The four cases | Social Cities of Tomorrow

Social Cities of Tomorrow

Our everyday lives are increasingly shaped by digital media technologies, from smart cards and intelligent GPS systems to social media and smartphones. How can we use digital media technologies to make our cities more social, rather than just more hi-tech?

These are the four cases that participants work on during the three workshop days (14 − 16 February 2012)

case1: Urban Pioneers Zeeburgereiland
Partner organisation: Temp.architecture

In Urban Pioneers Zeeburgereiland the challenge is to work on a strategy for collaborative development of an empty urban space by involving existing and new stakeholders. The aim is to explore how new media and principles from e-culture can be employed as an integral part of this strategy.

Office for Architecture, Urbanism and Research Temp.architecture observes that the development of empty space in the Netherlands has grinded to a halt, with swaths of wasteland and abandoned buildings as clear symptoms. Cause of this standstill is the strong Dutch tradition of top-down planning, in which institutions like state government, municipalities, housing corporations, and investors cling to and perpetuate a supply driven market.  Since these institutions are no longer able to activate the resulting empty space, opportunities arise for entrepreneurs and end-users to obtain affordable and sometimes even free space in return for their creative ideas and energy.  Furthermore the use of this space allows for unconventional freedom in usage.

The Sluisbuurt, a section of the Zeeburgereiland, is a large empty space of 20 ha. located to the north-east of Amsterdam’s city centre. This location is exemplary for the current spatial impasse, as existing institutions like municipality and housing corporations are unable to set developments here in motion in a conventional way. Recently the alderman Maarten van Poelgeest drew the same conclusion and announced a tender for this site, allowing to use 3,6 ha of the area for ten years for only one euro! It is likely that many different competing proposals will be submitted. Each claiming the whole area for themselves. We believe however the area should allow for many bottom up initiatives combined in one proposal. Therefore we have organized ourselves together with a process, a financial and a legal consultant offering the necessary know how to assist participants in realizing their dreams. Our goal in this workshop is to create tools, using digital media, to both find these participants and to facilitate them in the further process towards execution.

This leads to the following questions:
1.  How can participants (dwellers, entrepreneur, investors, visitor, and so on) be found and persuaded to join and commit themselves? Is an urban dating site enough or do we also need to meet in the physical world? How could the two be combined?
2.  What tools should be provided to facilitate the further process resulting in a plan that can be executed? Combining the diverse (conflicting or symbiotic) wishes of various participants into one urban structure that allows room for private initiative and at the same time organizes the collective good. Can social websites like Ning be of use or do we need something smarter?

Temp.architecture are currently working on one integral proposal for the Zeeburgereiland tender. The workshop and its outcomes are part of their ongoing effort to change Dutch urban planning culture.
Temp.architecture made a huge amount of background information available. The most important document is their bidbook, which the participants have received in their briefing.


case2: Haagse Havens

Partner Organization: Stroom Den Haag

Haagse Havens is a program that explores a new method of city making, confronting urban planning with other practices from architects, artists, inhabitants, entrepreneurs and different researchers.

The program is centred around Binckhorst and Laakhaven, two adjacent city quarters with an industrial character not far from the city centre. The area is mostly known for its wide range of (small scale) entrepreneurial activity centred around the automobile, building and graphical industry. There’s a rich diversity in buildings and atmospheres, but it lacks good public spaces and places for public encounter. For this area a new way of city-making will be tested: with the existing city as the starting point, rather than imposing an external totalising master plan. This means a different way of looking, thinking, working, valuation, mapping, planning, organising, financing and designing. And it means a large role for the entrepreneurs and inhabitants in the area.

This workshop case has two research questions. First: how can we research and map the cultural and economic values of the area? How can we visualize and measure these values in such a way that they become a design tool? What role can urban media play in this process? Second, how can we build upon local values to improve the quality of the public spaces in this area? ‘The future is to the entrepreneurs’, the municipality says, but to what extent do they feel themselves as ‘owners’ of the area? How is ownership created and made into a valuable asset for the development of the area?
The program is initiated by the Urbanism Department of the Municipality of The Hague and art and architecture centre Stroom Den Haag, and developed together with the partners Sabrina Lindemann (Mobile office OpTrek) and rMIT TU Delft. Part of the program will be presented at the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (april 2012).

Several documents with background information have been made available for this case, in the briefing to participants.


case 3: Strijp-S Eindhoven

Partner organization: Trudo

Strijp-S is a urban development project in Eindhoven, the 5th largest city in The Netherlands. The site is adjacent to the city centre and has a rich industrial history. The area used to host offices, design studios and factories of Philips, one of the leading and innovative Dutch technology firms. Housing Corporation Trudo (one of the four developers of the area) has expressed the ambition to turn the characteristic factories and office lawns of this area into a mixed use site with a lively and urban character. When completed, it will contain housing, offices, art institutions, leisure functions and attractive public spaces, that will be frequented both by the area’s inhabitants and workers as well as by a wide range of temporary visitors. The design will also include some references that refer to the industrial history of the site, that included the design and production of all kinds of lightning products, such as the famous Philips bulb.
The lead question for this case is: How can digital media can be employed to enhance the liveliness and quality of the public spaces in this area? What qualities should the urban public sphere in this area, that is frequented by both visitors and residents, contain?

Which factors could contribute to the design of such urban public spaces and how can digital media (varying perhaps from media facades and urban screens to interactive installation, pervasive games or local apps) contribute to this?

Trudo is currently investigating how urban media could enhance the public spaces of Strijp-S and plans to commission an urban media project in the near future.
Trudo made two documents available for study, which have been included in the participant briefing.


case 4: Amsterdam Civic Innovator Network
Partner organization: Amsterdam Municipality

Challenge: Framework of setting up a Civic Innovator’s Community
The government, city councils have to change their approach towards ‘innovation’ in the city. This is because of the economic crisis, need for more transparency and because of the demand for a new kind of innovation in the city. The top-down innovation models (like providing vouchers, subsidies) to big companies are failing. Not only because they are exclusive for a very small segment of companies but also because the resources for such a top –down innovation are getting much less and very scarce. Therefore a new innovation approach is needed, which is more bottom up. This approach is leveraging on the voluntarism, engagement , diversity and creativity of the citizens. This approach is needed that the cities can provide the citizens with services which are really wanted.

International examples of such a Civic Innovators Network:

This bottom up approach what we are investigating at this moment (called also Open Innovation Policy) sets out some different kind of business models and a huge role for intermediaries like Code for America, and in Amsterdam Innovation Motor.

How can you be involved in these developments?
Either by being a member of a Civic Innovator Network or contribute your idea’s to a platform.


In Amsterdam we have done a crowdsourcing experiment to get ideas from citizens how to change some local policy lines on
-bike parking
-redesign Red Light District
-Sustainability targeted at house owners (how to produce energy instead of just consuming)

In the interactive part of Amsterdam Opent it was possible to get some ideas form very divers public and also to comment on each others idea’s.

The city of Amsterdam (Economic Affairs ) is also participating in different EU projects to gain more insight in the possibilities to innovate with a bigger public engagement.

1.What kind of frameworks would you need to work in a Civic Innovator Network? (tip check Fellowships by Code for America)?
2. What are the essential building stones of a Civic Innovator Network?
3. What kind of expertise can you offer to a Civic Innovator Network?