Liveability and happiness are important starting points for future mobility
What does your ideal city look like? How would you layout the streets? And how do you prefer to commute to your job? The Embassy of Urban Mobility focuses on the liveability of a city. “Over the past decades, we as a society have mainly been working on making cities more efficient. The motto was: more cars means we have to make more space. The efficiency of the system has always been the focus. In all this, we’ve lost track of people,” says Rob Adams, founder of Strategy & Innovation Agency Six Fingers and curator of the Embassy of Urban Mobility. Read more about the philosophy of the Embassy in this conversation with curator Rob Adams.
“We didn’t pay enough attention to people’s happiness when designing cities. That has to change,” says Adams. The Embassy of Urban Mobility wants to put people back at the centre of cities’ designs. “The focus should be less on efficiency and more about happiness.” What would you do if you could completely redesign your city? “Our goal is to get people thinking,” he continues.
‘The dominant logic is very strong. But isn't it a strange premise that we educate children that the street is for cars, not for them? That, in a street that's 20 meters wide, 15 meters of it is meant for cars? The least we can do is ask the question. We want to inspire people to change their mindset.’
Adams questions the current design of cities. “Cars often occupy up to seventy or eighty percent of the public space in a city. This leaves only a small part for cyclists and pedestrians. Can’t we swap that around?” he wonders. “We often take the current system for granted and don’t think about it anymore. The dominant logic is very strong. But isn’t it a strange premise that we educate children that the street is for cars, not for them? That, in a street that’s 20 meters wide, 15 meters of it is meant for cars? The least we can do is ask the question. We want to inspire people to change their mindset.”
The Embassy of Urban Mobility does this based on several projects that focus on a liveable city. Last year the Embassy started on four projects, but now they’re making two of them a reality. “We had to deal with the intractability of the system. Changing a mindset and a system takes a long time,” says Adams. That’s why now we’re focusing on two special and concrete projects to enthuse and inspire people.
Together with Rijkswaterstaat, the Embassy of Urban Mobility is working on the ‘out-of-home workspaces’, an inspiring and effective way to reduce traffic jams. “You could widen the roads to prevent traffic jams if you simply want efficiency. But there are also other solutions. If, for one day out of the work week, everyone stayed off the road, we would solve a large part of the problem That’s why we came up with the outside-the-house workspace,” says the curator. Design studio Van Eijk en Van der Lubbe has now designed the ‘out-of-house workspace’, a beautiful work location at the junctions of busy cities. Instead of having everyone come to the office, companies can let their employees go to one of these locations. “People can work closer to home and don’t have to use the motorway. On the other hand, they’ll still have all the comforts of a nice office. Home and away in one,” explains Adams.
He takes the Brainport region as an example. “We know that many people from Tilburg go to Eindhoven for work, for example, for the High Tech Campus and ASML. Then we could set up an ‘outside-the-house workplace’ in Tilburg. Doing so would help us reduce the massive influx and outflow around Eindhoven and the traffic jam.”
The physical location isn’t there yet. The Embassy will work hard on this in the coming year. “It is important that this new location actually adds value for companies and employees. “You cannot force people; you have to seduce them,” says the curator. “An ‘out-of-home workspace’ creates an inspiring, new environment from which people’s creativity benefits. Employees also get to meet new people. Moreover, research shows that hybrid working provides more happiness and can be an important employment condition for organisations in this too-tight labour market. The out-of-home workplace is, in fact, an extension of this hybrid form.”
Green for Gasoline
The second project, called Green for Gasoline, focuses more on residential areas. “We will exchange gasoline, i.e. cars, for green. The cars go to a collection site outside the neighbourhood,” Adams explains. “People are getting more greenery at the front of their house, and it’s really an extension to their garden. This allows you to get to know the locals better. In addition, green has a positive impact on your health, both mentally and physically. Finally, it is also better for the climate. Trees and plants absorb CO2 and provide cooling,” he sums up. The Embassy conceived the concept, and Studio 1:1 looked further into the idea. The Embassy is now looking for a street that wants to participate in this experiment.
All these projects contribute to making people think. Adams says, “Perhaps someone realizes that they no longer need a second car and that having some greenery in front of the house has more advantages than disadvantages.” He hopes to encourage people to do more such experiments in the future. “We now have a problem related to nature and climate. We should not put that off – as is often the case – we must tackle it and see what we can change.”
“That doesn’t mean we’re anti-car,” he continues. “The car certainly has advantages and is part of the transport system. But there are still many possibilities. Currently, our go-to option is the car, but why? That is an important question for us.”
The Embassy of Urban Mobility wants to change the transport system by asking questions and starting a conversation. “I notice that more and more cities are already working on going green, for example, which is nice to see. Of course, there are always people who don’t want to change. People are often afraid because they don’t know what they’re getting in return,” explains Adams. “That makes sense, but we have to move forward. When we see that these new ideas have put a sparkle in people’s eyes, then we know it will be alright.”
During Dutch Design Week 2022, the Embassy of Urban Mobility exhibition can be seen in the Klokgebouw. Here you will find a special in-depth look at the experiments.