Gerda Zijlstra, town planner and founder of Erik Groenenboom, designer and founder of

Do more with public space

"The public space is furnished with park benches and playgrounds, but many people don't see it as a space that they can use themselves. Why aren't there any fruit trees, tracks for dirt bikes, or barbecue areas in the city? NU HIER thinks that more could be done. That would require a totally new layout of public space. So in the inner city in Amsterdam and Rotterdam we've set up certain places as temporary dog training areas, docks, ice-skating rinks and a veggie garden with outdoor kitchen.”

Transience means that
you can experiment

“Transience means that there's less resistance, making experimentation possible. As part of our Sunday Adventure Club project, designer Maartje Dros set up a temporary dog-training area in an Amsterdam schoolyard. Some of the Muslim residents around the school weren't too keen on the idea to begin with, because dogs are 'unclean'. But in practice it worked out well, so the dog-training area could stay.”

Guerrilla is bottom-up

“Town planners that are brought in from elsewhere don't understand the possibilities of a neighbourhood or specific place as well as the people who use it. 'Guerrilla gardeners', who garden illegally in the city, and spontaneous drive-ins which show films illegally, are a good model for us. That sort of purely bottom-up initiative shows what people in the city themselves want to have in the places that they 'squat'. What we do is a form of 'anti-squatting', because we organise permission and financing, resulting in greater possibilities. We use these temporarily-available spaces in order to stimulate these sorts of initiatives, to make them more visible and ultimately to support them.”

Landowners get a new role

“The city is a nest - for people. And people are constantly developing. They are able to adapt. An old factory can become a theatre, canal houses change into law offices, and unused land turns into a festival site. Because people don't keep strictly to the functions and outlines that were originally intended. A city that isn't flexible puts flexible people off. That results in a stagnant city. Investors and landowners have the land that will be crucial in the future. If they are open to co-creation, to promoting new developments and to spontaneous, creative actions by city residents, they will create value. That's how a dynamic develops that attracts the city's residents."

Shopping centre becomes
a place for new experiences

“In a disadvantaged area in Zaandam, the owner of an old shopping centre commissioned Fun Up to stimulate initiatives in and around the centre. At the time, a new supermarket was being built there. How can you give a new purpose to a place like that? We organised an art project with temporary exhibitions and a neighbourhood festival, and children created paintings on the fence. The owner and the builder have always been cooperative, and so we can do a lot more than on other building sites. The activities have created a lot of goodwill in the neighbourhood.”

Transience as a new beginning

“I see transience not so much as a phase between two chapters, but more as a new beginning. Guerrilla and temporary initiatives have a part to play in long-term development. The current situation is appropriate for these initiatives. Adapt or extend existing buildings in order to make the space for temporary events, growing enterprises and new functions. But don't just create a new built-up area, while you leave the old place behind with no life in it.”

Gerda Zijlstra
designer and founder

Erik Groenenboom
town planner and
founder of