Jouke Sieswerda is the project lead of the Luchtsingel footbridge, the main feature of an urban development called ‘Test Site Rotterdam’, initiated by the urban design firm Zus. Leading the Luchtsingel project since the first crowdfunded part of the bridge was built through the centre of the Schieblock building, he has overseen the evolution of what started as a simple observation about fragmented neighbourhoods in Rotterdam. Sieswerda believes that communities are the new clients as opposed to developers, and it is crucial for architecture and urban design to be firmly embedded in society and reflect all its cultural, economical, social and political implications.
In the Netherlands, large scale urban planning projects are becoming less common. Zus identifies problems then works collaboratively with all stakeholders on city development in lieu of the traditional designer/client relationship.
By starting their office in a vacant office building, Zus took the first step towards transforming the area. Instead of being torn down, the Schieblock building has been occupied by studios, offices and businesses that are engaged with their surroundings and the city.
The Luchtsingel is part of a pedestrian route that connects neighbourhoods, new businesses and people in a previously fragmented car dominated urban situation. Instead of waiting years for funding, Zus engaged the community in a crowdfunding campaign to start the project as soon as the problem was identified.
Instead of waiting for redevelopment or demolition to happen, temporary structures can be built immediately. These temporary structures work as ways to test ideas therefore developing the potential to become more permanent.