100 Smart Cities


The Indian government will develop 100 Smart Cities in the next 15 years. The current urbanization level is around 31% accounting for 60% of India’s GDP. The urbanization level is expected to grow rapidly in the coming 15 years and hence the Indian Government developed an ambitious plan to develop plans for these ‘engines of economic growth’ using the latest principles for sustainable urban development and new technologies. Accordingly, the current thinking is that 100 cities to be developed as Smart Cities may be chosen from amongst the following:

  • One satellite city of each of the cities with a population of 4 million people or more – 9 cities
  • All the cities in the population range of 1 – 4 million people – 44 cities
  • All State Capitals, even if they have a population of less than one million – 17 cities
  • Cities of tourist and religious importance – 10 cities
  • Cities in the 0.5 to 1.0 million population range – 20 cities
  • In Delhi, a new smart city through the land pooling scheme has been proposed

More than one and a half year ago the Indian government already launched the initiative. At that moment in time the ‘100 Smart Cities’ plan was conceived as a mere technological approach to the city. The Note on Smart Cities that is to be found on the website of the Indian government now takes a much broader and interesting approach. Summarised ‘Smart’ is being defined as providing basic infrastructure and services, resilient and attractive urban patterns, quick and transparent planning processes and new technologies. In a sense the ‘100 Smart Cities’ strategy is upscaling the ‘pilot project’ hundred fold in order to generate a real and lasting effect on a broad range of cities across the country. Learning from these examples and all the new brainpower that this ‘grande project’ attracts should equip local governments with the right tools and guiding principles to cope with the rapid urbanisation in the country.
Picture: Martin Roemers

Vacant Buildings Rotterdam


Client: Municipality of Rotterdam Year: 2013-2014
Project: “What’s necessary for the successful redevelopment of vacant buildings in the city?” That’s the underlying question of the study done for the municipality of Rotterdam. Five interviews with private sector parties that were responsible for the successful redevelopment of vacant buildings in Rotterdam provide experience based knowledge and lessons. The interviews and research have been conducted by SmartCityStudio together with ‘Bureau Binnenstad’, the municipality of Rotterdam. Besides these ‘experience based lessons’ that are instructive for everyone that works on the transformation of the city, this research reflects on a new playing field between the private sector and the local government that draws on lessons from the past and that defines models for the future.
Download ‘5 interviews on successful transformation’ – complete stories brochure (Dutch)
Download ’10 Lessons Learned’ – summary brochure (Dutch)


100.000 jobs for Almere

Client: Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment / Municipality of Almere
Year: 2012 Output: Spatial Economic Strategy / 5 Films
For the main exhibition of the 5th International Architecture Biennale in Rotterdam SmartCityStudio created five spatial economic strategies that conceptualise how 100.000 new jobs in Almere could be created. In dialogue with the municipality of the new town of Almere, entrepreneurs in the city and with the Dutch National government SmartCityStudio created five narratives around community wind power and algae production, small enterprises, healthcare, a special economic zone and an open economy. These Smart economic strategies should ‘liberate’ Almere from an outdated culture of control and create the conditions for citizens and entrepreneurs to act. SCS illustrated these strategies in five short films. Have a look at the film below or click one of the links.

1st Liberation: The Neighbourhood
2nd Liberation: Energy Production
3rd Liberation: Multinational Almere
4th Liberation: SEZ
5th Liberation: Healthcare

Source: SmartCityStudio Picture: EnergyRegion.NRW Films: SmartCityStudio with Crookedline

Open Data

Smart Cities can’t do without Open Data. The Open Data movement is still young but promising. Since the beginning of the Obama administration in 2009 the Open Government Initiative of the federal government opened up lots of data to the public for several reasons as clearly stated on the White House website: “In addition to catalyzing entrepreneurship, innovation, scientific discovery, and other public benefits, Open Data also helps ensure a transparent, accountable, and open government”. Cities as Chicago and New York City are best practices in how data could be made accessible for the public. Data like traffic counts, construction permits, public investment, licensing, schools, crime and more are downloadable in a variety of extensions. To catalyze the development of useful applications competitions like BIGAPPS NYC2013 challenges innovative entrepreneurs to add value to the data. BigApps is being organized by the New York City Economic Development Corp. and the The NYC Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT). BigApps NYC’s website about the challenge: “New York City believes that staying ahead of the innovation curve is essential to the City’s future, and that connecting with the software development community will foster new technology that improves the quality of life of New York’s residents and visitors.” Source: SmartCityStudio Picture: Chicago, 96th floor of the Hancock Center by Eric Ward

Clear Art Space

Tomorrow the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam will reopen after it has been closed for over a decade. Already weeks before the official opening by the queen the museum has been praised for its exhibition concept and the architectural design by Cruz and Ortiz. The exhibition concept brings art and objects of a certain era together and provides a time travel through the history of the Netherlands. The exhibition spaces are airy and clearly set out. Curators of various collections had to limit their objects for display and no accompanying text next to the world famous paintings is over 60 words. But what is most revealing is the complete lack of digital information screens. After more than two decades of museum concepts with an overkill of information technology, touch screens and computers the Rijksmuseum does the opposite: No screens and limited information. Wim Pijbes the director of the ‘Rijks’ clearly foresaw that he could never compete with the ubiquitous smartphone and the endless resources of information visitors have access to. This might be an omen for public space design, traffic information design and urban interiors in the future. Less is more. Information is already in the palm of everyone’s hands. Resources: SmartCityStudio.com Picture: NRC / Olivier Middendorp.

