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Van Alen Institute International Council: Learning from Rotterdam

The spring meeting of the Van Alen Institute’s International Council occurred this year in Rotterdam. The port city is known for its experimental architecture and has nurtured a generation of local contemporary architects who have gone on to shape cities around the world.

Taking place over 17-19 May, the Council meeting began with tours of signature architectural projects such as the early Modern Van Nellefabriek by Brinkman & Van der Vlugt and Didden Village and studio visits to MVRDV and urbanism studio ZUS. The centrepiece of the meeting was a two day charrette co-hosted with Architectuur Instituut Rotterdam (AIR Rotterdam) and convened by Francine Houben of Mecanoo, a member of the Council.

The Council’s focus was to interrogate the persistent north/south divide in Rotterdam and what spatial strategies could be adopted to help overcome the socio-economic discrepancy which has long defined the two sides of the city. Four sites in south Rotterdam were identified for the group to develop visioning proposals: Maashaven Harbour, Afrikaanderplein Markt, Hart van Zuid and Feyenoord City. Breaking into four groups comprising members of the Council paired with Rotterdam-based designers and planners, new ideas for each of the four sites were developed and then presented back to representatives of Rotterdam civil society and local government for debate and discussion.

Allies and Morrison joined the International Council at the beginning of 2017, represented by Alfredo Caraballo and Daniel Elsea. At the meeting, it was announced that going forward, Allies and Morrison would assume the co-chair position with Alfredo and Daniel as the practice’s Council representatives. Fellow Council members Monica von Schmalensee and Carl Bäckstrand of White Arkitekter will also assume the position of co-chair. We look forward to working with Van Alen Director David van der Leer and the wider Council to guide and enrich its programming, building on the great work and inspirational leadership of outgoing co-chairs Kai-Uwe Bergmann of Bjarke Ingels Group and Kim Herforth Nielsen of 3xn.

Founded in New York in 1894, the Van Alen Institute is a charity which promotes excellence in urban design through advising cities, organising design competitions, conducting research and public programming. The International Council identifies and investigates issues facing cities around the world and guides the impact of the Institute’s work.