April 1, 2019 / Member News

Morgan State University Graduate Students Travel to Rotterdam as Part of Parallel Studio

Baltimore, MD (April 1, 2019) – Students from the Morgan State University (MSU) SA+P Master of Architecture and Master of Landscape Architecture programs recently went to the Netherlands to begin their collaboration with the Rotterdamse Academie van Bouwkunst (RAvB), whose architecture students will come to Baltimore later this year. During this parallel studio, MSU students will provide a design solution for the Rotterdam neighborhood of Hillesluis while RAvB students will focus on Pigtown in Baltimore.
Students were tasked with conducting research into new building typologies and investigating how to use renewable energy to achieve social and inclusive urban projects. The goal is to investigate and test how environmental, urban and social challenges can be dealt with together, and promote a more inclusive form of urban and social development. Students were encouraged to work on development principles and pilot projects for a new and innovative circular area development.
Day 1. The team rented bikes and visited the project site in Hillesluis, a distressed area of Rotterdam. Located south of the city center and south of the Nieuwe Maas River, Hillesluis is the home of many working class immigrants.The employment rate is low, crime is high, and public services are weak compared to Rotterdam as a whole. Onsite, Frank van Wijngaarden introduced the team to Robbert de Vrieze, an expert on community resiliency well versed in issues relating to social and spatial segregation.
The second meeting was with Marcel Dela Haije, a member of the City Marines appointed by Rotterdam as moderators between the community, the police department, the public prosecutor, and the tax office. He enlightened the group on the importance of being on the ground and curbing  illegal activities by educating the community, promoting a fair economy, and providing information on alternative opportunities.
After a brief tour of the neighborhood, the team was joined Ms. Kübra Zehra Kasikci, an environmental psychologist and Neighborhood Well-being Specialist at Humanitas, a community services organization. She provided an overview of the services they provide to families within the community. The conversation was particularly interesting with respect to children and education, and the many challenges they encounter in trying to integrate different ethnicities who are self-sufficient at times and tend to isolate themselves from the rest of the neighborhood and the city.
After these meetings, Frank van Wijngaarden guided students through Hillesluis, illustrating street dynamics, affordable housing concepts and the involvement of the Municipality of Rotterdam in the neighborhood. Infrastructure improvement and citizens’ empowerment are being realized by new projects. These address a better housing condition that emphasizes energy efficiency, friendlier and more accessible  urban spaces, and the realization of homes for sale, which will help facilitate a more diverse population.
The site being studied by the MSU students is a long strip of grass with few amenities, and creates a buffer between the neighborhoods of Hillesluis and Feyenoord. It is a rare patch of open public space in the area. Students will be challenged to address the varied needs of communities surrounding the site.
Day 2. The MSU delegation visited three Netherlands-based international offices: MVRDV, GROUPA, and De Urbanisten. The students learned about the city at large and how the Dutch government and private enterprises approach affordable housing.
In the afternoon, students visited the City of Rotterdam on the 28th floor of OMA building De Rotterdam where they attended a presentation by architect Marc Verheijen. They learned about infrastructure, mobility and the new developments of Hillesluis. After getting the chance to get an amazing view of Rotterdam and the wide view of its important harbor from the 40th floor, they headed to Rebel Headquarters on Wijnhaven, a consultancy agency investing in communities. Nicole van Gils presented Rebel’s Social Impact by Design strategy that facilitates innovative partnerships and new forms of cooperation to make communities more resilient.
Day 3. Students visited Amsterdam with RavB Professor Rowin Petersma. He guided students and faculty on a ten mile walking tour along the IJ River where the clever creativity of Dutch architects and urban planners was on display. During the four hour tour, they learned about affordable housing (for rent) and private property (for sale) mix strategy, sustainable developments that use the landscape to harvest energy, and collective initiatives of groups hiring architects to design ‘collective’ living spaces.
Day 4. The focus of the day was public housing of different periods. Researcher Ernie Mellegers guided students through a variety of different urban neighborhoods. Of particular interest was Rotterdam’s social housing heritage and how much city and state investment goes to rehabilitating these architectural patrimonies. They ended the day with Surinamese cuisine and Dudok apple pie for dinner.
Day 5. Students participated in a workshop about memory, reflection, experience, retrofit, design and strategic activism. Led by Selina Abraham from the Veld Academy in Rotterdam, the students followed an “Index to Just City” method. Both individually and in groups, students mapped Hillesluis and Pigtown under a social and spacial lens.
The workshop was further enriched by a lecture from architect Marijn Emanuel who presented challenges and opportunities for circular design. At the end of April, RAvB will travel to the Charm City to continue this collaborative research on urban Justice and Equity. Both schools are working to collaborate even more in 2020!
Trip Credits
MSU Studio Instructors: Cristina Cassandra Murphy, Assistant Professor (studio coordinator)/associate XCOOP in collaboration with Associate Professor Jeremy Kargon and the special participation of Assistant Professor Sara Trautvetter, Professor Coleman Jordan and Adjunct Professor Anthony Quivers;
MSU Students: David Block, Matthew Hawkins, Naomi Hemme Wong, with the pleasant participation of Jason and Adele Abramowitz and Landscape Architecture students Brittney Baltimore, Varun Gupta, and Mia Quinto.
RAvB Instructors: Wouter Veldhuis and Rowin Petersma with special thanks to Margit Schuster;
Thanks to
Day 1. Frank van Wijngaarden (Gemeente Rotterdam), Robbert de Vrieze (Transformers), Marcel Dela Haije, and Kübra Zehra Kasikci (Humanitas);
Day 2. Kris Schaasberg (MVRDV), Dirk van Peijpe (De Urbanisten), Maarten van Bremen and Minke Themans (GroupA), Marc Verheijen (Gemeente Rotterdam), and Nicole van Gils (Rebel Group);
Day 4. Mike Emmerik, Michelle Provoost, and Wouter Vanstiphout (The Independent School for the City) and Ernie Mellegers (RavB);
Day 5.  Rowin Petersma (RavB);
Day 6. Selina Abraham (Veldacademie), Jan Duursma (RAvB) and Marijn Emanuel (RAU).
Special Thanks go to Wouter Portegijs, Rachel Sengers, chair Baltimore-Rotterdam Sister Cities Committee, and Maria Damico.
Pictures Credit
Cristina Murphy
Release courtesy Cristina Murphy