Making City

It seems that in the past two decades speculation has taken over city planning, because more real estate has been developed than there has been actual demand for. In the Netherlands this has resulted in 7 million square meters of empty office and business space. Belgium copes with 6 million square meters and even London has to deal with 13 million square meters of deserted buildings while facing an ever decreasing lack of demand. This is the result of the primacy of the market logic in urban development and a clear lack of public supervision and political vision. We can say that the financial bubble has resulted in a physical bubble, in the form of large deserted areas filled with empty buildings. We call these bubble areas Urban Phantoms.


Urban Phantoms throughout Europe have in common that they have a mono-functional setup, that they are usually related to infrastructural knots and disconnected from the surrounding urban fabric. Although they are part of the urban territory, they don’t seem to be part of the city, understood as a divers and complex habitat for working and living. What seems to be lacking is a public domain or more precisely, a public structure. The assignment for the 5th IABR is to rethink these phantom areas and to research the strategies and tools to re-magine and re-design them as active and comprehensive parts of the city.

Compared with emerging regions like parts of South-America, the Middle-East and China, Europe is facing stagnation. Demographical shrinkage and an unstable economy force the old continent to choose a new strategy for urban development. Instead of encouraging growth, the main tasks will be to qualitatively transform existing real estate and to rethink abandoned areas. Instead of large-scale instant developments the focus will have to shift to innovative interventions, driven by long-term strategies

Name: IABR 5: Making City
Location: Rotterdam
Date: 2012
Client: IABR