Groot IJsselmonde is an archetypical example of modernist planning in Rotterdam. The functional segregation, absent spatial hierarchy and several unsuccessfully implemented plans resulted in an inconsistent appearance for this suburban area. Groot IJsselmonde not only suffers from architectural monotony and a dysfunctional centre but as well from a lack of identity and density. What if we could reimagine the way we live, work and dwell in our suburbs, fighting loneliness, providing more affordable housing and improving the challenges of everyday life through sharing?

With increasing pressure on affordable housing, coupled with the problems related to the isolation of the inhabitants, an ageing population and changing socio-economic conditions, we need to find a spatial answer to the upcoming challenges. The project aims to create socially and naturally inclusive spaces that enable healthy community life. The plan has been developed with three parameters in mind: environmental, social and economic resilience. By adding new layers onto the existing urban structures, we introduce a new organisational hierarchy in the area. It should strengthen the sense of community and connect the new development to its surrounding landscape. This is the Garden City reinvented.

Green Singel as a heart of Groot Ijsselmonde
Green Singel as a connector

On the environmental aspect of productivity

Van Drimmelen’s modernist masterplan for Groot IJsselmonde has undergone several changes since its initial design. The original plan was supposed to be a perfect marriage between the city and the countryside. The structural organisation of the neighbourhood was developed as a tabula rasa, ignoring the existing landscape conditions of the place. The historical polder landscape, shaped by decades of flooding and agricultural activities, has been replaced by a radial ring road structure with neighbourhoods fanning out from it. A short but intensive productive history of the neighbourhood left scars on the image and development of Groot IJsselmonde. Nearby oil extraction fields have undoubtedly contributed to the dysfunctionality of this centre and the fragmentation of the original green belt. 

The Green singel
Our proposal of Green singel represents a new organisational element in the urban fabric of Groot IJsselmonde. It explores the role of the neighbourhood infrastructure in reinforcing the connection between the core and its adjacent urban structure. The Green singel is a strategic system of open spaces organised

along the ring road. It is a connector binding the separate neighbourhood districts together. By downgrading and redefining the existing street profile, we created extra space for ecology, water management and social activity. Several public amenities, community places and productive fields function as activators and landmarks.The Green singel redefines the scale of the central area, enlarging the core of Groot IJsselmonde. The mixture of different urban functions, such as housing, work, production, recreation and education, takes place here. Due to its distinct identity, Green singel helps with orientation within Groot IJsselmonde and makes a distinction between the mixed-use area within the ring and housing premises in the periphery of the neighbourhood.

The Green singel strengthens the local biodiversity and the ecological network by reconnecting the green wedges to the central structure. The single plays a crucial role in the realisation of a climate-proof city by providing spaces for water retention and its subsequent use. Water plays an essential role in reconnecting the suburb to its historical landscape characteristics – a garden city in the Dutch delta.


On social aspect of productivity

The concept of the garden city has had a profound impact on the spatial construction of twentieth-century cities. Low housing densities and vast domestic landscapes became the living environment of the middle-class. Single-family housing has remained the ultimate goal for many inhabitants and developers. However, our cities are changing, and suburban housing typology no longer accommodates the diversity of needs. In Hartland project, we create a robust framework that provides socio-economic diversity in living typologies and creates an opportunity for a dynamic cityscape to emerge.

Scales of sharing
Being inspired by the socialist and economic ideals of original garden city ideals, our development strategy is organised around the principles of sharing and co-creation. Different scales of sharing have different spatial implications. The four most important scales are: (1) the city scale, (2) the neighbourhood scale, (3) the cluster scale, and (4) the building scale.

1.City scale
All users of Groot IJsselmonde share the Green singel. Public facilities, such as schools, health and sport institutions and specialised workshops are organised along the green belt. By doing so, Groot IJsselmonde is capable of attracting people from bigger distances, making this district more as a part of Rotterdam city.

