Connecting urban areas from the bottom up

The challenge

Until fairly recently, the area between Rotterdam centre and north was a ‘no-go’ zone. Designed by architects ZUS, the Luchtsingel reconnects the two areas, revitalising a forgotten urban space.

The Luchtsingel is a fantastic example of urban development 2.0. The initiative is driven by a broad spectrum of public and private parties, and Rotterdammers, instead of a government body or project developer. The energy, ideas, and funds of businesses, citizens and local organisations are reanimating the area.

The plan for the Luchtsingel was part of the 5th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, a project already in the BRAND portfolio. ZUS and BRAND began working together when the Luchtsingel was nominated for the first Rotterdamse Stadsinitiatief award in 2012. The challenge was straightforward: ‘Help us win the Stadsinitiatief.’

Our approach

Our strategy was simple: to tell a clear story in words and images, and give people a glimpse of the future. We pursued this approach across all possible channels. Besides BRAND, the campaign team consisted of ZUS, design agency 75B, online agency Mangrove, and VideoWerkt.

We generated a constant stream of publicity with a pop-up polling booth and activities in local communities. And, supported by a poster, billboard and postcard campaign in Rotterdam, everyone was soon talking about the Luchtsingel. The video ‘They’re building a Luchtsingel’ gained thousands of viewings in no time. When – at our suggestion – the media compared the Luchtsingel with international projects like The Highline in New York, the Luchtsingel rocketed to the top of the polls.

The outcome

In combination with online and offline publicity, the campaign generated an enormous buzz. The fame of the Luchtsingel spread far beyond the Netherlands. People were excited by the project, seeing it as a new model for urban development, which is often a joint public-private enterprise, not simply a government task. Rotterdammers fell in love with the Luchtsingel, and helped to fund it. The project also won the very first Rotterdam urban initiative award, the Rotterdamse Stadsinitiatief. Worth 4 million euro, the prize financed the area’s redevelopment and management. But we didn’t stop there. We created a communication strategy around the project’s construction, and showcased the Luchtsingel in many events in the city. The hundreds of crowd funders, our fans from day one, played an active role throughout the entire process. We celebrated milestones and continually updated the media.