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Defensive Urbanism Hostile Architecture Rotterdam Urban Sports

Who’s afraid of the Weena?

Photo by Julian de Block

The same week I published my critical column about the offensive measure at the Weena (see previous post), an interesting intervention popped up in my IG feed. A temporary grind rail has been installed at the ‘crime scene’, using the same stone strips I stumbled over – literally and metaphorically – as a basis.
The intervention has been done by a student from the local Art School, the Willem de Kooning Academy. He/she wants to remain anonymous so the pseudonym ‘Rotterdam. Make it not happen’ is used, an allusion to the city’s marketing slogan ‘Rotterdam. Make it happen’.

City Branding

Rotterdam has a name for being a mecca for urban sports, in particular skateboarding. Pictures of skaters in cool outfits in typical Rotterdam locations appear regularly in marketing campaigns, branding Rotterdam as an authentic and cool city.

Image from a marketing campaign for the new Depot Boijmans van Beuningen and Susan Bijl, a local designer of sustainable accessories.

But lately, the city has been struggling with this carefully crafted marketing image. The past year there has been commotion about a much-loved skate spot, the Museumpark, being refurbished with fountains and greenery. When finished there will be less room for skaters. Furthermore, skating is actively discouraged by installing a non-slip floor and skatestoppers on nearby ledges. The skate community feels used and pushed out of the public domain.In this light ‘Make it not happen’ is an interesting inversion of the original marketing slogan ‘Make it happen’.

Tactical Urbanism

Back to the intervention, a fine example of tactical urbanism as the strips now accommodate the very activity that they are supposed to prevent. Thus a hostile environment – for skaters that is – is turned into a hospitable one, even if only temporarily.

So once more the Weena sets the stage for a premiere but this time an honourable one: the first public space intervention to receive the predicate ‘APPROVED by the Public Space Detective’. Congrats to ‘Rotterdam. Make it not happen’!

Thanks to Juul Laurenssen, Jacky van Heist & Mara Hendriksen