Open Data Initiative

Client: Rijkswaterstaat Year: 2013
Rijkswaterstaat, the Dutch department of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment responsible for the safety and maintenance of the Dutch national infrastructure works on the Open Data Initiative of the current cabinet. SmartCityStudio assists in the analyses of opportunities of the large body of data that exists within the organisation and advises on what steps to take to create innovative applications from datasets with third parties. To achieve this the raw data should first be ‘cleaned up’ and made accessible. SmartCityStudio assists in the conceptual thinking around a paradigm shift – from thinking in hardware to thinking in software – within Rijkswaterstaat. This in order to create opportunities for among others Smart Traffic Management, Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), Mass Evacuation Software and Water Management.

Creola Bright Future

Client: stichting Uitracel / district Saramacca, Surinam Year: 2013
 Public Space Strategy / Local Economic Dev. Strategy / Resource Mobilisation
Project: Creola Bright Future aims at the exploration of cultural value through the lens of public space in the former slave plantation of Creola, Surinam. Creola is a former slave plantation that has been erected in 1934 and thus exists 80 year in 2014. Inhabitants in the area and in the surroundings are descendants of the slaves of this plantation. The local community of Creola has a dual relation to the plantation having been unvoluntary offspring of this dark side of Surinam’s history. At the same time local inhabitants have developed local arts and crafts, regional architecture and agricultural production of indigenous food on the site of the former plantation. This all creates a accidental assemblage of historic landscape architectonic artefacts like sluices and waterways with hidden podisiri (acai berry’s) plantations , regional architecture and local crafts on the production of for example Korjalen, the typical Surinam boat type. Locals living in the area all have their own stories and knowledge on what has happened over history on the plantation.

This project will amplify local cultural values in the area and relate them to the experience of the area itself in order to rebuild a local identity for Creola. This together should provide a network of public spaces that offer opportunities for small entrepreneurial activities. The project develops an alternative public space strategy as opposed to the tabula rasa development that is common these days in the privatized society of Surinam. By exploring local stories and cultural production in the area CreolaBrightFuture rewrites the story of Creola people throught the experience of public space. Not as a historical analysis but as a basis for contemporary cultural production, education and small entrepreneurship.
Sources: SmartCityStudio Picture: Local Podisiri (acai berry’s) plantation hidden in the woods of Creola.

Dynamic Flood Control

As reported in the Economist this week, Ho Chi Minh City “must take drastic action to prevent flooding”. The low-lying city with over 8 million inhabitants could learn from the Dutch that developed Smart strategies to cope with peak levels in its rivers.
According to the Economist “yet nearly half of the city lies less than one metre above sea level…”and scientists say groundwater extraction in Ho Chi Minh City causes land subsidence may be having a huge unseen effect to the city of which nearly 70% is already vulnerable to extreme flooding.”…”Flood risks are rising in Ho Chi Minh City’s lower lying districts, in part because the property boom that accompanied Vietnam’s 2007 entry to the World Trade Organisation led many developers to build wherever they could” and because of “poor immigrants who build flimsy shacks in the city’s swampy outskirts”. Instead of only investing in a plan that comprises of over 170 km of dikes to protect urban areas Dutch strategies like the ‘Room for the River’ program might offer new useful insights in how to create flood-control solutions that are sustainable. The Dutch ‘Room for the River’ program is not fighting the water with investing in dikes that have to be heightened every decade. ‘Room for the River’ offers a dynamic systems that offers solutions for the increasing amounts of water in the Dutch rivers and the gradually subsiding land behind the dikes. The ‘Room for the River’ project literally creates more room for the river and with that guaranteeing the safety of over 4 million people living in risk areas along it. Work is carried out in more than 30 locations and interventions comprise of for example high water channels that branches of the river and offer separate routes for high water or temporary water storage areas.
Some of the interventions go hand in hand with the development of urban areas that take water management as a basis for urban planning. The ‘Room for the River’ program is more than progressive engineering. Above all it is a paradigm shift from a defensive ‘total control’ attitude towards a concept with a dynamic system that creates new spatial opportunities within the river landscape. The dynamics of the Dutch water system itself is accurately mapped by ‘Rijkswaterstaat’ the governmental department that is responsible for the design and maintenance of the main infrastructure facilities in the Netherlands.  Reliable water data is of great importance for controlling the flood barriers, sluices and pumping stations and the assessment of water quality. Therefore ‘Rijkswaterstaat’s measures include the daily tides, wave height and water quality. They also calculate water levels and wave forecasts. Something for Ho Chi Minh City to have a look at. To have total control with ‘hardware’ like dikes only will on the long term be very money-consuming. The dynamic ‘Room for the River’ project together with accurate data on water levels (the ‘software’) will set the example for future flood-control solutions across the globe. For a short introduction on the ‘Room for the River’ project have a look at the corporate video of Rijkswaterstaat. Picture: Ho Chi Minh City by Brian K. Smith. Sources: SmartCityStudio, Rijkswaterstaat, the Economist.

