IABR Commons Collectief BoTu

2021 - 2023

The IABR has been active in the Rotterdam Bospolder-Tussendijken district (BoTu) since 2017. BoTu is one of six Rotterdam districts designated to switch from using the natural gas network to using a district heating system by 2030. The spatial-energetic solutions and challenges of the energy transition are well known, but what is the best way to develop support for this transition in a vulnerable, yet resilient district like Bospolder-Tussendijken? This is the question with which the DOWN TO EARTH biennale ended during the ‘Reclaiming the Commons’ exhibition in 2020.

At the end of 2021, the IABR extended its collaboration with Bospolder-Tussendijken to encourage resilient citizenship and local ownership of the energy transition. To this end, the IABR established the IABR Commons Collective BoTu, a group of residents and local initiatives rooted in the district that address the energy transition on a social and spatial level.

Image: Melle Smets
    • Credits

Rather than bring in an ‘outside’ curator, the IABR decided to invite a group of active citizens to take on this role. Of the ten practices interviewed, five eventually joined the IABR Commons Collective BoTu. Each of these initiatives developed and contributed its own program. Through joint meetings aimed at developing a common narrative and program, a picture of collective identity and action gradually emerged.

Following previous collaborations between BoTu and the IABR, initial explorations began in the winter of 2021. In the first half of 2022, the collective met with the IABR to discuss mutual expectations. The relationship between commoning, the activities already taking place in the district, and the spatial aspect were important in this context.

Biweekly meetings resulted in a joint program of tours, performances and events in either the Bospolder-Tussendijken district or the local Ferro venue, depending on the target audience, both during and after the IT’S ABOUT TIME biennale.

During these events, commoning theories were put into practice and tested. It all came together in the podcast ‘Gedeelde Grond’ (Shared Ground), in which representatives of 15 initiatives were interviewed by Hugo Post of MediaAtelier Delfshaven (MAD) about their goals and methods and the pitfalls they encountered. Linked to this podcast series was a ‘GoTo BoTu’ tour: a permanent ‘district exhibition’ so that visitors can visit the initiatives and listen to the podcasts on their own initiative or with a guide. The podcasts and the GoTo BoTu tour were launched on 12 January 2023. 

The end result of the IABR Commons Collective BOTU to date is twofold. The first prong is a series of projects, actions and events that have brought the initiatives closer together, effectively demonstrated ‘commoning in action’ to a wider audience, and sharpened the collective’s substantive focus as it operated. A second one is the increased visibility of a collection of transitional design practices through a walking tour, district exhibition and podcast series.