Testing grounds

The city of Eindhoven introduces the concept of ‘testing grounds’ as a means to open the city to anyone who can add to the development of the city often recalled as ‘Brainport’. In a recent conversation the author of this BLOG had with the alderwoman, which resigned from office just days ago (troubled because of a financial debacle in the removal of a trailer park in the municipality), she explains how the reduction of public regulations is part of a larger concept in which the municipality reinvents spatial planning. The idea that not the municipality ‘makes’ the city, but its citizens, its entrepreneurs and its higher education requires an ‘open’ city that could facilitate initiatives and that leaves the leading role in the improvement of an area or neighbourhood to anyone who fits that role the best. The power of this radical, but also ‘fashionable’ concept lies in its uncompromising way that it now effects legal regulations and urban governance.
Eindhoven’s ‘Action Plan 2030 – New Space 2013 – Fundamental revision of local spatial guidelines Municipality Eindhoven’ concludes that too many local policies and guidelines on top of national and European legislation block initiatives from private parties, citizens and even of the municipality itself. This fundamental change in the municipality to facilitate rather than to control ‘blueprint planning’ has been advocated recently by more municipalities in the Netherlands, but Eindhoven realizes this change will not happen overnight. A change of culture requires a process of learning. Therefore the municipality defined ‘testing grounds’. In those testing grounds the municipality lets go some of its regulation and is able to learn from the effects. The testing grounds cover a range of urban areas in order to learn about the effects in different settings.

Picture: Piet Hein Eek Laboratory and Workshop. In a former industrial complex in Eindhoven the designer Piet Hein Eek created a mix of workshop, showroom, shop and restaurant. This space of 10.000 m2 gives a powerful ‘boost’ to the regeneration of ‘Strijp R’ and is one of the many initiatives that is not initiated nor controlled by governmental policy but adds to the cities ambition to become a ‘Design Capital’ in the world. Eindhoven also houses the famous ‘Design Academy’. Sources: interview with ‘Mary Fiers’ former alderwoman of the city of Eindhoven, ‘Plan van Aanpak nieuwe ruimte 2013, gemeente Eindhoven’.

Favela Showcase

According to Rioonwatch: “Non-governmental organizations in Rio’s favelas that work with art, culture, sport and civic engagement provide structures that allow young people to escape a career of crime and, by actively showing that drugs, violence and crime are far from dominant elements in favela culture, challenge dominant stereotypes in mainstream society. These are some of the findings of Underground Sociabilities, an inter-institutional research project from the London School of Economics with AfroReggae and CUFA. Sociability refers to the “play-form of social life and the joy and imagination that accompany the experience of the social.”

“The study examines favela life and focuses on how bottom-up NGOs can “rewrite favela environments and establish lines of communication and exchange between marginalised communities and mainstream society.”
“Led by London School of Economics social and cultural psychology professor Sandra Jovchelovitch, the ethnographic and multi-method study based on extensive fieldwork in Cantagalo (South Zone), City of God(West Zone), Madureira and Vigário Geral (North Zone), was conducted between October 2009 and April 2010. The research identifies various facets of favela life: life stories marked by hardship, suffering and hard work; the centrality of the drug trade; the police as the only face of the state; family as central yet unstable; the importance of religion & faith and conviviality & enjoyment; and the necessary role played by organizations that provide support structures and protect against marginalisation.”
“Strong social cohesion in favelas and the paradox that although residents live in fear of the drug gangs and police, they feel safer in their own communities than in the city and are reluctant to cross favela/asphalt borders are striking findings that point to the stigma and discrimination faced by favela residents. According to Underground Sociabilities, NGOs provide models of resistance, providing the possibility for self-development and pushing positive favela representations into the mainstream.”
“Both AfroReggae and CUFA promote social inclusion through a variety of cultural and social activities. They were founded in the 1990s at the height of violence in Rio’s favelas and work to provide opportunities, transform social realities through culture, mediate conflicts and communicate to wider society. Members include hip hop artists (CUFA was founded by MV Bill) and former drug gang members who frequently speak of their experiences and the route to positive self-fulfillment offered by the organizations and their activities.” Sources: Rioonwatch.org, Video: London School of Economics, Picture: Favela Santa Marta by Rogier van den Berg

Start-Up Incubators

According to Emily Badger from the AtlanticCities.com: Co-working spaces are often treated today as a novelty, as a thoroughly modern solution to the changing needs of a workforce now more loyal to their laptops than any long-term employers. But the idea is actually as old as the public library.

