Revitalizing an area is all about bringing people together. In this case, literally – by building a bridge! Architecture specialists ZUS did just that with their crowdfunded pedestrian “Luchtsingel” bridge, spanning three neighborhoods of northern Rotterdam.
Starting at Rotterdam’s Central Station, a 390-meter yellow and wooden bridge stretches all the way to the city’s former Hofplein Station: Welcome to Luchtsingel! The bridge – one of the world’s first examples of crowdfunded urbanism – reconnects three areas that had been detached from each other since the aftermath of World War II. What’s more: Luchtsingel aims to serve as a catalyst. By improving the area (not only visually, but also in terms of connectivity and functionality), it should attract new businesses and investments, ultimately providing a positive boost for this part of the city.
Luchtsingel is the brainchild of ZUS (Zones Urbaines Sensibles). A lack of decisiveness and executive power by Rotterdam’s urban authorities prompted the young architecture office to take matters into their own hands. And while Luchtsingel is the obvious eye-catcher of the project, ZUS’ overall urban regeneration scheme comprises a total of fifty to sixty individual urban interventions – including a rooftop garden, a public rooftop, and a public park.
Property of more than 10,000 co-owners
Raising enough support – and money – from the public were vital aspects for realizing Luchtsingel: Through crowdfunding, ZUS managed to build the first part of the pedestrian bridge. According to Kristian Koreman and Elma van Boxel of ZUS, however, it was “more important than collecting money that the crowdfunding campaign creates support and goodwill among people. At first, many are skeptical and reluctant, but once they get involved, they start to embrace the project.”
The crowdfunding campaign allowed citizens to buy “their” part of the bridge: Now, it consists of thousands of wooden planks owned by someone and featuring a name or personal message. At the time of writing, the bridge and area had more than 10,000 co-owners, says van Boxel.
A beta-project with a continuous learning curve
Thanks to this bridge, the area around the former train station of Rotterdam Hofplein has become a bustling place that offers a variety of activities and facilities. Concerts, open air film screenings, a coffee bar, and a roof terrace – this playground-like area seems to have it all.
Kristian Koreman stresses that Luchtsingel is something that is both temporary and a constant work-in-progress. “Since it is made out of wood, it is relatively easy to remove or adjust the bridge in a flexible way.” ZUS also considers it a “beta-project” in innovative city-making with a continuous learning curve. What works and what doesn’t? Which areas should be involved?
Architects are increasingly becoming agenda-setters
Luchtsingel is a clear example of a project that fosters debate on the entrepreneurial role of architects and urban designers as part of city development. It’s debatable whether architects are still primarily executing or increasingly also agenda-setting and initiating with their work. The case of ZUS’ Luchtsingel shows that architects can indeed provide the initial spark for modern processes of city-making, taking initiative and creating social momentum in urban development.
“The Luchtsingel will never be finished,” says Koreman. “It is just the start of a larger process of urban regeneration.” Over the next few years, ZUS strives to connect the pedestrian bridge to the Hofbogen, a former elevated railtrack that is being transformed into a park. “Then, people could literally enter the park when they are walking on the bridge. How cool would that be?”