2.Neighbourhood scale
Each neighbourhood of Groot IJsselmonde is organised around the local park area, and this spatial setting

inspired the project. The new neighbourhood here is developed by an anchor (housing) institution. The anchor institution is responsible for developing sharing facilities on the neighbourhood level, which are placed within several strategically located mobility hubs. The latter entails parking spaces for shared cars and bikes but also mixed-function sites (workshops, businesses) and common facilities such as hospitality venues, gyms, washing rooms, communal kitchens, playrooms and lecture rooms. Hence, mobility hubs become a place where people truly meet during daily tasks. The hubs are accessible to everyone and make the area lively by its functions placed on ground floors.

3.Cluster scale
Clusters are a mixture of different housing typologies, unit sizes and common facilities. They create an opportunity for a strong and diverse community of inhabitants to emerge. Common courtyards, winter gardens, workshops, guest apartments or shared cargo bikes are the property of the inhabitants of the cluster. Organised cooking or childcare can make everyday life easier and sociable.

4.Building scale
Shared facilities are integrated in each apartment block. Buildings are designed to accommodate a variety in sharing, where in some cases people share only the staircase, but in other cases, they share laundry rooms or even kitchens. The type and size of units range from family apartments to multi-generation apartments, single-two person studios, elderly or student housing and working-living apartments with integrated studios.

The Europan site is located between the existing centre and the Green singel. Due to its proximity to existing public amenities, the site has a potential to become lively district and hence boost the bigger centre of Groot IJsselmonde redefined by the Green singel. In order to realise this ambition, the site needs a diversity of housing possibilities catering to various age groups, varied family formations and people with diverse interests. Mixing building typologies of living premises along with a diversity of public spaces creates a neighbourhood of the future. Overall, the new neighbourhood will accommodate 500-1180 housing units depending on typologies and varying from three to six floors.

Design for Hartland is organised around several design principles, such as (1) respecting existing landscape conditions, (2) creating places and (3) open ground floors as commons. The plan has been developed as a system of open spaces, short streets, semi-public courtyards and rooftops. The sequence of squares joins the building ground floors by an open plinth. The central park area is used by diverse community groups living around it. A school, sport facilities, a natural open-air pool or fishing platforms define the edges of the park. The ground floors in park proximity are occupied by communal spaces, businesses, workshops, school,

kindergarten and/ or small scale shops. Work studio space, therefore, extends to the outside space through the generous plinth. Widening the plinth creates spaces for communal work pavilions placed towards the water collection pond in the middle of the park. The central water body with natural shore line does not serve only as a water reservoir, but it also provides habitats for birds and amphibians.

The masterplan strengthens the historical south-north orientation and reconnects the district centre to the northern neighbourhoods of Tuinenhoven. This connection is made by a sequence of open spaces, which connects to Green singel at the location of Prinseplein with a unique water square. It creates an entrance to the Tuinenhoven neighbourhood. The anchor community and mobility hub are also placed centrally in the sequence. On a building cluster level, semi-open courtyards represent the main communal place. Their image depends on the decision of a cluster community along with the maintenance. Courtyards are designed as permeable, allowing for informal and flexible connections to the surrounding urban fabric. This setting brings about a lot of flexibility in the ways the site can be used.

Diversity of housing typologies
Diversity of public spaces

On the economic aspect of productivity

The Hartland masterplan goes beyond physical regeneration. Inspired by the German collective housing models of the Mietshäuser syndikat and the economic model developed by the Swiss housing program Mehr als Wohnen, we propose a solidarity-based economic model to fuel the transformation. It is a co-creative economical model which supports the high social ambitions of the project. The dynamic process combines self-built projects with cooperative housing programs, work-home units and social hubs, bringing together individuals, collectives, investors and small-scale developers, resulting in a more inclusive form of development. The masterplan retains individuality while engaging residents to participate in their community and shaping their own city.

