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Productive Symbiosis

Transforming a previously industrial area into a circular 'Makers' District'

The Europan 15 competition invited proposals to transform cities into ‘Productive Cities’ for the New Economy – An economy that is decentralised, creative, and circular. The Vierhavensblok site, a former industrial area and part of the port of Rotterdam is now a budding creative district. The design proposal aims to make a mixed-use ‘Makers District’ combining workshops, studios, food garden along with co-operative and self-built housing. The design proposes shared networks and circular resource flows where the waste from one activity becomes the raw material for another – setting the basis for a Circular Economy



The site which is between the Port & the City is strengthened by establishing physical, functional & programmatic gradients. These gradients comprise the transition from water to green systems, from port industries to commercial activities, from an industrial economy to new economies, and from industrial practices to collective ones.

Typological sets

The masterplan solidifies the gradient by defining building typological sets. Defining typologies opens the built environment to a diversity of expressions & flexibility of use while maintaining a common DNA The typologies follow a programmatic succession of storage facilities, hard production, offices, soft production, residential and commercial

Unifying plinth

The different developments are tied together on the ground floor by a plinth of unified height (6m) and materialisation. The plinth houses the productive activities, workshops, and workspaces that are collectively used by the Makers and residents participating in the New Economy


Defining gradients and typological sets enable positive growth. Typological sets include flexible workshops, housing with incremental capabilities for Makers & Cooperative-type apartment dwellings. All these allow the possibility for future densification and economic growth.

The masterplan

Inner Green – organizing open space

The different buildings and the system of open spaces are organised along the inner green strip, the Food Garden. This becomes the centre of the community. The Food Garden connects the port and the city

Makers Street – connecting  port &  city

Two main pedestrian streets – the Makers Streets – are created to connect the site with the port and the city. Towards the water, the street is straight, functional, and provided with bridge cranes – to encourage diverse small-scale production. Towards the city, it winds through the small-grained urban tissue giving exposure to the activities in the plinth.

Makers Courts – creating local clusters

Several small-scaled courts are placed along the Makers Streets. Here, workshop activities from the plinth can spill out. They also become unifying outdoor spaces amongst various workshop and housing clusters.

Typology A - Co-operative Apartment Building over communal plinth
Typology B - Self-built Incremental housing over active plinth
Typology A - Flexibility within given structure
Typology B - Incremental Maker's houses
A network of shared facilities

Project Details

Productive Symbiosis
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
November 2016 – July 2017
Urban Development, Mixed-Use
Project Type
Kapilan Chandranesan, Matteo Basso
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