“A school is a home for growing teenagers, but it also boosts the level of the facilities in a neighbourhood. […] There’s a great opportunity here for the city to realise a both/and solution.”
Letters to the Mayor exhibition
Project manager and architect Froukje van de Klundert wrote an open letter to Mayor Aboutaleb of Rotterdam, as did 49 other architects. The correspondence made up the exhibition Letters to the Mayor – Rotterdam, on view at Het Nieuwe Instituut until 2 February 2018.
Letters to the Mayor – Rotterdam continues a project begun in New York in 2014 by the Storefront for Art and Architecture. In this edition, Dutch and foreign architects were invited to write letters to Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb. The letters gave them the opportunity to raise pressing questions and outline political and policymaking issues relating to the city and its surrounding area of importance to them as architects.
Addressing the mayor directly
The project’s purpose is to question current policy by giving architects a chance to state their ideas directly to elected policymakers while simultaneously increasing public awareness. You can see all the letters here.
Read Froukje’s letter:
Rotterdam, 18 December 2017
Dear Mayor Aboutaleb,
Bleak, windy, poor and criminal – that’s how I used to picture Rotterdam. But how different my view is today! Now I think of a global city that’s as relaxed as a village; approachable people who are easy to talk to; unique places in a city filled with contrasts. Rotterdam has been my home for 10 years now – a fact this Limburg girl never could have predicted. There’s so much to say about this great city. And at the same time, there’s a lot left to do. It is an honour to be able to propose a few suggestions to you in this letter.
Over the past year, as a project manager at Posad Spatial Strategies, I have worked on the city of Rotterdam’s new environmental plan. The city has many tasks to address, and each must be given its due. Rotterdam aims to meet all these spatial demands in a compact, circular, productive, inclusive, healthy way. This calls for inventiveness on the government’s part; it must think not in terms of either/or but of both/and. The process isn’t an easy one, and not everything will succeed. It will take guts to make the necessary choices and to continue to stand behind the mission.
As a spatial designer, I endorse the mission from every angle, but there is one aspect that particularly affects me and that is inextricable from the idea of an inclusive, productive city. Rotterdam is a popular place, and everyone is welcome here, but unfortunately residents do not enjoy equal opportunities. Those living in Zuid, in particular, have limited access to jobs, services and education. A few years ago, for my graduation project at the Rotterdam Academy of Architecture and Urban Design, I studied the area intensively. I approached the project with great energy, designing not just a school building but an entire school system plus local neighbourhood facilities. I considered the project of building a new secondary school from the respective points of view of an architect, a school director and a municipal official. The process led to an exciting design that brought together city and school life: the school flowed into the streets, and the streets flowed into the school. This way of working also gave me an understanding of the role schools can play in a neighbourhood.
A school is a home for growing teenagers, but it also boosts the level of the facilities in a neighbourhood. It can support a library, a cafe, sports facilities, art studios, a theatre – functions that are lacking or under threat in some neighbourhoods, including many postwar ones. There’s a great opportunity here for the city to realise a both/and solution that will promote its environmental plan. A compact, circular city can be achieved through spatial design and policy. But a productive, inclusive, healthy city can exist only if the people who live there are able to study and work and stay engaged and healthy.
Froukje van de Klundert
Architect and project manager
Posad Spatial Strategies