Nominees for the Tile-Flipping Championships
Over the past two years, the Dutch Tile-Flipping Championships have been organized. A competition between cities to replace as many pavement tiles as possible with grass, shrubs or other greenery. Also in my neighbourhood I can think of places where some tiles could be taken out.
Apart from facilitating a bit of healthy rivalry, the Dutch Tile-Flipping Championships also have a more serious goal. If you replace pavement tiles with nature, you make your city more climate-resistant, more biodiverse and, above all, more beautiful.
I don’t have any tiles I could flip: I live on the tenth floor of an apartment building. But in my neighbourhood I do know a few places that could do with less tiles, street bricks and asphalt. And that neighbourhood, that’s downtown Rotterdam. Not really comparable to a quiet suburb, of course. In a lot of places in the city center, so many people walk that those tiles are simply necessary. And yet I see possibilities for greening in the heart of Rotterdam. So in this blog post I present ten nominations for the Dutch Tile-Flipping Championships 2023.
Coolsingel, the city’s central boulevard, has been redesigned in recent years. Although not all natural stones have yet been laid; for some reason that work proceeds excruciatingly slow.
According to many Rotterdammers, the new design hasn’t turned out as green as it should have been. But I understand that the choice was made to pave large areas of the boulevard. After all, the marathon must pass here every year. And it should also be possible to celebrate the championships of Feyenoord here.
Nevertheless: those tram tracks, do those have to be paved? For cost cutting reasons, the paving here is not made of natural stone, but of ordinary paving tiles. The argument is that no one should walk here anyway. But well, why not turn it into gras then!
More or less the same applies to Binnenrotte as to Coolsingel. That square has also recently undergone a facelift. Here, too, people complain that it has not become green enough. And here too there is a reason not to do large-scale tile-flipping: after all, the largest market in Rotterdam is held here twice a week.
But I do see possibilities on the part of Binnenrotte on the other side of Meent. That piece of land is used as a parking lot, popular with those bloody white vans. But parking lots in the city center are sooo twentieth century…. So remove the tiles there, or rather the bricks. And extend Sint-Jacobs Park all the way to Meent.
Doelstraat is a somewhat nasty space between the main police station and the residential building by architect Carel Weeber from the eighties. More than twenty meters wide from facade to facade and completely needlessly paved. A few years ago, the gray pavement tiles were replaced by red bricks, but that did not really make the street any more attractive. There is a piece of art, Tor und Stele by Günther Förg, but that would just as well fit in a greener environment.
The Rise redevelopment project will probably be built on the site of the Weeber flat in a few years’ time. Maybe then the Doelstraat will also get a more pleasant layout. But it doesn’t have to take that long. A thorough brick flipping operation seems to be in order right now.
Oostplein is perhaps the biggest disaster of the post-war reconstruction era. This windy traffic junction makes no attempt at all to be a real square. Part of Oostplein holds a little, not unpleasant, park. But the rest is lovelessly filled with bricks. A trainee from Municipal Works, at least that’s what I suspect, has made a design for it, with many steps and concrete spheres. It can all be taken out, as far as I’m concerned.
In fact, Oostplein can only be saved by rebuilding the Noord windmill, which stood here until 1954. Perhaps those bricks can be reused for that purpose. Let’s keep it circular…
Under the Cubes
Those miserable 30×30 pavement tiles often seem to be used as filler, even in places where they are utterly useless. Why, for example, are there pavement tiles on the “islands” under the cube houses? This is a place where no one ever walks at all. In fact, going there would be life-threatening due to all the traffic on Blaak. Get rid of those tiles and sow flowers on those islands, please! The cubes will become even more photogenic.
Another place where everything is ruthlessly filled with tiles: the intersection of Goudsesingel and Mariniersweg. Of course, at the location of the zebra crossing it is not illogical to have some pavement. But here too there is a real archipelago of rocky islands, that makes me wonder: why?
I count thirty-one pavement tiles here, between the bike path and the new Port Pavillion. So there is a sidewalk of more than nine meters wide. Slightly overdimensioned, I would say. And in the distance, towards the Maritime Museum, the sidewalk widens even more. Even though not many people walk here at all.
Moreover, there is also a pedestrian route ten meters to the right, along the quay of Leuvehaven harbour. And that one is actually much more pleasant, with historic ships and other port equipage. In other words, just pop out half of the sidewalk tiles here and turn Schiedamsedijk into a green boulevard.
There is little wood to be found on Houtlaan, even though the name translates as wood avenue. There’s no future wood either, or maybe those trees still need to be planted here at the foot of the Zalmhaven tower. But in terms of missed opportunity, that seven-meter-wide sidewalk is perhaps even more poignant. And this is new development, not a remnant from the eighties when we didn’t know any better. What’s wrong with giving those people a front yard? Here too I say: half the tiles can be removed.
It is a mystery to me what the designers of Willems Bridge had in mind with the abutment on the northern bank. Did they want to keep open the possibility of creating some usable square meters here, just like at the discotheque on the other side of the cycle path? That seems unlikely, because the last part of the space is only a meter high. One could make a kindergarten here, with a private area for the children where only they can stand. But I’m afraid all kinds of regulations are in the way.
Anyway, can we get rid of those sidewalk tiles? Okay, grass probably won’t grow here. But there are plants that really like the semi-darkness. A fun challenge for landscape designers and ecologists: design a mini park with shade-loving vegetation.
Finally, let me not forget my own street. Van Oldenbarneveltplaats, side street of Lijnbaan shopping mall. On Lijnbaan itself it is so busy that you certainly need those tiles. But twenty meters of pavement is really overkill in this offshoot of the retail area. Here too at least the tram tracks could be made grassy. Which would make Jan Evertsenplaats park, one of the world-famous Lijnbaanhoven, significantly larger.