Design strategy to create a sense of Community in Hart van Zuid

At the Metroplein in Hart van Zuid, living, travel, recreation and social facilities come together. It is currently an undefined and unsafe space. It has the potential to function as a meeting place where residents, passers-by and homeless people can safely be part of a community. Hart van Zuid, Municipality of Rotterdam, Arttenders and Karres en Brands present an integrated vision that contributes to safety, social cohesion and spatial development.

Background and starting point

The Metroplein will remain unchanged in the current plans in the Hart van Zuid transformation for the time being. The quality of life decreases during the transition period, while this is precisely where opportunities lie.

Insights: Stakeholders are actively involved during the design process. The task has been jointly (re)defined and translated into social and spatial objectives.

Current situation: The Metroplein is a place without ownership and little social control where a lot of nuisance is experienced, especially caused by homeless and young people. The connection to Metroplein will be closed in the coming years, which will worsen this situation.

Hardware + software + orgware: In the complexity of this assignment, hardware (spatial intervention), software (social programming) and orgware (underlying systems and collaborations) come together. This means that simply questioning the spatial quality is not sufficient.

Reverse engineering of a village center: The Zuidplein and the adjacent areas have been developed from a historical perspective based on a metropolitan and commercial ambition. This results in a lack of human scale, little room for local ownership and social initiatives in the area.

Social opportunities: During co-creation sessions, guiding values ​​and opportunities have been formulated. This showed that there is a need for local and small-scale programming and the involvement of vulnerable groups in the area, in close collaboration with civil society organisations.

Spatial Opportunities: Based on discussions with residents, we mapped out programming needs and opportunities in relation to the spatial assignment. The spatial intervention hereby serves at all times to achieve the social task.

Where is the bicycle shed? The Metroplein will store 600 bicycles in the temporary situation. The current placement of the bicycle shed takes up half of the area and thus forms a physical and social barrier. Facilitating this bicycle shed in a different way becomes a success indicator of the space.


Codesign Approach

In a number of design workshops, a reproducible method was sought to address a temporary assignment from the hardware, software and orgware. How do these relate to each other and what significance can temporary development have for the social structure in an area in the long term? This has led to a development strategy in which social impact is leading for the spatial frameworks.



The exploration resulted in seven concrete recommendations:

  1. Focus on the integral task. The Metroplein task is an example of a complex issue with diffuse problem ownership. By thinking about a replicable process, costs can be saved in the run-up and a vision can be developed faster with an implementation perspective.
  2. Use local values ​​as a testing framework for the social impact of programmatic and spatial interventions.
  3. Involve vulnerable target groups on a tailor-made basis by facilitating informal and temporary employment relationships with homeless people and young people with a distance to the labor market.
  4. Facilitate social program in the former bowling alley.
  5. Raise the temporary bicycle shed and prevent the temporary bicycle shed from occupying half of the plan area, literally blocking social opportunities.
  6. Facilitate social programming of the outdoor space in order to meet the need for space for meeting, greening, identity and thus making the Metroplein a pleasant place to stay.
  7. Create a spatial intervention with a clear identity that can serve as a test location for the community in South and spatially facilitate a diverse program.

The visualization of the intervention also forms a conceptual dot on the horizon.


Next steps

As a result of the exploration, there is an advice with a number of clear recommendations for the further development of the site, with a strong connection between space, program and organization. There are great opportunities to improve the location for users. The former bowling alley is an excellent location for social programming, aimed at local residents. Heijmans, the owner of the property, has already said that it is open to exploring in what form this is possible. Additional talks have also been held between the Hart van Zuid development consortium and the Salvation Army to discuss further possible 'heitje voor een chore'-like constructions or other forms of cooperation. In the meantime, there is a lot of lobbying to make project hours available to be able to develop a social program and to generate support and budget for a spatial intervention.

In addition to the concrete advice, this research also provides a working method and a precedent in how social and spatial development can meet and reinforce each other at an early stage. Social design and landscape architecture can complement each other and residents and other stakeholders are given a voice in the design process.

  • Project
  • Title From urban space to community in Hart van Zuid
  • Design team
    • Arttenders, Karres en Brands, Onno Poiesz
  • Client Gemeente Rotterdam
  • In collaboration with
    • Gemeente Rotterdam, Leger Des Heils, Hart van Zuid, MDT
  • Location
    •  Metroplein, Rotterdam


    Made possible by Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie