In Rotterdam, a Promenade Built By the People
Plank by plank, the people of Rotterdam are building a bridge that will give pedestrians safe passage over a tangle of highways and connect two parts of the city that have been separated by cars for years, in the hopes of revitalizing both.
The project is partly inspired by the High Line in New York City. But this isn’t a reclaimed piece of infrastructure, like the former rail line where the High Line was built.
Instead, the Luchtsingel (Dutch for "raised promenade") is being constructed section-by-section out of wood and crowdfunded in part by donors who can buy planks for as little as €25 (about $32), or larger sections for up to €1,250 (about $1,600). Donors’ names appear on the planks, which will eventually number 17,000.
The project is a collaboration between the Rotterdam-based urban design group ZUS (Zones Urbaines Sensibles) and the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR), which this year has the theme of "Making City."
In March, it was announced that the Luchtsingel won Rotterdam’s Stadtsinitiatef, an annual competition in which the city’s residents are asked to vote on a project that will receive city funding and support. The Luchtsingel got 48 percent of the vote.
The campaign to build the Luchtsingel, which began late last year, shows how a good crowdfunding effort can build momentum for a substantial piece of urban infrastructure that otherwise might have not been built for a generation. From the ZUS proposal:
The idea for a raised promenade first surfaced in the Central District master plan drawn up by the city of Rotterdam and Maxwan Architecten. … According to the current plans, construction of this pedestrian bridge is planned in 30 years.
The area cannot wait that long, however. Crowdfunding allows the bridge to be financed in an alternative way, namely directly by the public. This means that construction can start decades before it is planned. The necessary improvement in the quality of the area is therefore no longer fully dependent on policy plans and real estate developments.
In other words, don’t cross that bridge when you come to it. Start building it now so that you can get to the other side.