Tag Archives: Rotterdam

The necessity of being in contact with nature and actually ‘bringing it back’, the nature-based needs in big cities and suburbs seem to be increasing and have taken many forms over the last years. The fact urban citizens nowadays are more and more interested in having a bit of green nearby whether it is a park, an own garden, an eatable roof or a green fulfilled pothole is undeniable. Insecticides, diseases, lack of biodiversity, the pleasure of eating of own ground on one hand and the increase of density, gray, hard material, unhealthy air and the climate crisis on the other hand are generating new creative concepts and bottom-up initiatives.

The scale of the actions, the way it happens and the personal/social involvement and participation can vary from the traditional going for a walk in a park or woods to growing own food if possible. We can take for example a self-regulated initiative, the gardening in public spaces or in a vacant spaces in the city as an useful contribution to temporary improvement of the urban fabric and a response to the political and economical changes in the city. Where very often spontaneous vegetation, which appears on site by accident, leads the design choices reinforcing natural processes.

Perhaps the most genuine of the nature-based needs actions are the guerrilla initiatives as the Guerrilla Gardener, a concept coined in the 1970s in the USA involving planting garden in someone else’s land. At that time it involved, among other initiatives, the use of ‘green granades’ or the ‘Molotov cocktails of gardening’ – filled condoms with seeds, water and fertilizer – which were tossed in empty lots. Today the concept has been evolved and is called GreenAid-Seedbombs and can be bought in gum machines.

Kim is one of the initiators of the GreenAid-Seedbombs and knew it will be important to work with local ecology:  “We have conducted a lot of research on plants native to various areas,” “We stress that we are very, very careful not to introduce invasive species. We take our time and work closely with different communities to make sure we have the right seed selection.” In spite of the fact the Guerilla Gardener can be found in several countries, the used species remain a local decision.

‘The real voyage of discovery consist not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.’ Marcel Proust (

Recipe: Seeds bombs for fun and non-profit

Somehow, this recipe feels just right for Easter weekend:
-Combine 2 parts mixed seeds (indigenous flowers, herbs or vegetables) with 3 parts compost.
-Stir in 5 parts powdered red or brown clay.
-Moisten with water until mixture is damp enough to mold into balls.
-Pinch off a penny-sized piece of the clay mixture and roll it between the palms of your hands until it forms a tight ball.
-Set the balls on newspaper and allow to dry for 24-48 hours. Store in a cool, dry place until ready to sow.
Throw the balls into vacant lots, pavement cracks, long-standing rubbish piles or anywhere that will benefit from a bit of random greenery.
(Source: The Guerrilla Art Kit, by Keri Smith)

Another sympathetic initiative of the guerrilla kind is The Pothole Gardener in London also named as ‘Hole of Happiness’ because the smile it causes. ‘We chose to garden next to The Ministry of Defense, not the most inconspicuous of guerrilla gardening locations. We had a visit from a lovely policeman who joined us for a while and told us we had made his day! He didn’t quite say he’d join us on our next adventure, but he did remark how the garden put a smile on his face’, tells the London artist Steve Wheen bringing greenery to the streets of London in miniature scenes. It is simple, adding; ‘my neighborhood has a distinct lack of green space and I’m a gardener with no garden’.


Of course the Guerrilla Garden already has blown into the Netherlands finding here a fertile soil. The Dutch culture has never had problems in taking away a pavement tile along the frontage to plant some sunflowers. The next step is the creation of vegetable gardens besides the ones of ‘beautification’. As the case of the bottom-up initiative to find along de Schepenstraat in Rotterdam, where some neighbours are gardening in the sidewalk berm, growing vegetables and flowers, making a barbecue. Next weekend, 21 and 22 April we are all invited to take part of an action. If you subscribe via you get a bag with broad beans seeds sent to your home. My bag has already arrived with seeds of  ‘Eleonora Vicia faba’ and ‘Helianthus annus’, some instructions and a pair of gloves. I’m still looking for a plot to put them in the ground for the same reasons of being a gardener with no garden at the moment.

