The Luchtsingel bridge, funded by many donations, passes through a multiuse office building in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Ossip van Duivenbode
An architecture firm in the Netherlands has launched a crowdfunding campaign to construct a 350 m long pedestrian bridge through the Dutch city of Rotterdam.
April 9, 2013—When the Dutch economy nose-dived in 2008, plans to redevelop the central district of the city of Rotterdam fizzled. As the economic crisis continued into 2012 with no end in sight, a local architecture firm decided to take it upon itself to realize the plans’ goal of improving connectivity within that city. To that end, the firm set out to construct the Luchtsingel, a 350 m long pedestrian bridge. And since the economic situation precluded traditional financing, the firm took a different approach: it launched a crowdfunding campaign and within three months raised a third of the funds needed to complete the project.
The architecture firm in question, ZUS (Zones Urbaines Sensibles), is located in an office building in the heart of Rotterdam. The building is one of dozens that were constructed when the economy was good, in anticipation of increased demand for office space. But since the downturn, many of the buildings have sat vacant, says Kristian Koreman, a partner at ZUS. In fact, ZUS was the only tenant in the 8,000 m2 building for seven years. It then invested in the building and turned it into an “urban laboratory” that now houses 80 start-up companies, a small warehouse, a bar, a culinary workshop, a dance studio, and a bike rental business—all topped by a 1,000 m2 urban farm and a teahouse. “It’s quite a comprehensive block, a sort of mini small town within a city, you could almost call it,” Koreman says. “It’s completely full and bustling with activity.”
Its building filled, ZUS turned its attention to some of the more abstract features of the district’s redevelopment plans. One thing that stood out was the concept of creating connections between the district’s neighborhoods, which have become divided by dense development. “There’s a lot of infrastructure,” Koreman says, peering out of his office window. “I’m looking at an eight-lane—well, almost a highway—leading into the city center, [and] on the left side there’s an eight-lane train track passing by.” All that infrastructure has made it difficult to move around the city other than by motor vehicle. “Rotterdam is known as a well-connected city for cars, but to wander around in Rotterdam [by foot] . . . it’s not something that you normally do,” Koreman explains.
The Luchtsingel bridge has been divided into 17,000 planks, which
are being sold for €25 (U.S.$32) each as part of a crowdfunding
campaign. Design at News
In an effort to change that, ZUS focused on a bridge that had been included in the district’s redevelopment plans. While the plans suggested tearing down ZUS’s office building to make way for the bridge, the firm decided that the bridge should penetrate its building instead. “In the urban plan, they would have demolished the whole district first and then started rebuilding it,” Koreman says. “We insisted on starting with the existing fabric of buildings.” As a result of its success in transforming its own building, ZUS was in an unusual position to develop the project. It drew up designs for a longer bridge than originally planned and selected wood as the primary building material so that the structure would appear temporary. “If you would say that it was permanent, then we would end up in endless procedures taking at least two or three years to get this thing built,” Koreman explains. “So we selected wood: one, it’s a cheap and adaptive material to use, but also it has this sense of being temporary.”
ZUS didn’t have the money to construct the Luchtsingel itself, and given the state of the economy, no banks were willing to finance the project. Taking a cue from the High Line, a public park project in New York City that was financed through crowdfunding, Koreman and his partner, Elma van Boxel, divided the 350 m long, 3.3 m wide bridge into 17,000 planks. They then began selling the planks for €25 apiece, engraving the purchaser’s name or requested message into each one. The firm launched the crowdfunding campaign in 2012 during the conference known as International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam and used social media to further spread the word. “Our alderman, who bought the first piece, loves to use Twitter, and we use social media, so soon it was all out in the media and that helped, of course, a lot,” Koreman says. “And within three months we already had over four thousand planks sold.” ZUS also won a grant from the city, which helped fund the creation of a nearby park and parts of the Luchtsingel.
The Luchtsingel bridge crosses an eight-lane highway that leads
into downtown Rotterdam, as well as active train lines. Ossip van
As funding began to roll in, construction also began. Approximately 100 m of the bridge have been constructed so far, taking it through ZUS’s office building and over the city’s main highway. The next phase of construction is slated to begin in November and will take the bridge over the rail lines, which will close for four hours during the work. “It’s a twenty-four-meter-long element in one go,” Koreman says. “Everything on the ground should be completely prepared beforehand.” The bridge will have different types of foundations depending on the conditions at each landing site. “It goes through many different settings; it’s going from a parking place, through a building, then landing on the sidewalk, then going on the tram tunnel,” Koreman explains. “So there’s like five or six different ways of founding.”
While ZUS is constructing the Luchtsingel and many people are funding it, the structure ultimately belongs to the city. “While we were producing it, it was ours, but then we gave it as a present to the municipality,” Koreman says. “That’s legally what happened . . . in order to have the maintenance covered by the municipality—that’s important.” As donors continue to contribute to the project, more segments will be constructed. Rotterdam is a “city of infrastructure and buildings,” Koreman says. “And with this bridge, we want to introduce another type of scale, more maybe of a human scale, into this quite brutal part of town.”