Where would we be without pavement gardens? Take a few minutes and ponder that question and give it your best shot. And, another question: Where can we plant them in Rotterdam Central District? We turned to Berend van Zanten and Raymond Landegent for the answer.
From their Delftseplein-side office in the heart of RCD, these two born organizers run Groenemorgen, an organisation that launches projects and events to make Rotterdam more sustainable, social and pleasant to live in.
“We’re a campaign agency for green ideas and come up with playful, positive and fresh ways to broach tricky topics. Take our pavement planting project. Our goal was to plant up to a thousand strips of pavement last year. We made it to 959. That adds up to just short of an extra hectare of planting in Rotterdam, which is so important now given the fact of climate change. This provides rainwater drainage and the flowers attract bees”, Berend, 29, explains with infectious enthusiasm. “But gardens like this are important for another reason, too. It makes neighbourhoods nicer and encourages neighbours to get to know each other. Pavement planting makes Rotterdam a bit more social.”
To ‘cultivate’ that social impact, the two have kicked off a contest (Rotterdam Bloeit Op – ‘Rotterdam in Bloom’) to grow the biggest sunflower in Rotterdam. Teaming up with Kongsi and VoorGrijs Seniorenservice, Groenemorgen has given a thousand Maasstad inhabitants seeds of Helianthus annuus giganteus, aka giant sunflower. The tallest of them all will win at summer’s end.
“This is a way to inject some colour in the city and connect inhabitants of all ages, while also teaching people something about biodiversity in a fun way.”
The duo are itching to plant up more pavements and sow sunflowers across RCD, and in the process connect the people who live and work here. It won’t be easy, given all the brick and broad roadways, but with Hofplein to be redeveloped one of these years, time is on their side – even if the pace isn’t as brisk as Berend would like.
“We’ve worked on the Weena before, with our project ‘Happy Streets’. So, how could the street be done differently? Weena has the potential to be an urban park. We need that for more fresh air and places to skate and play ping-pong. If you’re working in one of the offices along the Weena, don’t you want to be able to go outside on your lunch break? Take the ZOHO park at the edge of RCD – that used to be a road with cars. Now it’s a park. Combined with the streetside commercial development by MONO, it’s become a great spot in the city.”