From Intersection To Artwork

By empowering pedestrians with the messages Stand straight and Walk proud, Rotterdam has made one of its busiest intersections a bit more pedestrian-friendly, safe, and inspiring.

The Dutch city of Rotterdam, heavily bombed during World War II, was partly rebuilt in the 1950s. Due to the increasing popularity of the car in that time, the city center turned into a car paradise with wide lanes and heavy motorized traffic. Today, Rotterdam struggles with air pollution and tries to actively encourage cycling and walking in order to reduce the burden car traffic imposes on the city.

Rotterdam’s Westblaak, a heavily motorized street in downtown, has been referred to as a barrier for pedestrians and a dysfunctional public space, giving the city enough reason to re-design it and give the streets back to the pedestrian. The latest urban intervention does so especially by empowering and celebrating the pedestrian on Rotterdam’s Westblaak.

Together with the municipality, designers Opperclaes and urbanism agency Street Makers designed an intervention that would later look like someone spilled a gigantic scrabble set on the street. The messages “Strand Straight” and “Walk Proud” connect the different parts of the intersection visibly and can be read by the pedestrian when crossing the street. The huge artwork only uses materials that are normally used by streetworkers as well and create a colorful piece of art, that has people smiling, taking pictures and children playing, hopping from letter to letter.

The municipality is currently investigating the intervention’s effect on walkability, and is planning similar interventions in other areas of the city, if this one turns out to be successful in increasing walkability and safety in that part of town.