SprintCity – international application

SprintCity, a planning support tool for Transit-Oriented Development, has been succesfully applied to cases in The Netherlands. Recently there is a growing interest to apply this tool in other parts of the world, to support policy makers and transit companies in optimizing transport corridors, and help researchers in exploring the mechanisms behind TOD. SprintCity has been developed over the last 4 years by the Deltametropolis Association, Delft University of Technology and Movares. Its prototype version was made possible by the Next Generation Infrastructures foundation. The English version was launched in September 2013.


SprintCity aims
Planning support tool SprintCity simulates urban growth and train frequencies along a rail corridor, over a period of 20 years. The purpose of the tool is to give decision-makers insight into the relationship of spatial development and infrastructure, competition between municipalities and the specific qualities and opportunities of each station on a corridor. It also provides a safe platform to experiment with development strategies and collaboration between the different stakeholders.
Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is a promising urban model for densely populated areas, such as the Netherlands. The complexity of spatial planning and transport integration, as well as the fact that there is not a single responsible authority for TOD, is causing the current suboptimal use of rail infrastructure in The Netherlands. SprintCity was developed to help break these barriers.
SprintCity has been used by more than 350 people, in more than 40 sessions, since 2009. It has been applied on 4 rail corridors in The Netherlands and implementation in Belgium is currently being studied. In principle, it can be used on any transport corridor (including Bus Rapid Transit), both existing corridors with existing and new stations, as well as new corridors or comparative corridor alternatives. Especially these latter applications may be relevant for metropolitan areas in developing countries.


Working on an international basis
From the beginning, SprintCity (‘SprintStad’ in Dutch) has been a collaborative project, involving universities, government bodies and private enterprises. This approach has resulted in a user-friendly and widely tested tool: SprintCity v2.0. We believe that the application and further development of SprintCity should occur internationally. On the one hand, several entities abroad have contacted us to learn about this possibility. Consequently an English version is now being developed for this new group of international users. And on the other hand, co-development on an international scale will no doubt enhance the functionalities and applications of the next versions of SprintCity.

SprintCity session in Haarlem (The Netherlands)

In this manner, the growing SprintCity community will be able to learn from each new experience and from the different policy- and development contexts worldwide. The source code of SprintCity is owned by the project partners, listed above. The data input and results, however, are always shared and made public. At this point, we are engaged with experts and government bodies in the following countries: Flanders (Belgium), Sweden, India, China, Brazil, Turkey, Australia and Peru. Read more about application in these countries here.

Session in Bangalore and New Delhi

SprintCity, the format
In order to include human decision making in the simulation, SprintCity has the format of a role playing game (ideally played by the real stakeholders), supported by a computer model with realistic data input. It features three types of players:

1. The Province/Region-player controls the overall development of the corridor, and needs to find an optimal location for regional functions, such as a hospital or educational facility;

2. The Transport-player controls the time table of the rail services on the corridor, and aims to increase ridership while running a profitable service;

3. The Municipality-players control the land use plans of each station area, and aspire to develop these areas according to previously chosen ambitions and a master plan.

Available train capacity, phased development areas and limited market demand for housing, offices and amenities provide natural bounderies to the system.

Read SprintCity Update #5 (English pdf), or
watch the introduction video below:

Beijing Design Week 2013

During the Beijing Design Week 2013, architecture studio Venhoeven CS organized a workshop called ‘The Sino-Dutch Approach‘, commissioned by the Creative Industry Fund. This year, Amsterdam is guest city of the BJDW. In a group of 12 Dutch designers I travelled to Beijing to work on transformation strategies for the Fengtai industrial district, in the Southwest periphery of Beijing. The aim of the workshop is to generate crossover concepts with our Chinese counterparts, for sustainable development in the capital city. Many of China’s major challenges are found in Fengtai: air quality, water management, congestion, economic shift from production to services, migration and gentrification. The district has the potential to become a creative subcentre and gateway to Beijing.

Case 1: Dahongmen
The Dahongmen area consists of fashion wholesale complexes. There are plans for fashion retail zones, focusing on the exclusive brands. The challenge here is to develop the entire value chain, from production and creation to the consumer, in order to attract and maintain a variety of professionals and social groups in the area, necessary for an innovative environment where Chinese brands and trends can emerge.

Case 2: Yongding river
Beijing has a dramatic relationship with water. On the one hand there is so much water shortage that water is brought in from the Yangtse river in the South. The Gobi desert is approaching and the Yongding river itself is dry most time of the year due to dams and water usage upstream. On the other hand heavy rainfall has caused severe damage to the urban structures in Beijing, for lack of permeable surfaces. A new type of green living environment may revive the Yongding river floodplains and redirect rainwater to feed the river.

Case 3: Fengtai railway station
The new high-speed railway station and subway links will strengthen the position of Fengtai as gateway of Beijing. Passengers traveling from Hong Kong and Shenzhen to Beijing will pass through the area. The station surroundings therefore have the potential to become a hotspot of activities and meetings, that may function in a complementary way to alleviate the congested central area of Beijing. Rather than redeveloping the whole area, a stepwise strategy could provide a lively area of reused industrial buildings, bike and pedestrian routes, densified ‘hutongs‘ and function mix of housing with amenities and work spaces.

