Foto: Ximena Davalos
27 september

France gets inspired by the approach of Resilient Bospolder-Tussendijken

Last week, members of Sustainable City by France and the French National Urban Renewal Agency (ANRU) travelled to Rotterdam for a learning expedition in Bospolder-Tussendijken (BoTu). This visit revolved around climate adaptation, the energy transition and the role of social resilience and citizen participation in creating resilient neighbourhoods.

Worldwide, efforts are being taken to develop future-proof cities, that are resilient and climate-neutral. Rotterdam is known for its innovative character and is a source of inspiration when it comes to resilience; urban, social, climate, energy. The agency ANRU is responsible for strengthening the resilience of 450 socio-economically vulnerable neighbourhoods in France, and came to BoTu to learn from the holistic approaches employed by Resilient Rotterdam, and Resilient BoTu 2028.

Arnoud Molenaar (Chief Resilience Officer Rotterdam) opened the day by elaborating on the Resilient Rotterdam Strategy 2022-2027 and the importance of applying the resilience-lens to urban development projects. Resilient BoTu 2028 is a good example of a holistic resilience strategy at the neighbourhood-level- a programme in which the municipality, citizens, and entrepreneurs work together in making BoTu the first resilient neighbourhood of Rotterdam.

In practical terms, this means that in carrying out new projects, there is automatically looked at the integration of climate adaptation, social resilience, and existing social grassroot initiatives at the neighbourhood-level. In BoTu, there is always looked at the possibility of combining projects with education and/or employment opportunities, community building, talent development for locals.

Climate adaptation and social resilience

During the learning expedition, different locations were visited to demonstrate the realisation of resilient projects. In BoTu, efforts are being taken to develop resilient squares, such as Driehoeksplein. A square is more than a public space, it has a strong social function and is a meeting place for locals. The art of urban development is combining the elements of climate adaptation with social resilience; adding social value while designing future-proof public spaces. Driehoeksplein is also used by a primary school called Valentijnschool, therefore, the square even functions as an outside classroom where children can play safely and learn about climate and biodiversity.

Ximena Davalos
With VR-glasses, we could see the future green Driehoeksplein

The social effect that is cultivated by a resilient square is difficult to visualise; what kind of effects do resilient squares have on the neighbourhood and how does it contribute to the safety of children playing on the square?

Sahila (Employee parent engagement, Valentijnschool) elaborated on the power of community building and shared her experience as the founder of a grassroot initiative called “Onwijze Moeders” (Incredible Mothers). The French delegation was particularly interested in the way in which locals are actively engaged in the development of their neighbourhood.

After lunch, the delegation visited the Dakpark (Roof park), the Sponge garden and the Bellamy square.

Kinga Feenstra
Het Dakpark (Roof park)


Lessons learned

At the end of the day, the participants took time to reflect on the lessons learned during the learning expedition. “I really enjoyed experiencing the social dynamics here. We saw that citizens are very active and truly care about the future of their neighbourhood” – one of the French participants.

The expedition and presentation of different locations and initiatives showed how numerous approaches come together in building a future-proof resilient neighbourhood. It also demonstrated that physical investments (in buildings and public spaces) should go hand in hand with social investments. The smart design of a future-proof neighbourhood builds further on the foundation created by the local communities.

Finally, the French delegation asked for a recommendation; what should a city, that is at the beginning of this process, start with in developing resilient neighbourhoods? - A question to which Arnoud Molenaar replied; I recommend developing a holistic resilience strategy and simultaneously start with visible projects in the neighbourhood.


Resilient Cities Network

France and Rotterdam know each other from the Resilient Cities Network (RCN). In this network, knowledge-sharing in the area of resilience-approaches in different cities plays a key role. Former Chief Resilience Officer Paris, Sébastien Maire (General Delegate Sustainable City by France) took his colleagues from Sustainable City by France and the National Urban Renewal Agency (ANRU) to Rotterdam.

Sustainable City by France

This non-governmental organisation consists out of local authorities, the state, companies, and experts. The organisation is occupied with furthering the development of sustainable cities and areas in France. As a “Do-thank” they also contribute to achieving 100 climate neutral cities by 2030.

National Urban Renewal Agency

The mission of ANRU is to contribute to the implementation of wide-scale urban regeneration programmes, aimed at reducing unequal opportunities all over the territory of France and furthering sustainable development. The second programme of this organisation (NPNRU 2014-current) is focused on approximately 450 neighbourhoods and has a budget of 14 billion euros. Recently, Olivier Klein (French Minister of Housing and Cities) announced that all of the 450 urban projects should help to make these districts more resilient. An additional 100 million euros has been allocated to implement a new plan called Resilient Districts.


Pictures: Ximena Davalos

Author: Kinga Feenstra

The French article about this visit, can be read on the website of Sustainable City by France.

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