From desert to goldmine: developing Merwe-Vierhavens


Stadshavens Rotterdam requested DRIFT to develop a sparkling new vision for the Merwe-Vierhavens port area. A vision that inspires, with special attention to sustainability. Even more so, the future vision had to raise the bar for sustainable development.


Subsequently, DRIFT united a group of pioneers and lateral thinkers in a series of three creative sessions. Using the transition arena model all sorts of creative and innovative ideas were gathered. These inspirational meetings were complemented by several street interviews, a sharp analysis of the current situation of the area and elements of already existing plans. The arena sessions proved to be an extensive search: lots of ideas were generated, some were embraced and further developed and many others rejected. This finally led to several interesting building blocks for a sustainable future of Merwe-Vierhavens.


DRIFT worked together with Doepel Strijkers Architects (DSA) to further develop these building blocks into two future images.  Both visions, City Oasis and Freedom State, represent a possible future for the area. The visions differ greatly in relevant stakeholders, commercial activity and governance. Freedom State is aimed at pioneers and production in a rather savage environment. City Oasis focuses on communities that live, work and produce together in a more harmonious environment.


DRIFT also explored ways to align the two visions. The visions can be brought together through an evolutionary path: starting from the Free State vision, more and more elements of the City Oasis vision can be introduced. This requires an atypical, smart and organic way of urban development. Various forms of governance and interventions that follow this type of development were examined. The final report ends with specific interventions to accelerate the transition from Free State to City Oasis (i.e. the transition from a ‘desert’ to a ‘gold mine’).


This appealing vision for Merwe-Vierhavens and the underlying pathways were developed in the context of the future vision of Rotterdam in 2042 ‘The Green Machine’: a symbiotic city and port that are clean, vital, innovative and extremely productive.


Read more? Review the report Merwe-Vierhavens: van woestijn naar goudmijn (in Dutch).


DRIFT team

Jan Rotmans, Chris Roorda, Philine Krosse



October 2010 to June 2011