Today we visited the press preview of the 5th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR). At several locations in the city various exhibitions, test sites, projects and interventions are connected by routes and not yet existing paths that only the IABR visitor will recognize. The next four months the exhibition program will be accompanied by all kinds of events such as debates, workshops, film screenings and even a pop-up bar. As a proud media partner of the festival, we will report about the best and most interesting projects that are taking place in the coming months. Today was all about two main elements of the biennale — the main exhibition at the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi) and the test site at Schieblock, an old office building that is re-programmed by architecture firm ZUS and a bunch of other creative offices.
Main exhibition at NAi
The main exhibition at the NAi features projects that focus on the festival’s main theme, ‘Making City’. How do cities around the world experiment with the way they make great urban places? Most remarkable here is the fact that we’ve hardly seen any straight-forward architecture at IABR, which is interesting since the urban agenda is currently not about adding new structures to the urban fabric, but rather about finding new intelligent connections. This biennale focuses on these connections between people, professions, themes, projects and groups that tend to collaboratively produce ‘city’.
Where ‘Making City’ really takes place is at the festival’s second location. The architects of ZUS have co-curated this part of the biennale and took their own office building and the district around it as a test case. Here the power of what a biennale can do is really visible. The fact that the IABR takes place at this spot accelerates all kinds of projects and urban interventions that collaboratively work as a bottom-up urban renewal strategy for the North Central District of Rotterdam.
An open air pizza restaurant will be opened on the Hofbogen, an abandoned elevated rail track that will become Rotterdam’s version of the High Line. Beneath the same rail track you can find the Mini Mall, a small exhibition and shopping center that currently hosts the ‘Design as Politics’ expo. Oh, and there’s the Luchtsingel, an internationally acclaimed crowd-funded pedestrian bridge. The Luchtsingel will connect the North district and the Central Station district. A small part of the bridge has already been constructed, which makes parts of the building new publicly accessible spaces. On top of the same building you’ll also find the first Dutch rooftop farm, which produces veggies, fruits and honey for the locals.
Rooftop farm in downtown Rotterdam
One can smell the odor of early gentrification in this area — pretty nice after we’ve smelled the freshly cut foam boards, printed banners and spray glue at the exhibit at the NAi. All kinds of pop-up initiatives form this rather spontaneous urban redevelopment in a neighborhood that used to be quite deprived. That’s what makes a biennale interesting and what makes the title ‘Making City’ come to life. The biennale has become an urban strategy in itself.