Speaking about interesting spaces, two weeks ago I joined an excursion through the ‘problematic’ neighbourhood of North Rotterdam. Halfway we passed this incredible semi-public combination of a passageway and a house. How does that work? In order to connect a new permanent indoor style warehouse with a traditional shopping street suffering from vacancy, housing association Com.wonen decided to sacrifice one of their houses to create an indoor passage. The ‘passage house’ physically connects Rotabs, which features the world of art, design, photography, interior, style and fashion, with the world of chance-less call shops, laundries and shoarma bars. A rather relevant connection, which I think can be seen as a policy hug-up between Richard Florida and Jane Jacobs disciples.
The real relevance of the project though, is in the experience that the space offers its users. As you see in the picture, this space used to be a regular house. Now, the place that still looks and feels like an intimate space, connects the shopping street on the front side with the new developed area at the backside. Interesting is the surprising effect on the visitor’s usual understanding of the difference between private and public space. Leaving this passage through the front door feels like leaving a stranger’s house, leaving intimacy and stepping into wild-life, but that feeling is a fake one. In our perception the difference between indoor and outdoor is very much connected with the perception of private and public space. Here this understanding is totally mixed up, which makes this space extraordinary. I like these kind of places because they supply mixed emotions in the way we use public space. Of course, it’s rather difficult to maintain order in these kind of semi-public spaces. That’s why the doors are closed during nights, to prevent this space from becoming a freely available location for pop-up home parties. Which perhaps would have been even a better idea.