On Friday, a portion of the Hoogstraat – a street in close proximity to MVRDV’s Rotterdam office – was reconfigured for the “1.5-metre society”, turning a previously car-choked commercial and residential street into a safe and pleasant area with more space for entrepreneurs, residents and visitors. MVRDV, working as a partner in the ‘Stadslab Hoogkwartier’ (an initiative of MVRDV’s Sanne van Manen and local city-maker Marco Stout), collaborated with the Municipality of Rotterdam, the business association BIZ Hoogkwartier, and the Rotterdam design agency Bende to temporarily alter the layout of the street in response to Covid-19 distancing requirements. The Aldermen of Rotterdam were present at the opening of the “Hoogstraat Is Open” project.
The Hoogstraat is a commercial and residential street with car parking spaces along both sides of the street and narrow sidewalks serving a variety of small, mostly independent shops, cafés, and other businesses. As the Netherlands emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, the government is allowing businesses to reopen provided they can put provisions in place to maintain the recommended distance of 1.5 metres between customers – in many cases by making use of outdoor spaces.
The sidewalks on the Hoogstraat are too narrow to maintain this 1.5-metre distance or to expand the terraces. As part of the municipality’s “Rotterdam geeft de ruimte” (Rotterdam provides space) program, the street has therefore been closed to car traffic, allowing people to walk and cycle on the street while using decks placed in the parking spaces and the sidewalks as terraces for the businesses. In addition, an additional 200m2 of greenery in the street in the form of large temporary planters make the street a more pleasant environment in which to spend time.
“The Hoogstraat is a beautiful post-war street with an interesting mix of housing, small speciality stores, and unique places to get food and drinks. But the street is rather small and therefore difficult to open under the circumstances of the 1.5-metre society, which requires more space”, says Sanne van Manen, Associate at MVRDV. “So we decided to collaborate to see if we could develop a safe way for the neighbourhood to become more green, a safe way to shop, a safe way to create these terraces to support the local economy.”
“The Hoogstraat shows the beauty that can arise when residents and entrepreneurs work together to come up with a plan to improve their own living environment and give each other space”, adds Barbara Kathmann, Rotterdam’s Alderman for the economy, neighbourhoods, and small cores. “The creativity, guts and enthusiasm of the residents on the Hoogstraat is infectious and an inspiration for the municipality and other Rotterdam streets.”
The project is being rolled out in phases. With the first phase completed, transforming the street between Kipstraat and Goudsewagenstraat transformed, the neighbourhood will now be evaluated to inform the second phase, which aims to transform the section of the street up to Oostplein. The Hoogstraat Is Open project benefits greatly from the expertise gained during the Mobility Challenge, an experiment realised in the Hoogkwartier by the same partnership in 2019 that saw residents of the area try out new modes of transport, and car parking spaces replaced with miniature parks.
The ambition is to realise all elements of the Hoogstraat Is Open project using principles of the circular economy. The decks are made available by the municipality and are produced from recycled wood. The greenery comes from other places in the city and will be reused after the project.