Fengtai station strategy
Development proposal for Fengtai station area

Smart City
The main exhibition of the Design Week is about Smart Cities, held in the China Millennium Monument Museum of Digital Arts. Curated by Lei Yang, it features many tools to use big data and new media to plan and enhance the city, such as Urban OS and OS City. The SprintCity planning support tool may also provide opportunities for cities like Beijing.
The irony is however, that at the moment the Chinese authorities do not give access to urban data and have to a large extent control over what happens at the Chinese social media. This prevents civilians from using and improving many of the smart tools.

Download the presentation of the Sino-Dutch Approach, by Ton Venhoeven.
Also read the daily reports by the Creative Industry Fund, and my travel journal (Dutch), including the names of all participants.

Multi-use buildings #3 – The Rotterdam building

Half a century after Maaskant designed his multi-use building in Rotterdam, OMA drew up the plans for the next generation of grand scale ´vertical city´. ´De Rotterdam´ is located at the Wilhelminapier, in the heart of an old harbor and redevelopment site know as Kop van Zuid. The vertical city connects to a square, together with several old warehouses, and on the other side it has a waterfront plinth with restaurants and bars. The function mix consists of offices, dwellings, gastronomy, hotel, leisure, retail and parking space.

The main reason behind the delay (the building was designed in 1998 and is scheduled for completion end of 2013), was that in a medium size city like Rotterdam it´s extremely difficult to guarantee users for a building with 43 floors and 160.000 square meters of floor space. In a polemic but successful attempt to save the project, the Municipality decided to move its own administration to the building and hereby guarantee a lease of 25.000 m2. Interestingly, the same move was made in the 1970´s, in order to make the Europoint complex happen, designed by SOM. Like many parts of The Netherlands at present, Europoint and the surrounding Marconiplein area is now struggling with vacancy.

Shrinking cities as retirement cities? – publication

With an international group of researchers (The Netherlands, Turkey and Germany), I have explored some of the advantages that shrinking cities may actually have over other urban areas, especially concerning green areas and living costs. Our article was recently published in Environment and Planning A (2013, volume 45). In June this year, the work was presented in La Coruña (IAPS 2013), and earlier in Eindhoven (Environment 2.0).

Shrinking cities as retirement cities? Opportunities for shrinking cities as green living environments for older individuals
Merten Nefs (Deltametropolis Association, Rotterdam), Susana Alves (Okan Üniversitesi, İstanbul), Ingo Zasada (Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research, Müncheberg), Dagmar Haase (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig)

´Increasingly, policy makers and planners must develop strategies to cope with urban shrinkage. This paper proposes that active retirement migration and health tourism can be parts of such strategies. Shrinking cities, normally observed as less competitive, could develop advantages over other cities with respect to attracting retirees if their spatial conditions were used effectively. By converting vacant space or improving access to  high quality green space, shrinking cities can attract retirees in search of quality of life, who in turn might represent a crucial catalyst in urban renewal for shrinking cities. The authors conclude that the potential of shrinking cities as green retirement cities can be considered
by integrating existing research concepts: eg, green space typologies and the functionality of public space for older individuals. Furthermore, recent practical studies suggest that the potential for shrinking cities as retirement cities exists. However, the potential has led to specific policy to only a limited extent. Despite substantial opportunities, many challenges arise when this idea is put into practice. Therefore, recommendations are made at the end of this paper for addressing this topic in future research and urban planning.´

Keywords: retirement migration, ageing, living environment, environmental affordances,
green open space, urban green space, shrinking city, quality of life

Read the full article here

Multi-use buildings – a city within the city #2

Groothandelsgebouw Rotterdam – construction works of new central train station

The 1950´s were clearly a rich period for multi-use buildings, as we have seen in São Paulo – ´Multi-use buildings – a city within the city #1´. The Groothandelsgebouw (Wholesale building) in Rotterdam was built from 1948 to 1953, at the edge of historic city center that had been destroyed in the war. The building, designed by Maaskant and Van Tijen, is now considered one of the key post-war icons in the Netherlands. Already during construction, in 1951, the first companies were operating from the Groothandelsgebouw. In the 1960´s, the new central railway station was built next to it, and along the same axis in the 1970´s until the 1990´s the Weena business district was developed.

Groothandelsgebouw around 1960 – construction of central railway station and mail terminal (left), Doelen concert hall and Lijnbaan housing+retail complex (top)

The building contains a plinth of shops and other public functions on street level, a grand café (´Engels´) at the most visible corner, a cinema (later auditorium ´Kriterion´) and terraces on the rooftop, many companies adding up to thousands of employees, and an ingenious system of ramps and elevators for delivery, parking and logistics.

In the last 2 years I have had the pleasure to work on the top floor of this building, with the spectacular view all the way to The Hague. During this period, the central train station was completely rebuilt and expanded. The Groothandelsgebouw, however, remains more or less as it was in the beginning. The most recent renovation, about 5 years ago, restored the facades to its original concrete color. It continues a multipurpose building, nowadays including creative businesses and foreign consulates, a kinder-garden and bike rental business.

Like many office buildings in The Netherlands, the building currently suffers from high vacancy rates, due to the economic crisis. But as the building is privately owned and already paid for, well located and maintained, the rent prices have not dropped yet. The result of this, is that most of the creative business have moved out over the last couple of years, in search for affordable rents. The only inhabitants of the building (one of the many units is an apartment), mr. and ms. Stolk, are still there.

Read more:
Archined (Dutch online architecture portal), when they left the building, earlier this year.