Friday, April 20, 2012

Just a few ideas from International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam

The 5th Rotterdam Biennale is the third in a series that looks at the City of Tomorrow. It was held within the premises of the NAI-the Nederlands Architectuur Instituut, one of the world's largest and most active architecture centres.

The NAI is the steward of a unique architectural collection, stages exhibitions, organizes lectures and debates, and provides educational programming. It is dedicated to increasing public appreciation for architecture and its ability to respond to today's pivotal questions. In 2007, the Biennale focussed on how population shifts and globalization were accelerating change and questioned the role of architects in addressing these changes. The 2009/2010 event, titled Open City, urged architects and urban designers to reflect on what other types of contributions they might make. This year's Biennale, titled Making City looks at new ways to make better cities and seeks alternative solutions to those of the past.

Since 2009, the Biennale has been collaborating with local governments and partners on three 'test sites' in Rotterdam, Istanbul and Sao Paulo. In 2011 it issued a call for proposals to identify existing projects that demonstrate new solutions to the relationship between urban politics, planning and design. 320 submissions were received from around the world and 23 were selected as 'CounterSites'. While I am told that Vancouver wanted to be part of the event, a formal submission was not made. It is unfortunate since many of the people I met were eager to learn how Vancouver has achieved the level of success that it has, especially in the inner city.
I am also confident, having briefly seen some of the submissions and related activities, there was much Vancouver could learn from those participating at the event, especially in terms of alternative approaches to planning and improving sustainability.
I particularly enjoyed meeting Hans-Josef Hinken, a journalist who writes about urban issues from Freiburg Germany. Since I often consider Freiburg to be one of the truly greenest cities of the world, we agreed to collaborate on a joint article that compares our respective cities within various categories that might be considered barometers of greenest! Coming soon....

Sadly there was too little time to fully appreciate all the effort that went into the presentations and the information presented. However a catalogue of the event was published "MAKING CITY 5th IABR 2012. I am including some random photos taken at the Media Launch.I was especially taken with presentations that looked at densification in terms of introducing building forms from other times and places into local landscapes. After all, with architects reading the same glossy magazines, this is what so often happens around the world!As I wandered around the Biennale, I thought about the recent debate over Sister Cities, and whether civic officials travelling to places around the world and events such as this should be viewed as being on junkets, or genuine learning experiences. Personally, I see value in participation in international events such as this. While I suspect other cities would benefit more from what Vancouver might offer, there is much we can learn. In a future blog posting I will describe garbage collection systems that are commonplace in Europe and yet not available here. This is just the tip of the iecberg.

The way most European cities accommodate public transit and bicycles is fascinating; as is the national attitude to architecture and design. The Netherlands has the position of National Architect and I believe this influences the public interest in design. While there are different approaches to planning in Europe...the Dutch love to master plan....the Belgiums prefer a more ad-hoc approach, etc., it is worthwhile to pay close attention to what is happening. This will be addressed in a future post that looks at a proposed new Canada-Netherlands sustainability network.

The Biennale will now continue until 31 October 2012. Check it out!

1 comment:

Ria Hinken said...

Greetings from Freiburg, Germany. I love your article. My office is in one of these "Green-City-Projects" of Freiburg.