Rotterdam isn’t your typical picture-perfect Dutch city of narrow streets and canal houses. Rebuilt after WWII, it looks much more like a North American city with bold, angular architecture and shimmering skyscrapers. This is especially the case for the newly-built high-rise neighbourhood, the Wilhelminapier. Look up and its skyline is awash with iconic constructions designed by A-list architects such as Álvaro Siza, Rem Koolhaas, Renzo Piano, and Francine Houben. At street level, however, it disappoints: a public space dominated by cars, featuring wide, characterless roads, and very little green. But this is about to change.
Recently, local media picked up an issue in the neighborhood for a long time: street racing at the Otto Reuchlingweg, one of the two main streets of the neighborhood. The streets in the Wilhelminapier are so broad and straight that they allow illegal auto racing in the middle of the night. It usually involves young men in fancy cars, and it is unsafe for all street users. The beautiful urban scenery doesn’t make it any better: the races look like they are a scene from the next Fast and Furious film.
The municipality and local stakeholders have been talking about redesigning the street, but this process is lengthy. While planning and rebuilding a street takes years, we believe that Rotterdam shouldn’t wait. Using tactical urbanism, we can quickly narrow down the street and provide greenery and seating.
This is our proposal. Simple wooden elements will make it almost impossible to speed up while leaving enough space for emergency vehicles. This is not a ‘woonerf,’ but it recreates something that many woonerven do so well: making it physically impossible to drive fast.
The intervention will not only make the street greener and safer, but also will add some identity to what used to be a dull road. Vincent Taapken from New Industry came up with the idea to add the names of the buildings along the street. A nice touch for improving the wayfinding in the neighborhood. We believe that once the intervention is there, it will allow the municipality and residents to experience a better street and dream together what it can become later on.
Let’s make our streets safer and greener today!