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Embassy of Urban Transformation

16 October 2018

The Embassy of Urban Transformation is curated by design agency Afdeling Buitengewone Zaken and is hosted at Student Hotel Eindhoven
The city is changing every day. Construction, renovation and expansion takes place, new facilities, services and possibilities, new cultural attractions, initiatives and social projects emerge. Every day offers the urban population new challenges and opportunities. The Embassy of Urban Transformation highlights and discusses the role of design in the urban change.

Recipes for the transforming city

What does the future of the city look like? That is the question underlying the programme of the Embassy of Urban Transformation, a collaboration between the Rotterdam-based design agency A/BZ and The Student Hotel in Eindhoven. With an exhibition and a programme with talks and daily workshops, they challenge everyone to help think about the questions posed by the constantly transforming city: How do we keep or make the city pleasant to live, inspiring, reachable, flexible, self-sustaining and caring? 

During the DDW, the Embassy of Urban Transformation transforms Eindhoven’s District E into an active playground where experiments, interventions and try-outs set the tone. Innovation departments, policymakers, entrepreneurs and designers will come together to discuss and conceive of tomorrow’s urban transformations. Design thinking, co-creation and the experiment play an important role.

Urbanism is a verb

‘Future cities will be subject to constant change’, says Jan Belon, A/BZ, short for Afdeling Buitengewone Zaken (Extraordinary Affairs Department). ‘Or as Aseem Inam, Urban Design professor with Cardiff University expressed it: “Urbanism is a verb that stands for a continuous process of involvement in the city”. This isn’t a matter of the distant future, but something that is already happening. All over the globe, cities are experiencing new modes of transformation where experiments, participation and shifting stakeholder-engagement are a part of new ways of thinking about urban social challenges.’

A/BZ plays an active role in that process. The agency propagates an experimental design approach and in-context prototyping as a way of dealing with complex social issues. They embrace bottom-up initiatives, innovation that originates in the community and participating design. This is also the perspective for the exhibit at the embassy.

Interactive exposition

The interactive exposition at The Student Hotel displays insightful examples of urban transformations in the Netherlands that contribute to an inspiring, flexible, self-sustaining, reachable or caring city. Practical levers are offered and stimulating questions are posed, stimulating both citizens and policymakers to join in on the thought-process.

The exposition paints a picture of opportunities for the future city, in so far as it hasn’t already begun, and communicates the fact that we are in control. Urban transformation doesn’t happen on its own and requires the changing society to come up with a continuous steam of new solution.

The citizen initiative for an urban lab in Gouda, Goudasfalt, and the platform for graphic journalism Drawing the Times by Albert Hennipman are two projects included in the exposition under the theme ‘The inspiring city’. An example of ‘The self-sustaining city’ is Cascoland Kolenkit , a project where residents of the run-down Kolenkit-neighbourhood in Amsterdam are involved in cultural interventions in order to improve the quality of life in the neighbourhood.

โ€œUrbanism is a verb that stands for a continuous process of involvement in the cityโ€ - Aseem Inam, Urban Design professor with Cardiff University

Mini-homes and mobility happiness

Under the theme ‘The flexible city’, visitors encounter the project Minitopia by Wouter Corvers, an experiment with temporary, cheap, circular homes made of reusable materials. Another element of the exposition is about how Superuse Studios transformed the Afrikaandermarkt into a local resource market.

‘The reachable city’ includes a study of ‘mobility happiness’ by De Verkeersonderneming and AKKA architects. A surprising proposal for ‘the caring city’ is the return of the ANWB-emergency telephone. Marc Andrews and Anne van Abkoude came up with a new application for these emergency phones that used to be positioned alongside the highways not so long ago: a recognisable point of contact for seniors with early dementia.

Clean Energy Challenge

During the DDW, the Embassy of Urban Transformation organises a versatile programme with talks and workshops, aiming to stimulate the discussion between citizens, policymakers and innovators about dilemmas concerning urban development and the role of designers.

On Tuesday 23 October the programme is all about the Clean Energy Challenge organised by the design platform What Design Can Do. This global challenge invites designers to come up with ideas for energy issues in five metropolises: Delhi, Nairobi, São Paulo, Mexico City and Amsterdam. Anyone interested in participating in this challenge can elaborate their concept, supported by A/BZ during that day.


The evening programme on Tuesday (20:00 - 21:30 o’clock) in collaboration with Distributed Design Market Platform and coordinated by Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam, follows up on this. During a talk show, multiple guests discuss sustainable sources of energy in the city. Guests include the 3D metal printing company MX3D by designer Joris Laarman, famous for things like the 3D-printed steel bridge across a canal in Amsterdam. 

On Thursday morning 25 October from 10:00-12:00 o’clock, there is a debate with Government Architect Floris Alkemade, architect and urban designer, and Vera Winthagen, strategic design consultant with the Eindhoven municipality. Winthagen helps solve social challenges in the city in a different way by using Design Thinking.


The future of our residential environment

Spatial Circular


During the DDW, the Embassy of Urban Transformation hosts a workshop every weekday, including a design tour where representatives of innovation departments, policymakers and entrepreneurs get acquainted with Design thinking, user-d design and ‘learning by doing’. During these workshops, led by A/BZ, participants develop new skills and refreshing ideas to make cities future-proof.

Every day a different theme from the exposition takes a central role. The design tour showcases the most innovative projects related to the case of the day. Then, the workshops teach them how to bring innovative ideas to life by using the principles of Design Thinking. They are taught how to set up an experiment and test ideas with the public.

For more information and the full schedule, check