strategy for the Hofbogen in Rotterdam.

Momoyo Kaijima

Momoyo Kaijima is co-founder of the Tokyo-based design firm Atelier Bow-wow, which she established in 1993 together with Yoshiharu Tsukmoto. With Atelier Bow-wow, she works on various building, research and art projects –  always trying to get as close as possible to the community she work for in both the architectural aesthetics as well as in the materialisation and construction techniques. While engaging in design projects of houses, public buildings and station plazas, etc., she has conducted numerous investigations of the city through architecture such as Made in Tokyo and Pet Architecture. She was the curator of Japan Pavilion at the 16th Venice Architectural Biennale. Momoyo is in great demand as a teacher and lecturer in universities all around the world, including the University of Tsukuba, Harvard GSD, ETH Zurich and Rice University.

Peter Barber

Peter Barber is one of the UK’s most distinguished housing architects, who has been highly praised for his attempts at tackling the pressing social issues of the day – lack of homeless shelters, lack of social housing provision – in a way that aspires to well-designed urbanism. After setting up his practice, Peter Barber Architects Ltd. in 1989, Barber’s breakthrough came with his European-style street-based design for Donnybrook Quarter in east London, which won several awards and was shortlisted for the 2006 RIBA Stirling Prize.

Piet Vollaard

Piet Vollaard is an architect, architecture critic and one of the driving force behind Stad in de Maak – an association set up to take on the redevelopment of vacant properties in Central Rotterdam, together with the local community. The association renovated six buildings, investing upfront the amount of loss the buildings were projected to generate for their owner in the coming 10 years. Stad in de Maak aims to go beyond temporary vacancy management, by reaching permanence in affordable housing and working spaces through collective ownership and management.

Sam Jacob

Sam Jacob is principal of Sam Jacob Studio, professor of architecture at University of Illinois at Chicago, director of Night School at the Architectural Association, and the editor of Strange Harvest. Previously, he was a director of internationally acclaimed architecture practice FAT, with whom he designed Villa de Heerlijkheid – a community building in Rotterdam’s satellite town Hoogvliet

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.

Dirk Sijmons

Dirk Sijmons studied Architecture at Delft University of Technology and is one of the three founders of H+N+S Landscape Architects. He was appointed Dutch Government Advisor on Landscape by the Minister of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries in 2004, was professor of Environmental Design at Delft University of Technology from 2008 until 2015 and has been curator of the Rotterdam Architecture Biennale 2014 themed Urban-by-Nature. Sijmons has published extensively concerning phenomenons in the European landscape, with a strong focus on environmental design and the spatial impact of the energy transition. Sijmons received the Rotterdam-Maaskant Prize in 2002 and the prestigious Edgar Doncker award in 2007 for his contribution to Dutch culture.

Failed Architecture

Failed Architecture reconnects architecture with the real world. By opening up new perspectives on the built environment, they seek to explore the meaning of architecture in contemporary society. Since 2011, Failed Architecture has been providing an inclusive platform for critical urban discourse, fueled by unconventional narratives from an international network of contributors. They challenge dominant spatial fashions and explore alternative realities, reaching far beyond the architectural community. Mark Minkjan is an urban and architectural geographer, Editor-in-Chief at Failed Architecture and produces the Failed Architecture Podcast. René Boer is managing editor at Failed Architecture and works as a curator, critic and researcher in the fields of architecture, urbanism, heritage and art. More info at: failedarchitecture.com

Herman Kossmann

Herman Kossmann graduated as an architect from Delft University of Technology. He began his career as a teacher at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and carried out a number of mayor renovation projects in Rotterdam as an independent architect. In the beginning of the 90’ he was asked to design and manage some large exhibitions, which became a new direction in his work. In 1998 he set up an interdisciplinary design office, based in Amsterdam with fellow student Mark de Jong: Kossmann.dejong. The office became an international operating design studio specialised in exhibition design and interior architecture. More info: kossmanndejong.nl

