2022 Retrospective: Embassy of Urban Mobility

What does your ideal city look like? How would you design your street? And how do you prefer to go to work? The Embassy of Urban Mobility focuses on the quality of life in a city. In recent decades, efficiency has been at the heart of urban design. “We have lost sight of people’s happiness. That has to change,” says Rob Adams, the Embassy of Urban Mobility curator. That is why the Embassy is putting people first again.

Type Update
Published on 9 December 2022
Part of Embassy of Mobility
2022 Retrospective: Embassy of Urban Mobility
Part of Embassy of Mobility

‘There is no better way to predict the future than to help shape it yourself.’ This is the starting point of the Embassy of Urban Mobility. Today offers opportunities to return to the drawing board and reshape cities. What does the Embassy of Urban Mobility focus on in particular? No longer thinking exclusively in terms of efficiency, but increasing cities’ liveability and residents’ happiness.

Huidig systeem ter discussie

“Auto’s nemen vaak tot zeventig of tachtig procent van de openbare ruimte in een stad in beslag. Hierdoor blijft er nog maar een klein deel over voor fietsers en voetgangers. Kunnen we dat niet omdraaien?”, vraagt Rob Adams zich af. Hij is naast curator van de Embassy of Urban Mobility ook oprichter van Strategie & Innovatiebureau Six Fingers. “We nemen het huidige systeem vaak voor lief en denken er niet meer over na. De dominante logica is erg sterk. Maar is het eigenlijk geen raar uitgangspunt dat we kinderen opvoeden met het idee dat de straat voor auto’s is, in plaats van voor hen? De vraag stellen is het minste wat we kunnen doen. Wij willen mensen inspireren om van denkrichting te veranderen.”

Lees meer over het narratief van de Embassy of Urban Mobility in het curator interview met Rob Adams

Blik voor Groen (Green instead of grey)

The Embassy of Urban Mobility is working on two projects in this area in what is known as the Embassy Labs. Blik voor Groen is a project aimed at greening residential areas. “We are literally going to trade cars for greenery,” says Adams. The cars go to a collection point outside the district. A communal garden will be placed on the site of parking spaces for street residents. This improves contact among the residents. In addition, green also positively impacts your mental and physical health. Moreover, greener neighbourhoods are better for the climate because trees and plants absorb CO2. The designers of Studio 1:1 have further explored the concept. Now they are looking for a street to actually carry out the experiment. 

Read the WDE Spotlight with Studio 1:1 here

Out-of-home workplace

The second project focuses on infrastructure around cities. In collaboration with Rijkswaterstaat, the Embassy of Urban Mobility is working on an ‘out-of-home workplace’. An effective and inspiring way to reduce traffic jams. “If you look at efficiency, you would widen roads to prevent traffic jams. But there are also other solutions. If one in every five working days, everyone stays off the roads, we will solve a large part of the problem,” Adams said in the curatorial interview. 

Design studio Van Eijk en Van der Lubbe has designed this ‘out-of-home workplace’, a beautiful work location at junctions near cities. Companies can let their employees go to such a workplace instead of the office. For example, employees have a real office space close to home, so they do not have to use the highway. The out-of-home workplace also has other advantages; a different environment promotes creativity and ensures new meetings between people.

Read the WDE Spotlight with designers Van Eijk & Van der Lubbe here

Thinking and innovating

These projects were also shown in the Embassy of Urban Mobility exhibition in the Klokgebouw at Strijp-S. With the exhibition, Adams wants to make people think. “We now have a problem concerning nature and climate. We should not postpone dealing with that – as is often the case – we should tackle that and see what we can change.” 

A third project was shown in the exhibition, Knoop XL. This is the area around Eindhoven central station. Two hundred people now live here, and that will grow to 15,000 in the coming years. It must become a place where people can live, work, meet and stay. Happiness is the starting point in the design, instead of efficiency. What would mobility look like, then? An interesting question that will be further investigated in this project.

You can see more of the exhibition during DDW22 in the Curator Tour with Rob Adams

Other perspectives

The Embassy of Urban Mobility looks at mobility differently. This was also reflected during the conference. “Mobility is not just about transporting people from a to b. It’s also about bringing people together, about social aspects and fun,” said Adams at the start of the conference. To really implement changes, other perspectives are needed. That is why no mobility experts spoke during the conference but experts from other fields. They focused on nature, happiness and how we can break through systems to really bring about change. All in relation to mobility. 

Saskia van den Muijsenberg, for example, stated in her keynote on biomimicry that nature is the most advanced lab. “When it comes to innovations, we often look at the events during and after the industrial revolution. But that was only recently if you look at the earth’s entire existence. Nature also had billions of years to develop itself before mankind came along. We can learn a lot from that,” she said. 

Sune Knudsen, COO of the Danish Design Centre, gave a speech at the conference about implementing changes in systems. “For big changes you need a movement, a different mindset. The entire chain of organisations and companies must contribute to that change. If one link fails, it will not work,” he said. This statement is in line with Professor Ruut Veenhoven’s ideas. He investigated the relationship between mobility and happiness. “Mobility itself isn’t the problem; it’s how we handle it,” he says. Mobility is part of our daily lives which means it is part of our happiness. The challenge is finding a balance between efficiency (being quickly at the destination) and the spatial environment (not living too close to a station). “That can be different for everyone,” concluded Veenhoven. 

In conversation

In addition to the conference, there were other Embassy events during DDW. For example, EIT Urban Mobility organised the EIT Open Day. There were several inspiring keynotes and talks. The Brabant Meet Café also took place. Here, the public could become acquainted with innovative solutions in the mobility transition, for example, through presentations by start-ups. 

The main goal of the Embassy of Urban Mobility? Asking questions about existing systems and patterns and, in doing so, making people think. Adams says, “We have to move forward. When we see that people get a twinkle in their eye from the new ideas, then we know it’s all right.”

Do you want to contribute to the Embassy of Urban Mobility, or are you curious about future developments? Sign up for the newsletter (at the bottom of the homepage), visit the Embassy of Urban Mobility page or contact us.

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