For Rotterdam-based MVRDV architects, a human-centered approach to urban planning starts with rethinking the space given to cars. Surprisingly, taking out parking spaces is not only good for people and sustainability, it’s good for business.
In a 1970s fit of modernization, Rotterdam filled in canals and built roads. Now it is looking to get rid of the cars and to bring the water back. “This will not just be nice for people, it will not just be nice for sustainability, it will also be very good for the businesses,” says Jan Knikker, a partner at MVRDV. “And that is why it is always very important that you have a holistic approach to this.
“Already, because of Corona, the businesses in those streets in Rotterdam next to our office basically asked us to get rid of the cars for as long as the Corona rules apply because the businesses are quite small and they wanted to extend into the street. But there were parking spots and there were cars.”
The solution was to give all the businesses terraces where the parking spaces and street used to be. Hairdressers, for example, could meet their clients outside. And the street is now only for pedestrians.
“And it is really also super cool that the businesses actually asked for this, because normally a business would say, ‘I need a parking spot for my clients in front of the business.’ But here, they actually said to get rid of all the cars and make their shops bigger.
“So you see that even a dense city like Rotterdam can be safer from Corona if we get rid of the cars because the car has so much space in our cities.”