As other initiatives of this kind it starts very small and has taken a lot of attention, which makes people involved as Richard Reynolds, author of the book ‘On Guerrilla Gardening’, last year in Rotterdam for a lecture in Het Schieblok/Premsela and at Lowlands,  thinking in an enlargement of the scale of his action ‘to repair the man made damages on the environment’.

These kind of action can be experienced like readymades (objets trouvés) that, in spite of the fact they are very small, they have the power of an acupuncture treatment  of addressing the problem of how we are covering the surface  with a coat of cultural/hard material and pointing out where the ‘The Holes of Happiness’ with its living, fertile material can be find. They address not only the small holes in the closed paved streets of a compact city, but also, on another scale, they remind us of the unnamed open spaces in the agglomerations of big cities and on an even bigger scale, the still left lungs on earth.


Surrealistic Games with Layered Landscapes
Exhibition opening Rotterdam April 20th 2012 &
Book presentation Dutch Architecture with Landscape Methods Vol.3

This week we will have the final review of an student research laboratory ‘Design Analysis’ that I have been teaching with Matthew Skjonsberg (West 8) since february this year at Rotterdamse Academie van Bouwkunst (RAvB). The review will also be our final book editing session for our jointly published book ‘Dutch Architecture with Landscape Methods Vol.3’ (Jauslin, Skjonsberg e.a. 2012) that will be available as print on demand and .pdf by the end of this month.

Invitation Cards Designed by RAvB Students

During the last 9 weeks the first year master students of RAVB have been visiting, documenting and analyzing Dutch Architecture with Landscape Methods. What surprised me again, as each time I’ve taught and changed the course, is how deeply students get motivated in this laboratory setting and how sharp they become as critics and analysts when they dive into other architect’s designs. Or as the Director of RAvB Chris van Langen put it our course leads to “huge progress of the students’ capacity in design analysis and the understanding of design mechanisms and to highly enthusiastic reactions of the students.”

Such teaching experience and feedback affirms our belief that design research and analysis are essential in teaching design, should it not merely be an artistic academicism but rather an intense academic exercise, practice and interchange – which does not exclude but rather intensifies work on aesthetics. This is very much in line with the Delft approach to landscape architecture our chair expressed in two recent publications with Steffen Nijhuis and Inge Bobbink (2011 & 2012).

In Dutch Architecture with Landscape Methods Vol.3, several groups of students analyze projects from the last 25 years of Dutch architecture as to how they are designed like a landscape. In particular in the Netherlands contemporary architecture is increasingly influenced by the concept of landscape. Like on many other places a new mindset is emerging, transforming the core values of the disciplines of architecture and urbanism: the organization of architectural space as a landscape. Our lab experiments for the development of methods to analyze such phenomena in case studies, understanding how architects use  landscape not only as a metaphor but also as a method to design buildings.

The exhibition will present individual analyses of Dutch architecture projects as Cadavre Exquis – the result of a surrealist game (Brotchie 1991) played on the work of offices NOX, De Zwarte Hond, Mecanoo, SANAA, OMA, Wim Quist, NL Architects, Onyx and MVRDV. All of them where decomposed, according to principles laid out by Steenbergen & Reh (2003)  into their ground form, spatial form, image form and program form according to intensely discussed and modified criteria.

ImageTerritorial Negotiation Studio Workshop MAS-Urban Design ETH Z Prof. Marc Angelil photo: Matthew Skjonsberg

Matthew and I also share two common experiences in the fields of landscape and architecture: that of the academia of Prof. Marc Angelil at ETH Zürich and the practice of West 8 in Rotterdam. Both studio situations inspired us to engage in hands-on teaching with a lot of experiments – we are exceptionally proud to call this a laboratory.  For one of our last workshops at the Laboratory Design Analysis we used the models to occupy a site, and then played a game. The game we played has resemblance to the Surrealist game Cadavre Exquis. Cadavre Exquis, also known as exquisite corpse or rotating corpse, is a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, either by following a rule (e.g. the order “adjective – noun – adverb – verb” or “head – body – legs”) or by being allowed to see the end of the drawing the previous person contributed. In our case the student’s individual ground forms established a set of interconnecting rafts to realize a floating city for the Dutch Delta Games 2028 in the former Dock RDM at the Maas (the location of the Academy) while they traded spatial form, image form and program form according to the rules of the game.