In order to build the new neighbourhood, the municipality of Rotterdam and non-profit development organisation form the Hartland foundation. It is an anchor institution where the municipality and several non-profit housing co-operations, business groups and future inhabitants are joined together. The role of anchor institution is to ensure sustainable development of the area and Green singel. At the same time, it manages

properties and organises the common spaces of the neighbourhood. Because proposed urban development will be fuelled and financed by this non-profit organisation, the rental prices include a monthly contribution to the Hartland solidarity fund. The rental contracts include a share in Green singel project, making each inhabitant of Hartland shareholder in bigger scale urban regeneration.

On the cluster and building levels, this means that certain spaces are reserved for collective functions. If not already defined, the use of these spaces will be decided upon between the residents. In time, the use of these spaces may change, depending on the needs of the residents. In order to create a more mixed neighbourhood and minimise social segregation, both rental, partial ownership and ownership models will be made possible within each cluster. The majority will be in rental property to keep a healthy balance in the neighbourhood. Depending on future developments, this percentage can change. In that way, the organisation/ solidarity fund has the potential to fuel the further sustainable transformation of the neighbourhood and the Green singel. By providing a non-profit model, lower rents are ensured.


Year 0 – preparing the soilFoundation of the Hartland anchor institution
The municipality of Rotterdam and a non-profit housing cooperative form an anchor institution, a solidarity fund. This fund will facilitate the urban transformation, manage the process of applicants for the collective allotments and guide the process of forming a housing and working collectives with different levels of sharing. Central empty buildings are reused for physical allocation of the Heartland anchor organisation and the first green businesses. The urban framework is developed by a professional in a public-private partnership, with support of future stakeholders, residents and users.

Year 0-2 From seed – Kickstarting the community – make it happen!
First allotments are made available for founding users and residents. The allotments form an instant neighbourhood for the future users and stimulate placemaking, kickstarting the community building. The plots which will be developed gradually can temporarily be used as allotment garden plots, building playgrounds and tree nurseries or for pilot projects and experiments. The main common constructions, such as the physical location of the Hartland anchor organisation, the school and parking hubs, are built first. This lays the foundation for the new neighbourhood.

Year 5 – Institutions along Green singel
First blocks and collective spaces are established gradually. Diversity in plot sizes, forms of ownership and

economic model allows flexibility in the development, within the framework. Parking hubs are integrated in blocks and common facilities, with supporting funding from the solidarity fund. As the neighbourhood becomes more established surrounding squares, the park and Green singel are influenced by the increase in population density. Continuous development of neighbourhood and collective infrastructure will keep taking place. Institutions, productive green businesses and public spaces such as playgrounds and sport facilities develop further along the Green singel through funding from Hartland solidarity fund. The northern square can be upgraded as the first string on the Singel, as a pilot project for the singel, showcasing recreation, stormwater management and sport program coming together.

Near future – Green singel
Continuous development of neighbourhood and collective infrastructure will keep taking place. Institutions, productive green businesses and public spaces such as playgrounds and sport facilities develop further along the Green singel through funding from Hartland solidarity fund.

Far future – Towards a fully grown neighbourhood casting new seeds
Continuous development of the neighbourhood and its collective infrastructure will continue. The Green single grows, casts rings and providing the possibility for regeneration of surrounding neighbourhoods.


The introduced development strategy provides spatial and systematic answers to densification in the context of the post-war garden city. The garden city of the 21st century should be a naturally and socially inclusive suburbia, connected to its present landscape characteristics. It is a place where the gentrification processes of area development are replaced by slow and organically induced growth of communities. A non-profit residential construction on a district level with no pressure of productivity returns on investment provides the possibility to think long term and to invest in social sustainability. The non-profit housing is oriented towards the common good and prompts general use. The Hartland masterplan combines top-down planning with bottom-up urban regeneration.

The neighbourhood of Groot IJsselmonde provides the opportunity of co-creation, encourages active citizenship and shared responsibility and provides a balance between the roll-up sleeves mentality of cities and productive landscapes of the countryside. To create truly garden-like city means to create places where people come and live together and where they create and give something back.