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M4H & Sponge Garden Excursion

It was wet, it was windy, it was unfairly chilly given the tropical weather both before and after…but it was wonderful!

On Saturday 4th July we gathered with a small group of socially-distanced Urbanistas to explore the Merwe-Vierhavens (M4H), a harbour area in transition in the west of Rotterdam. We were led by Morva Farrokhseresht and Annette Matthiessen from the Municipality of Rotterdam and Agate Kalnpure from De Urbanisten.

First, Annette and Morva guided us around the area, explaining the vision for it to become the cornerstone of a new 'Makers District' in Rotterdam. The area is already home to a vibrant mix of innovative industries and projects that is unique in the city (everything from a floating farm, to a second hand building material store), and it was really inspiring to hear how the municipality are actively exploring alternative land development and ownership models, to ensure that these sorts of initiatives remain possible.

One such project is the Sponge Garden/ Sponstuin, an initiative of design office De Urbanisten, built as a prototype in the Keilewerf. In a radial form, the garden includes a range of plants and soil types, and is investigating the potential of urban greenery to act like a sponge. As Agate explained, with the results (which should be available in a year or so), they hope to reveal new concepts for improving the city climate as well as coping with extreme rain events and droughts.

One of the highlights of the trip had to be the impromptu meeting with artist Joep van Lieshout, who very enthusiastically explained his plans for a redevelopment of part of the M4H area into an art centre (see here a short film of him getting excited about the plans, and here's a whole documentary!). All in all, a very special outing and much needed burst of Urbanistas inspiration!


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