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

Waste collection on the water

According to the Dutch newspaper NRC innercity cargo transport by boats is the future. In the historic towncentres of the Randstad congestion is an everlasting problem. These historic centres have once been designed for transport by foot, horse and… on the water. Small scale cargotransport on the finegrain network of historic canals in the innercities is a Smart alternative for regular distribution with too big trucks in the congested towncentres. The city of Utrecht sets the example. In 1996 it already started with a municipal ‘beerboat’ to deliver drinks at restaurants and bars along the ‘Oude Gracht’. Now there is also a boat for waste collection and a new beerboat on electric power. So no innercity noise anymore. The waste collection boat has a crane to transport waste bins from the quai to the boat. The industrial design for the waste bins on wheels should actually be improved, because the small wheels cause difficulties on the cobbled innercity roads. The advantage of the wasteboat is the reduction of congestion, CO2 and fine dust. The boat seems to be slow, but is much quicker than transport by truck. Utrecht aims on the expansion of the fleet. The city is working on a full electric powered city distribution system. Their ‘cargohoppers’, small electric vehicles which with a tail of ‘wagons’, are the alternative for the truck. These heavy trucks demolish the pavement in the historic city centres. The political support of the whole project is there, because it combines clean, silent and energy efficient alternatives.

The above is a summary of an article in the Dutch newspaper NRC: “Afval- en bierboten tegen de files”, October 20th, 2012.

Smart energy production

This movie on Smart energy production in the new town of Almere promotes the development of community driven energy production. It is part of a quintet of strategies for Smart City Almere which could turn Almere into an independent city with a vibrant urban economy. With this it will create conditions for 100.000 jobs to flourish. To do this the city adopts a new attitude towards planning and will liberate itself from a culture of control by creating conditions for others to do the job.

The movie on Smart energy production was part of ‘Almere’s Liberation’, one of the projects which was on show at the last Architecture Biënnale in Rotterdam. These ‘five liberations’ have been published on the internet today. The concepts and the movie are made by Zandbelt&vandenBerg, architecture and urban design and commissioned by the International Architecture Biënnale Rotterdam, Atelier Making Projects.

Have a look at for the other Smart City strategies for Almere


Tidal Pool

Just below the citywalls of St.Malo at the shore of the Atlantic Ocean a tidal pool offers a place to swim also when it is low tide. With high tide the pool fills itself. Combined with a diving board it is assured of success and a attraction for the city. During daytime visitors of the beach and the pool cross the city carrying towels and flippers.

Wild Raingardens

The 11th of July The Committee of Climate Change (CCC) published their report ‘Climate Change – is the UK preparing for flooding and water scarcity?’. One of their key messages is the one on the managment of surface water flows. ‘Flooding in urban areas is already increasing as a result of paving over green spaces in towns and cities’. Last decades towns and cities have been using ever less permeable surface materials. As a result of this heavy rainfall causes flooding in the city. This is a widely known problem within many European cities. This could be reduced by making cities greener and using more permeable surface materials in public space and private space. In many cities an old-fashioned sewer systems have been designed to handle the drainage of rainwater. With more soft and green surfaces in the city the overcharge of this system could be prevented. Another less obvious factor in the flooding of cities is the private garden. As the CCC explains: ‘Indicators show that in towns and cities the proportion of gardens that   have been paved over increased from 28% of total garden area in 2001 to 48% in 2011. Total garden area in towns and cities has remained roughly constant at around 340,000 hectares of the 1.3 million hectares of total urban extent in England.’ Having a paved garden is easy and have been fashionable too for a long time. But a new trend in gardening could offer a solution. The ‘wild garden’ offers a new approach to gardening. A leading Dutch writer on gardening ‘Romke van der Kaa’ just published the book:’Naturalize, let the plant do the work’. As a Dutch internet bookseller describes: the book …’offers the adventure of plants that go their own way, whether or not directed by us. It delivers beautiful flower meadows, fields or prairie gardens, however small the garden is. An approach that fits comfortably with our current lifestyle, in which there is hardly any time for labor-intensive gardening.’ If the urban populations take up this trend it will contribute to flood prevention in the city.

Let the Wild Raingarden do the work.



1000 Raingardens

Sendai Oasis – 1000 Rain Gardens, Tohoku University, Japan wins the Smart Cities Award at the Dutch Archtitecture Biënnale in Rotterdam.
According to the Netherlands Architecture Institute: “this project examines alternatives for the design of the city of Sendai, Japan, following the effects of the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. In order to protect residents against extreme temperatures (heat islands) and from the effects of heavy rainfall, the Tohoku University proposes a network of small ‘rain gardens’. This network will provide a sustainable solution for water recycling and create green public spaces in the city. The jury was very impressed by the completeness of this plan, the whole seems to have a significantly larger impact than its individual parts.”

The Tohoku University which has been immediately rebuilt after the earthquake has a testgarden at the faculty terrain. According to the website of Sendai Oasis: “Creating a Sustainable City based on its Water System, Aobayama Rain Garden (ARG) proposes a multi-environmental control device that originally functions for the recovery of rain water, Infiltration areas and groundwater replenishment, thus acting as an effective environmental device linking the Keywords of Low-carbon society, Heat Island control, Energy recycling, Bio-diversity and Disaster aid spot with Emergency water supply. BY using ITC networks, real time monitoring is possible for all the data such as storage water levels, wind velocity related to thermal comfort index and green energy consumption degree via smart meters.”