Test Site M4H+

Pilot Project and Showcase

2018 - 2020

A global player, the Port of Rotterdam has a special relationship with the City of Rotterdam. Though this relationship has become more fragile in recent decades, the arenas in which the City and the Port come together, the so-called ‘city harbors’, are now of growing importance. After all, this is where smart links between the inevitable transitions in energy and resource use (circular port, circular economy) and the broader socioeconomic development of both residents and businesses in the city can be established.

In Rotterdam, the Port Authority and the City are intertwined in a single (urban) system, like conjoined twins. In the city harbors they can explore, design, and test the transition to the future Rotterdam together. One of the city harbors in which port development and urban development come together is the Merwe-Vierhavens district (M4H) where, in 2018, IABR, Port and City have established the Test Site M4H+.

Merwe-Vierhavensgebied (M4H). Photo: Frank Hanswijk
    • Credits

In 2018, and in the context of IABR–Atelier Rotterdam, Team1010 examined ways to take the next step in M4H’s transformation into a breeding ground for the circular manufacturing industry at IABR–Test Site M4H+. How can area development in M4H contribute to Rotterdam’s ambitious goals to realize a fully circular society with closed material cycles by 2050? Which test projects and which coalitions can help this development take shape? And how can sustainable area development be combined with the position of Rotterdam as a global port, and, as such, a hub for the huge amount of raw materials, waste, and semi-finished products that traverse the region? In a circular economy, these flows will have to be shortened, valorized, and eventually closed. The degree to which this is achieved depends on local capacities, skills, people, and places.

For its research, commissioned by IABR, the City and the Port of Rotterdam, Team1010 took the drive and strength of the parties that are already active in the area as its starting point. Entrepreneurs were first asked about their ‘maker story,’ ‘growth story,’ and ‘circular story,’ and subsequently about their aspirations: What do you need for your company to flourish in the circular economy? The – extensive – talks with stakeholders and experts continued during IABR–2018, when three circular chains – the agrifood & biohub, the building materials bank, and a textile refinery – were investigated to identify concrete opportunities.

In June 2019, the publication Wat Heb Je Nodig? (What Do You Need?) was presented, in which Team1010 demonstrates how a city harbor like M4H can in fact develop into a breeding ground for a circular manufacturing industry. By actively forging coalitions and stimulating the debate in the area, the team furthermore made the taking of further steps possible. It also developed a methodology that is applicable in other locations, a method that aims to address the missing link between ambitions and their realization, and thus to help bridge the gap between plans and projects.

Guiding Principles Team1010

The Guiding Principles formulated as part of Team1010’s research were included as a guideline in the Ruimtelijk Raamwerk (Spatial Framework), the city’s guiding framework for the development of M4H in the coming years. And for good reason: the Principles promote mutually shared values for policy and development in M4H and are aimed at achieving a progressively more circular, inclusive, and sustainable future.

The M4H area offers challenges that fit in perfectly with the ambition of the IABR to work concretely and locally, in Rotterdam, while productively combining its mission with its functions as an international platform and as a research & development institution. As a research platform, IABR is keen to continue a multi-year process in and with all parties in the M4H area and to keep it going while "learning to area-develop by doing": i.e. advance a practice of result-oriented area development in a learning environment. This relates directly to one of the key questions that IABR–2020 asks: can we, as city-makers, think carefully about how we do it and for whom we do it, while we're actually doing it?

In the context of the M4H Test Site, Rianne Makkink and Jurgen Bey (Studio Makkink & Bey, based in M4H) developed the Water School M4H+ as co-curators of the IABR 2020.