Lesley Lokko 

Lesley Lokko is an architect, academic and the author of ten best-selling novels. She lives almost simultaneously in Johannesburg, London, Accra and Edinburgh, and is currently Head of School at the Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg, South Africa. Lokko was trained as an architect at the Bartlett School of Architecture, and gained her PhD from the University of London. She is the editor of White Papers, Black Marks: Race, Culture, Architecture; editor-in-chief of FOLIO: Journal of Contemporary African Architecture and is on the editorial board of ARQ (Cambridge). Lokko has been an on-going contributor to discourses around identity, race, African urbanism and the speculative nature of African architectural space and practice for nearly thirty years.

Maria Lisogorskaya

Maria Lisogorskaya is one of the founders of Assemble – a multi-disciplinary collective working between the scales of immediate hands-on material prototyping, architecture and urban strategy. Founded in 2010 to undertake a single self-built project, Assemble has since delivered a diverse and award-winning body of work, whilst retaining a democratic and co-operative working method that enables built, social and research-based work at a variety of scales, both making things and making things happen. This approach has awarded them the prestigious Turner prize.

Oliver Wainwright

Oliver Wainwright a writer and photographer based in London. He has been the architecture and design critic of the Guardian since 2012. He trained as an architect at the University of Cambridge and the Royal College of Art, and worked at the Greater London Authority and at a number of architecture practices, including OMA in Rotterdam and Muf in London. Oliver has written extensively on architecture and design for a wide range of international publications, from Building Design and the Architects’ Journal, to Icon, Domus and Frieze and has won awards for his in-depth reporting on the housing crisis and the planning system. He has served as curatorial advisor to the Architecture Foundation and is a regular visiting critic and lecturer at a number of architecture schools internationally.

Petra Blaisse

Petra Blaisse started her career at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. From 1987 onwards she worked as a freelance designer and received critical acclaim for her architectural installations. With time, her focus shifted to the use of textiles and the influence of light in her interior designs, together with increasingly complex garden and landscape designs. She is now possibly Holland’s most poetic and uncompromising spatial designer. Together with her office Inside/Outside she has provided the cheerful but ultimately dispiriting banality of Dutch Design with an antidote of craft, seriousness, utility and sheer, unadulterated beauty for decades. 

Pro Arts Design

In 2012 Edith Gruson and Gerard Hadders founded ProArtsDesign, an interdisciplinary design association specialized in building integrated solutions for complex communication questions. Edith Gruson revolutionized exhibition design with her company Traast + Gruson in the nineties. Their unique approach brought subject, context and architecture together. Since the end of the 80s they designed and co-edited more than 120 spatial presentations and exhibitions for corporations and cultural institutions in The Netherlands as well as international. Gerard Hadders was co-founder of the magazine and design group Hard Werken in 1978. From the early 1980’s on he was involved in curational work and editorial design. A professional in almost all facets of graphic design, from the late eighties on he developed a strong interest in architecture as sign and symbol. Gerard has worked for numerous – international – art institutions, creating identities, designing in depth catalogues and exhibitions. More info: proartsdesign.nl

Team Thursday

Team Thursday is a graphic design studio founded by Loes van Esch and Simone Trum, collaborating as a duo since 2010. They focus on the design and art direction of visual identities varying in scale and complexity – from festivals to books and exhibition design. They work on projects that are characterized by a strong visual language with a special interest in typography. The process, or performative aspect, plays an important role in their work. This translates into a special interest for tactility and materiality, but can also evolve in a spatial design or activity. Team Thursday also designed the visual identity of the Independent School for the City. More info: teamthursday.com

Other Partners

Other people and organizations that have worked with the Independent School for the City are AL Borde, CANactions School, Dore van Duivenbode, Reinier de Graaf, Inside-Outside (Petra Blaisse), Interboro Partners, Carlijn Kingma, Kilian Kleinschmidt, MUF,  the City of Rotterdam, Pascale Sablan, Syracuse University, WLDRF, and many more. Also interested in collaborating with us? Send us an email.