Video explaining design of Garden city Vreewijk (in Dutch)

Het Portaal, a socially engaged communication advice bureau in Rotterdam, just released a video explaining the making of the garden city Vreewijk in Rotterdam.

Architecture historian Marinke Steenhuis explains the background of the garden city concept and comments on the design of Tuindorp Vreewijk, the first realisation of this concept in The Netherlands. Garden cities were an enlightened response to the deplorable living conditions of factory workers during the early stages of industrialisation. Workers were supposed to live in well designed but efficiently built houses, in blocks with thoughtfully located backyard gardens and communal green spaces. They were supposed to grow their own vegetables and children could play in public green areas, where once there were meadows and cows on the Isle of Ijsselmonde, at the left bank of the river Maas.   

Prive (moes)tuinen en gemeenschappelijk groen

Het Portaal developed a project, sponsored by building society Com.Wonen, to produce a whole series of videos about the transformation of Vreewijk, a much debated subject as there are widely differing views on how this prachtwijk (beautiful district) of Rotterdam needs to be retrofitted to face the challenges of the 21 first century.

Urban farm providing care for the homeless in Rotterdam

Last week I visited a vegetable and flower garden right in de centre of Rotterdam, on a triangular piece of land squeezed in between the former Shell Head Quarters, the railway going into the tunnel heading South, and the Pompenburg road, flying over the mouth of the railway tunnel towards Hofplein. This garden suddenly appeared on the scene last summer, it is visible from the Pompenburg road and many people passing by wondered what was going on down there.

We had no clue who was running the place, except that Transition Town Rotterdam is apparently involved in its design and operation, and that there is a link with the Nico Adriaans Foundation. But last week I set out to visit this remarkable garden.

It was a freezing cold winter day with snow, but I was assured that there was still some kale and Jerusalem artichoke in the garden. Soon when I got inside the provisional barracks located next to the garden I felt welcome. There was a relaxed atmosphere among the people that were staying there, most of them homeless, some of them with drug problems, I was explained by Jan Blankers, the garden coordinator. Jan works for the Nico Adriaans Foundation, an organisation in Rotterdam providing care and coaching for the homeless. The Foundation is an initiative of the Paulus Church, a church community in down town Rotterdam very dedicated to provide support to homeless people. When the original Paulus Church was removed (in order to make space for new residential development), it was decided to separate the church from the day care of homeless people both organisationally (the Nico Adriaans Foundation was established) as well as geographically (the Paulus church is located at the Mauritskade, the barracks and garden are close to the Hofplein).

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Foundation for Tomorrow (Koken voor Morgen)

Friday the 15th of January I was at the closing event of the Foundation for Tomorrow workshop cycle which aims to educate women about the water footprint of home cooking. The women who attended the cooking workshops were awarded a special certificate to acknowledge their expertise on cooking home made meals more sustainably. More that 70 women attended the ceremony, most of them are of a Turkish background.

The Foundation for Tomorrow (Stichting voor Morgen) is the initiative of Sevim Zor, who is a ICT software engineer working in the Netherlands, but with a background in Turkey. Sevim started the Foundation in order to make available scientific information about water footprint in an easily understandable way for practical situations in daily life. One of the projects is a series of ten workshops Cook for Tomorrow (Koken voor Morgen), which were given in low income neighborhoods in The Hague aimed at people of different ethnic backgrounds. Workshop participants are stimulated to cook their (traditional) dishes with produce grown regionally (rather than in their country of origin), and also to store them properly in order to avoid wasting food. Continue reading