One of the world’s first and most famous libraries, in Alexandria, Egypt, was frequently home some 2,000 years ago to the self-starters and self-employed of that era. “When you look back in history, they had philosophers and mathematicians and all sorts of folks who would get together and solve the problems of their time,” says Tracy Lea, the venture manager with Arizona State University’s economic development and community engagement arm. “We kind of look at it as the first template for the university. They had lecture halls, gathering spaces. They had co-working spaces.”

This old idea of the public library as co-working space now offers a modern answer – one among many – for how these aging institutions could become more relevant two millennia after the original Alexandria library burned to the ground. Would-be entrepreneurs everywhere are looking for business know-how and physical space to incubate their start-ups. Libraries meanwhile may be associated today with an outmoded product in paper books. But they also happen to have just about everything a 21st century innovator could need: Internet access, work space, reference materials, professional guidance.

Why not, Lea suggests, put these two ideas together? Arizona State is planning in the next few months to roll out a network of co-working business incubators inside public libraries, starting with a pilot in the downtown Civic Center Library in Scottsdale. The university is calling the plan, ambitiously, the Alexandria Network.

Participating libraries will host dedicated co-working spaces for the program, as well as both formal classes and informal mentoring from the university’s start-up resources. The librarians themselves will be trained by the university to help deliver some of the material. The network will offer everything, in short, but seed money. “As we develop this pilot and start to scale it out,” Lea adds, “we would like to be able to direct people on how to find those resources.”

Libraries also provide a perfect venue to expand the concept of start-up accelerators beyond the renovated warehouses and stylish offices of “innovation districts.” They offer a more familiar entry-point for potential entrepreneurs less likely to walk into a traditional start-up incubator (or an ASU office, for that matter). Public libraries long ago democratized access to knowledge; now they could do the same in a start-up economy. “We refer to it as democratizing entrepreneurship,” Lea says, “so everyone really can be involved.” Source: theAtlanticCities.com Picture: New York Public Library Reading Room

Clean Energy Centre

“UN-Habitat launched the construction of a Multifunctional Clean Energy Centre at St. Christine Community School Centre in Kibera Kenya. This is a joint initiative funded by DANIDA and UN-Habitat. It is the first of a series of Multifunctional Clean Energy Centres that UN-Habitat plans to construct in other Sub-Saharan African cities.
The proposed 3-floor facility has been designed taking into account bio-climatic and energy efficiency considerations. It will constitute the following spaces:  toilets and bathrooms, a solar charging facility, computer room, a classroom as well as a community hall.  The project seeks to improve access to basic urban services to the community, offering a multi-purpose facility which combines improved sanitation (public toilets and bathrooms), clean cooking fuel and lighting. The toilets will be used by the school of about 415 pupils and the surrounding community.
This facility has been designed as an income generating tool for the school. The local community will be able to have access to the public toilets and bathrooms at a fee. The biogas produced will replace firewood and charcoal which the school currently buys at a high price. This will greatly reduce its expenditure associated with meal preparation. Some of the electricity generated by the solar photovoltaic panels will be used for lighting the building and also at the solar charging facility for recharging of solar lanterns and mobiles phones at an affordable fee.
The biogas generated in the digester, that forms part of the sanitation system, will be used at the school’s kitchen to prepare meals for the children. The liquid fertilizer, an end product of the biogas system, will be used at the school’s garden. A total of 150 solar lanterns, 50 of which have been donated by Philips East Africa, shall be rented out to the school’s parents and the surrounding community to ensure clean, bright and affordable lighting is accessible to replace kerosene lamps thereby enabling children to read at night. In addition, the facility will include a water tank where water will be stored for use at the school and some of it will be sold to the community at an affordable rate.”
Source: UN-Habitat, Picture: Above: Kibera

Reuse of vacant officebuilding

This week, October 1st, the Hogeschool has openend its doors in a former vacant office building. More than 2500 students and 500 employees (re)use the building in the heart of Rotterdam.

Rotterdam University maintains a number of educational clusters through Rotterdam. The Academieplein-site needed to expand to be able to accommodate the growing number of students. The vacant office block next door offered an opportunity to enlarge the school’s volume in short term. Zandbelt&vandenberg made the design for the transformation of the office building into a new educational facility. Just one year after the first design proposels the transformation of the former office building has been finished.

Ten new elevators, new staircases, replaced entrances, a compltet new lay-out and adapted installations changed the office building into a state of the art school building. The reuse of this vacant officebuilding sets the example for other innercity real estate to be redeveloped. It is possible.