Airport and Region

Client: Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment Year: 2012
Output: Spatial models for the future development of Schiphol Airport and the Amsterdam Metropolitan Region.
Project: How to balance future economic developments in the Amsterdam Metropolitan region with the noise pollution contours of one of Europe’s busiest airports? Although limits of the noise contours have been legally set, the way they could be interpreted varies. This opens a playing field in which local politics, private parties and environmental agents act and follow their individual interests. The project entitled SMASH generated three spatial models of the playing field until 2040 through a series of large conferences and workshops with many stakeholders involved. These models are input for the national policy of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment for the airport and the metropolitan region around.

Smart Informal Territories lab

Client: City of São Paulo Year: 2009-2013
Project: Smart Informal Territories Lab Heliópolis (SITlab) works with the Prefeitura de Cidade de São Paulo, the local community and various ‘NGO’s’ on upgrading projects for the Favela Heliópolis where an estimated 190.000 people live without formally having an address. Inclusive planning instruments are essential for the upgrade of living standards and to solve underlying causes. The legalization of housing could help inhabitants to break out of a socio-economic spiral that is largely caused by having no legal address and by the extreme high costs of living in an ‘illegal city’. With SITlab Heliópolis the Universidade Presbiteriana MacKenzie São Paulo, Parsons the New School for Design and the Academy of Architecture in Amsterdam work on plans and co-creative planning tools for the Favela that could be applied in other similar conditions in Brazil.

Community Mortgage

“In many poor and developing countries, land markets, prevailing policies, practices and institutions limit many of the working poor’s access to secure tenure and adequate land for housing. The Philippines is one such country, where patterns of urban growth and development make it difficult for the poor to remain in the cities where employment and other opportunities exist.”

“Through the Community Mortgage Program, the Government lends funds to informal settlers organized as a community association, making it possible for them to buy a piece of land that they can occupy permanently. The land can be on-site, presently occupied by the community, or an entirely new site to where the community intends to relocate. The CMP also offers loans for site improvement and house construction even if, in reality, the majority of CMP loans are issued for the acquisition of land. The CMP was designed to be a demand-driven approach; it is the community that needs assistance that decides to participate in the programme and initiates the process. In an on-site project, informal settlers can obtain ownership of the land they occupy by buying it through a community mortgage loan. One of the requirements is a subdivision plan, where the houses and plots are then re-aligned or re-blocked to conform to minimum subdivision standards. An off-site project, on the other hand, requires relocation to another area that the community chooses and purchases.”

“To be eligible for loans, informal settlers have to have a homeowners’ association (HOA) with at least nine households but no more than 200. After an association has complied with the minimum requirement and met certain criteria, the Social Housing Finance Corporation approves the mortgage and advances payment to the landowner. The group loan is payable monthly for up to 25 years at 6 per cent interest per annum. The land to be purchased serves as collateral for the loan. The HOA is considered to be the borrower.Throughout the process, it is responsible for preparing documentary requirements, negotiating with the landowner, collecting the monthly amortizations of itsmember-beneficiaries, and ensuring that their financial obligations to the lending institution are met. The HOA also enforces sanctions on community members, and oversees the re-blocking and enforcement of the subdivision plan.”

“The Philippines is the fourth most populous nation in East Asia. Growing at an average rate of 2 per cent annually, the population is currently 92 million, of which an estimated 63 per cent live in urban areas. Metro Manila, or the National Capital Region (NCR), is the largest urban centre in the Philippines. At present, its 16 cities and one urban municipality together had an estimated population of 12 million. If the current trend prevails, the Philippines is projected to be 70 per cent urban in less than a decade with an urban population of around 86 million. Unregulated urban growth and acute poverty have resulted in severe housing problems. Of the roughly 10 million Filipino families living in cities today, an estimated 3.1 million lack security of tenure with 2.7 informal settler households in Metro Manila alone according to data from the National Housing Authority in 2007.” Source: Innovative urban tenure in the Philippines, summary report, UN-Habitat / Global Land Tool Network. Picture: Christoph Mohr

City Deals

In the UK cities have gained more power and control over their own urban planning. This decentralization of power offers them the possibility to invest in infrastructure and regeneration projects. They can claim future tax receipts of their local businesses directly from the state if they come up with a plan.

