On Wednesday, 1 September, Alderwoman Alexandra van Huffelen, Sustainability, City Centre and Public Space) presented the Rotterdam University/RCI Sustainability Award to Liesbeth Koen and Joëlle Mulkens, graduates of the Spatial Planning programme (ROP).
Koen and Mulkens won this prize for their graduation project in Woodberry Down, a deprived housing estate in London. In the next few years, this estate will undergo a total physical and socio-economic renewal in a regeneration programme that will transform one of London’s most deprived areas into an exciting new neighbourhood. Hackney Homes, the organization responsible for managing council homes in Hackney, asked the students to map out and redesign the playgrounds and living environment for children. One of their propositions concerned the creation of a natural play space to encourage imaginative play and help children to get in touch with nature.
The lofty plans that had already been prepared for the redevelopment of the housing estate hardly touched the subject of creating a safe and nurturing environment for children. In addition to an urban design analysis, the students of Rotterdam University analysed the quality of life in the area and the extent to which the estate meets people’s needs in terms of safety and a sense of community and belonging. For this purpose, they even lived in Woodberry Down themselves for a couple of months. They reached out to the community and talked at length with the people, of every age group, as in their view, it is important to involve residents in plans for change in order to generate support for the plans, win the commitment of the community and eventually enhance the habitability of the area. In the end, this will lead to a sustainable social environment for the benefit of all those concerned.
Vision on urban design
Koen and Mulkens have contributed to a strong new vision on urban design for Woodberry Down. In a book they indicated on urban planning maps how changes can be implemented over the next few years in several phases to improve the public spaces, homes, streets and pathways. The motto of these award-winning students is: ‘Estate redevelopment is a job that requires the commitment and collaboration of all parties concerned!’ Accordingly, they brought together the housing association, the residents, the municipal health service and the schools. Their efforts set an example for other deprived areas in London, as well as for similar areas in the Netherlands.
The RCI/Rotterdam University Sustainability Award is an annual award that was presented by RCI during the opening of the academic year at Rotterdam University on Wednesday, 1 September 2010. The prize involves the award of a sum of money to the amount of € 2,500.