Dutch city Rotterdam crowdfunds a bridge

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The Toronto Star  |  By: News reporter, Published on Tue Apr 02 2013

A team of young architects crowdfunded a bridge in Rotterdam. Could it hold lessons for Toronto?

Dutch bridge crowdfundedModern development had cut off a pre-war thriving core of Rotterdam from the rest of the city and officials said a connecting bridge would take 30 years to finance.

So a team of young architects decided to crowdfund it.

More than 1,300 planks later, each one stamped with the sponsor’s name, the first 18 metres of the wooden Luchtsingel bridges two downtown halves of the Dutch city.

By summer, architect Kristian Koreman told the Star, another crowdfunded 100 metres will stretch the bridge further into the old city core, adding a circular hub with a culinary park underneath.

The project’s slogan: “The more you donate, the longer the bridge.”

“Looking at it I still sometimes don’t believe it’s happening,” Koreman said.

“It’s a new reality. We have retreating governments and an ongoing economic crisis. But people are no longer simply going to wait for things to happen.

“There is a soft revolution going on.”

ZUS architects, founded by Koreman and Elma Van Boxel in 2001, and the International Architecture

Biennale Rotterdam managed to raise $130,000 in the first four months of the project in 2012.

The city plan called for property development and building first, then the bridge. ZUS decided to do it the other way around.

Ultimately, the Luchtsingel (air bridge) will zig over the highway and rail lines and zag into the cut-off area called Hofbogen with 17,000 sponsored planks.

A plank costs $32.50 and a segment $162.50. The project, I Make Rotterdam, was underway when it won a popular vote competition for a government grant that kicked in another $4 million in infrastructure money that speeded construction.

Rail lines and a highway had split the centre and north parts of the city for decades, Koreman said.

“Rotterdam has adopted this way of planning, that if you just keep on building, the rest will come afterwards.

“After the war, a very modern regime had taken place: Big-scale, car-based high rises. This is still determining the main fabric. What we are currently finding out is that we have to rediscover the potential of those places.

“Right about now, we are on a turning point, we have all these beautiful skyscrapers but now we should spend our time rethinking those buildings, streets and places created but not yet fully occupied.”

Given their experience, ZUS is keenly interested in other city core developments, including Toronto, Koreman said. He has joined in workshop discussions in Vancouver on alternative architecture and would happily do the same in Toronto, he said.

“We want to see if maybe that’s our next step. We have developed a model here and would love to test it on other locations.”

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