In this intentionally surrealistic game we played, students generated a transformation of their 4 layered architectural composition and a new plot while introducing qualitative criteria. The game board was a rescaled plot of SANAA’s Kustlinie Almere – one of the analyzed designs. Their floor plan of transparent walls was at a small lake in Almere was mapped into another scale as a floating raft at the south bank of Rotterdam’s river Maas.

Video of the Cadavre Exquis On Site Design Workshop  time lapse camera: author

The results of this workshop were used for the collective design of the 2028 Olympic press & officials village that we propose as a group. We adopted this idea from a sketch that recently accompanied a campaign of our host city – but hope our students will encourage city or sports officials to also play the architecture at the level of olympians combining the best concepts of Dutch architecture un the fine art of land-making.

This is the 3rd time researcher Daniel Jauslin has been conducting methodological testing with students after similar studios at TU Delft in 2009 and RAVB in 2010. The collaboration with Matthew Skjonsberg of West 8 focused the research more explicitly on notions of ecology and contexualism, and guest lecturers and critics André Dekker of Observatorium and Olaf Gipser made important contributions. Olaf Gipser shaped his lecture very close to our course’s hypothesis and will also contribute to TU Delft’s How Do You Landscape? Lecture series 24.5.2012.

In the meantime, I’ve continuously conducted my own phd research on other projects with similar (although more intense) analytical tools. I was positively surprised in finding the winners of the in this regard important Aberdeen City Garden Competition were architects DS&R, whose Blur building in Yverdon I have been studying for a while – and where I also was involved in their design team at West 8. You may be interested to read why I think Aberdeen is bringing the discussion beyond Landscape or Architecture in the review about it on (Jauslin 2012).

Our 30 students are currently working hard on extra efforts to finish their analysis before easter. They will compose one raft village model that will be exhibited in the RAVB exhibition hall with a view on the site. All those interested in Dutch Architecture with Landscape Methods, please come see our exhibition at RAvB in the splendid old main office of RDM opening on April 20 the 2012 11h00 – 12h30*.


ImageDesign Studio Scene and Site of the RDM dock with RAvB in Former Head Office,  360panorama app photo: author

It is not by coincidence an unofficial off-show of the IABR 2012 that will open its gates at the NAi on that same weekend as we hope to attract some visiting architects that want to learn more about recent trends in Dutch Architecture from a landscape architecture viewpoint. A particularity of RAVB students is that they are all also professionals in practice. We hope our subject would lead to interesting discussions across many offices and academic institutions in landscape and architecture.

*check for opening hours & visiting information:
Transportation to Heijplaat-RDM:
Course Description:
Video of the Cadavre Exquis Workshop

Angélil, M. M. and L. Uziyel (2003). Inchoate an experiment in architectural education. Zürich, Switzerland, Marc Angélil Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Department of Architecture ETH Hönggerberg.
Angelil, M. M. and D. Hebel (2008). Designing architecture : a manual. Basel ; Boston, Birkhäuser.
Brotchie, Alastair and  Mel Gooding (1991). A Book of Surrealist Games. London: Redstone Press. pp. 143–144.
Jauslin, Daniel, Matthew Skjonsberg e.a. (2012) Dutch Architecture with Landscape Methods Vol.3 Rotterdam DGJDasGehtJa! (forthcoming)
Jauslin, Daniel (2012) Aberdeen City Garden – Beyond Landscape or Architecture
Nijhuis, Steffen, Inge Bobbink, Daniel Jauslin (2011). Research and Design in Landscape Architecture. IASDR 2011 Diversity and unity: 4th World Conference on Design Research. Edited by N. Roozenburg, L.-L. Chen and P. J. Stappers. Delft. available at
Nijhuis, Steffen, Inge Bobbink, Daniel Jauslin (2012).Landscape as an Architectural Composition: The Delft Approach (forthcoming). Representing Landscape A Visual Collection of Landscape Architectural Drawings Edited by Nadia Amoroso. New York, Routledge
Steenbergen, Clemens and Wouter Reh (2003). Architecture and Landscape: The Design Experiment of the Great European Gardens and Landscapes, Basel, Boston, Berlin, Birkhäuser.