Last week, the city of Rotterdam turned a busy intersection in the city centre into a work of art. The “Creative Crosswalk” changes an ordinary crossing into an experience and connects neighborhoods which used to be cut off by one of the city’s busiest roads, the Westblaak. But what the latest tactical urbanism intervention does most is dignifying and celebrating the pedestrian: “Stand Straight, Walk Proud”.
Rotterdam is undergoing a rapid transition towards a sustainable future. The city used to be a car paradise, especially within the Dutch context. Today it uses tactical urbanism to reach its strategic goals. Working together with Street Makers, a local urbanism agency specialized in urban experiments, the city turned to street art to give new meaning to their streets. In collaboration with Opperclaes, a local art collective, a huge artwork was installed at the intersection. The result is a colourful piece connecting the different parts of the intersection, only using elements normally used by road workers.
“City making is not only a job for planners and architects. We need different creative disciplines to accelerate the transition towards a sustainable, healthy, inclusive and successful city”, says Jorn Wemmenhove, creative strategist at Street Makers.
Rotterdam’s historic city center was destroyed during WW2 and was rebuilt in the 1950’s to accommodate car traffic. The result was a Dutch city that resembles North American urbanism: wide streets, heavy vehicle traffic, and noise and air pollution. Today Rotterdam drastically limits motor traffic and encourages walking and cycling. The city strongly invested in their “city lounge”, creating places for people. Walking is good for the Rotterdammer, as it improves both physical and mental fitness. The creative crosswalk not only is a tool for wayfinding, but also focuses on creating happy streets.
“It is amazing to see how people interact with our art, making a difference at something so normal like crossing a street. People smiling, taking pictures. Children playing, jumping from letter to letter.”, says Linda van Vleuten, creative at Opperclaes.