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Letters to the Mayor: Rotterdam now open at Het Nieuwe Instituut until 11 February 2018

Letters to the Mayor: Rotterdam now open at Het Nieuwe Instituut until 11 February 2018

To The Honourable Mr Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam

It is with pleasure that I respond to the call to architects by Het Nieuwe Instituut and Storefront Gallery for Architecture in New York to write a letter to the mayor of their hometown. This year, 2017, you were so kind to open the MVRDV House, our new office space in the transformed Industriegebouw, a fine work of architect Hugh Maaskant (1907/1977). Decades of strong urban planning policies and constant work of the aldermen of our city with a keen eye for business prospects have helped a gloomy and after the war, empty-hearted city to reinvent itself as Dutch skyscraper city with jazzy coolness.

But new challenges are facing the city. Our carbon-based harbour is seeking for post-co2 opportunities. There is a mismatch between white collar jobs and a low skilled labour force. New tall buildings create a great skyline but our wonderful and ever cleaner river is still almost unreachable for pedestrians because it is cut off by layers of car-infested streets. More and more people use bikes but the air quality in our city is problematic. Some areas of the city are highly attractive and as a consequence are getting more and more expensive, whilst in other neighbourhoods, in fact, an entire part of the city, some of the poorest people of the Netherlands are living. Our champions of Feyenoord soccer team are getting a new stadium but many kids living on the south side have never seen the sea, live unhealthy lives and have hardly had any chance or place to play or exercise.

As former children from small villages, you and I know how cities can also be a tremendous machine for emancipation and opportunities. Nowadays cities are the main habitat of three-quarters of the worlds’ population. They also have to be safer, cleaner and help to offer equal opportunities to all. Wouldn’t it be great if the hands-on-mentality of Rotterdam can be used to develop it into one of the world’s healthiest and socially equal cities? Were all kids have possibly free access to cultural and sports facilities in their own neighbourhoods? Where the air quality is good and everyone has easy access by foot and bike to a green riverfront from everywhere in the city. In the Dutch system, mayors are not elected but appointed by the Crown after consultation of the council. But you have the liberty to put issues on the agenda of the council. I hope you will consider my proposal,

Thanking you in advance,

Nathalie de Vries (Founding partner MVRDV)

Letters to the Mayor Rotterdam Het Nieuwe Instituut until 11 February 2018

The Rotterdam edition of Letters to the Mayor features letters from architects including  Nathalie de Vries, Elma van Boxel, Elsbeth Ronner and Ekim Tan, providing a transversal understanding of relevant issues within local contexts.

In the last decades, architects have engaged with the responsibility and structures of economic, political, and cultural power in different ways and with varying degrees of success. In Letters to the Mayor: Rotterdam the questions of the architects take centre stage, and the ethical and political dimensions of an architect’s role in urban issues. The exhibition is the starting point for a further exchange with, among others, policymakers and residents of Rotterdam. 

The presentation is the result of a year-long collaboration between Het Nieuwe Instituut and Storefront for Art and Architecture around the theme of 'City Forces'. Letters to the Mayor: Rotterdam is on show until 11 February 2018 and to find out more click here