At least two of six key principles of the City Deals put forward by Whitehall in London are Smart: Putting cities in the driving seat: cities, not Whitehall, are best placed to understand the economic opportunities and challenges they face. Many have already taken the initiative and begun to develop credible economic strategies, and these will be the starting point for our work with cities. Focusing on the wider metro area: Encouraging deals across the wider economic area has clear merits in terms of scale, geographical reach and economic governance. Deals will be negotiated with groups of authorities across a functional economic area.” The first wave of City Deals are being made with: Greater Birmingham, Bristol City Region, Leeds City Region, Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester City, Newcastle City Region, Nottingham City Region, Sheffield City Region. The second wave will invite twenty other cities and their wider areas. Picture: Manchester Skyline by Andrew Brooks


Air Quality Information

According to Smartplanet: “For Parisians wondering if it’s a good day for a jog or a bike across the city, soon they’ll only need look up to learn how clean the air is. Baptized the Observatoire Atmosphérique Generali, a new, one-of-a-kind hot air balloon at the Parc André Citroën will take flight this spring thanks to a new partnership with the European insurance group Generali and the balloon’s designer Aerophile. The balloon will visibly inform about 400,000 Parisians daily about the air quality near traffic and away from roads. Moreover, the balloon will carry new instruments to study air samples above Paris. The balloon is part of Generali’s commitment to addressing preventable health costs related to poor air quality in France. A recent European study of nine French cities revealed that none respect the World Health Organization’s guidelines for appropriate amounts of ozone and fine particulate matter in the air. The study suggests that nearly 3,000 yearly deaths, 1,000 hospitalizations, and lowered life expectancy could all be avoided if France cleaned up the air. The Observatoire Atmosphérique Generali will play a role in monitoring such conditions in Paris. And the insurance moguls at Generali know who is paying for much of the nearly 5 billion euros that the study says could be saved if France cleaned up its act. In tandem with City Hall, the observatory will hold classes every morning for Parisian children, offering up to 30 people at time the chance to get a bird’s eye view of the capital while learning about air quality. The partnership between Generali, Aerophile, and the city will last five years starting this spring.” Picture: Aerophile

Clean Air Act

London had its Great Smog in 1952. Although being used to fog this one was more hazardous as ever causing death and illness in the City of London. Beijing has its Great Smog these days. Nothing to be proud of. Air pollution reaches up to 40 times the maximum as being set by the World Health Organization. Beijing sits in the middle of a coal-burning factories belt that expands ever more. The economic growth of China and the demand for electricity will not be the incentive for a cleaner Beijing. What should happen?Having a look at London in 1952 might help. The City of London introduced regulations followed by the Clean Air Act in 1956 only four years after the Great Smog. The Clean Air Act introduced a number of rules to reduce air pollution. For example by introducing ‘smoke control areas’ in which only smokeless fuels could be burnt. It regulated homes’ heat sources and it included measures to relocate power station away from cities and for the height of some chimneys to be increased. The Great Fog in London was that bad that even polluted air interrupted indoor events. It was simply not possible to see the projection in a cinema any longer. The Clean Air Act made the air in the City much better but it took a long run. In the 60-ies another Big Smog entered the city stage. It takes decades to clean up the air so Beijing better starts now. Another milestone since the Clean Air Act in London of 1956 was the introduction of Congestion Charges in the centre of the city in 2008. Congestion Charge charges high-polluting vehicles 25 pounds each time they pass through Central London’s Congestion Zone. Other vehicles are charged 8 pounds. Under the initiative, some low-emission vehicles can drive through the zone for free. In 2009, air pollution in the City of London was marked as moderate or high on only 12 days, less than a quarter of the 59 days recorded in 1993.

Sources: “Beijing Takes Steps to Fight Pollution as Problem Worsens” January 30, 2013, NRC Handelsblad 04 februari 2013, “Lessen van 100 jaar Smog”,, “Clean Air Act 1956”, “Before and After, Cleaning up our Cities.” Picture above, London 1952, Piccadilly Circus. Picture Below, Beijing 2013.


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.