Independent School for the City

Studio, Workshop
19.11.2020 - 27.11.2020

About the Programme

Rotterdam is a member of an international family of cities to which also London, Paris, Los Angeles belong that have earned the title of ‘superdiverse’. Superdiverse means that there is no longer a majority of ‘native Dutch’ people that dominates the community. The ethnic Dutch have become a minority amidst others, the largest minority perhaps, but still a minority. Superdiverse cities like Rotterdam bring with them a next stage in the integration process, where ethnicity no longer is the most important let alone the sole factor with which people define themselves. Instead of the old dividing lines superdiversity seems to create new connections. Not only do ethnicities get mixed, communities also start being based on other factors like religion, profession, sexual orientation or neighborhood. In other words: the simple pie chart of ethnicity becomes mixed up into a collection of overlapping and mixing colors. Such a transformation is nearly impossible to catch using the conventional bureaucratic and scholarly statistics. To see it we have to go on the streets, in the restaurants, listen to the radio and go on social media. In this course we aim to do just that: to do empirical research in a superdiverse part of Rotterdam with the aim to understand how the city, its facilities and its public space are being used by many different groups of people; to understand what they value in the city, where they spend their time, where they spend their money, where they work and go to school. To make sense of it, to synthesize it in a new model of how the city actually works, we need to learn how to draw new kinds of charts and maps. And we will use photography to picture the superdiversity of the city, not so much the ethnicities of its inhabitants, but the myriad ways the city is being experienced by different people. Mappings and pictures together will together form an exhibition, an insight into what is for most of us invisible: seeing the same city through the eyes of others. For this studio the Independent School for the City has teamed up with artist and designer Neeltje ten Westenend to map the different perspectives of one street, exploring superdiversity and how this is manifest in Rotterdam’s Nieuwe Binnenweg. Basic tools are photography, observation, talks and walks. Photographic skills or special equipment are not required, a visual imagination and an explorative mind however are key. How do you look through the eyes of someone else? Do you hand over the camera to informants themselves in order to capture hidden, unlocked experiences and phenomena? Or can you join in daily activities to map-out and document routines and places? After a first day of introductions and presentations we take the streets. We’ll be looking for places we can enter, getting involved with key players in the area and learning from locals to explore the manifestation of superdiversity in the Nieuwe Binnenweg. Meeting people. Finding ideas on how to capture them in their own surroundings. We discuss these ideas with urban anthropologist Leeke Reinders and develop our own approach during the rest of the course. Returning to the field regularly we aim to create a certain sensitivity towards people and communities. By means of collecting and editing our photos in sequences, we will eventually create a series leporellos (foldable booklets) to present our findings on the Nieuwe Binnenweg in a concluding exhibition.

Who's Coming

Architects, Urbanists, Historians, Sociologists and other 'urban' studies.

About You

Regular tickets are available for 250 euro. Student tickets are available for 200 euro. The course is subject to Corona measures. We will determine in the beginning of October 2020 whether the course can take place. You can register for this Research by Photography studio by sending an email to For practical reasons, a maximum of 15 participants can take part in this course.

About Us

The Independent School for the City is a platform for urban professionals to explore the complexity and contradictions of the global city. Social Sciences, Economy, Planning, Design, History and other "urban studies" are brought together in a trans-disciplinary community of learning. The school has deep roots and a strong presence in the city of Rotterdam and is part of a wide and diverse international network of practices and institutions. It is rooted in the practice of Crimson Historians & Urbanists and Z.U.S of combining a critical, activist approach to the city with effecting real change through architectural and planning projects. Blurring the line between critique and practice, research and policy and a strong belief in an incremental instead of a tabula rasa approach to city planning.