Retrospective 2021: Embassy of Mobility

How can mobility make a positive contribution to the quality of life in a city? And to the environment? These questions are central to the Embassy of Mobility. During Dutch Design Week (DDW) 2021, visitors were given insights into the mobility of the future. They were also able to contribute their own ideas.

Type Update
Published on 16 December 2021
Part of Embassy of Mobility
Retrospective 2021: Embassy of Mobility
Part of Embassy of Mobility

“We want to redesign cities based on a completely new principle”, says Rob Adams, founder of the innovation agency Six Fingers and curator of the Embassy of Mobility. “Previously, cities were designed so that the car was the main focus. In the average residential area, you first have a road, then a strip of parking, and then a bit of space on the edges to walk or cycle. That should be the other way around. People should be at the centre of mobility design”.

‘The residents of cities with a lot of tourism – such as Paris and Amsterdam – experienced peace and space. And they thought that was beneficial to the quality of life.’

The time is now

According to Adams, in light of the current pandemic, social distancing and, lockdowns, now is the perfect time to redesign mobility from scratch. “People started to experience the quality of life in a city differently when mobility came to a standstill because of the lockdowns”, he says. “The residents of cities with a lot of tourism – such as Paris and Amsterdam – experienced peace and space. And they thought that was beneficial to the quality of life”. Fewer travel movements were good for not only the well-being of city dwellers but also the environment.

Read more about the philosophy behind the Embassy of Mobility in this interview with curator Rob Adams.

The Embassy of Mobility investigates how mobility can improve the quality of life in a city and positively contribute to the environment. What happens in a city if the cars are less prominent and there is more space for people? What exactly does a greener neighbourhood look like? Would there be fewer traffic jams if we all worked closer to home? Visitors to DDW were able to see the results on a large digital scale model of the Brainport region, the field lab of the Embassy of Mobility. “We want to provide insight into the changes and start a discussion”, says Adams.

Brainport as a fieldlab

The Embassy is working on four major projects in the Brainport region. In the coming year, residents will also be able to experience new mobility designs in everyday life. One of the projects is ‘Blik op Groen’ [Green for Gasoline] by Studio 1:1. Here, cars are replaced by green spaces. The cars are kept at a collection point just outside the district. The Embassy of Mobility is also working on the 15-minute city. All facilities people need – such as supermarkets, medical care, parks, and theatres – can be reached within only 15 minutes (walking or cycling). Together with the residents of Eindhoven, Bygg Architecture & Design is investigating what this principle means for the design of public space.

In the coming year, the Embassy of Mobility will also be testing an inverted transport pyramid and an ‘outside the home workplace’. Traffic lights are now set so that it is as easy as possible for cars. With the inverted transport pyramid, pedestrians, bicycles, and public transport (in that order) will be priority over cars. People who choose a healthy and sustainable form of mobility will thus be rewarded. The ‘outside the home workplace’ is intended to minimise highway traffic in order to prevent traffic jams. The ‘outside the home workplace’ is a gathering location at the nodal points of cities with good facilities for working. Companies can let their employees work here. They then have a good and ergonomic workplace – instead of the kitchen table – but do not have to drive on the highway to get to the office.

View the Curator Tour by Rob Adams here. He shows how we can redesign mobility.

Shared mobility can also be a solution to help reduce the pressure on public transport and public space (mainly in the form of parking). If we had fewer vehicles of our own, less parking space would be required. This means more space for greenery. The Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions is investigating how SmartHubs, locations for shared mobility, can be better implemented in society. For example, they look at exactly what such a hub should look like, which business models are needed to make the hubs scalable, and which purchasing models are most suitable.

Collaboration comes first

In addition to the researchers and designers, the Embassy of Mobility also works together with major partners such as the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management, NS, and Brainport Development. These actors play an important role in the transition to more sustainable and efficient mobility. “In addition to the presence of the high-tech ecosystem, Brainport Eindhoven is (inter)nationally known for its skill and expertise in the field of design. Within the Embassy of Mobility, we want to stimulate the interaction between innovation and design in order to contribute to improved liveability and accessibility of the region by devising and developing solutions that meet the needs of people”, says Tim Daniels, Programme Director of SmartMobility.

One of the talks during DDW was about smart and sustainable mobility in Brabant. The province of Noord-Brabant, SmartwayZ.NL, Brainport Eindhoven, VNO-NCW Brabant Zeeland, and the Brabant Mobility Network work together in Kruispunt Brabant. The aim is to have entrepreneurs look for alternatives to the classic (lease) car in order to improve accessibility, the vitality of employees, and attractive work environments. The Mobility Index is intended to provide employers with insight into their policy. The index also shows where there are still opportunities. During DDW, a number of guests discussed smart and sustainable mobility.

Embassy of Mobility Conference

Everyone is an expert

The Embassy of Mobility also organised a conference. This year, the starting point was jointly determining what future mobility is. In a talk show-like setting, various experts discussed various issues. Councillor Monique List, Tim Daniels (programme manager of Brainport), Edwin Heesakkers (director of EIT Urban Mobility), Stan Kerkhofs (Living Lab specialist at the Corporate Innovation Programme of Rijkswaterstaat), and Matthijs van Dijk (Professor of Mobility Design of TU Delft) joined forces with designers Ivo Hulskamp (from design studio Bygg Architecture & Design) and Lucas Zoutendijk (from multidisciplinary research and project agency Studio 1:1) and will take to the stage. Curator Rob Adams emphasised that everyone is an expert when it comes to mobility.

During the conference, various new forms and designs of mobility were discussed. For example, we can see electric cars not only as a means of transport but also as a means of energy storage. Car-sharing systems also ensure greater efficiency in the use of cars. Mobile playgrounds and trees can ensure that certain zones in a city are no longer available for cars but rather only for recreation. Curator Adams emphasised that the starting point is not to ban cars but rather to deal with them differently.

Mobiliteit als relatie

Professor Matthijs van Dijk took the audience on a journey named “Tomorrow Better”. According to him, we need to look for a new balance in interaction patterns. He argues for freedom in which we look together at the desired situation – not only for an individual but also for others and the environment. It is also important to look at how these factors relate to each other. “We need to treat mobility as a relationship”, he says. According to Van Dijk, if you do something on one side, it affects another relationship. “We all need to work together on a better mobility of tomorrow”.

Would you like to contribute to the Embassy of Mobility? Or are you curious about the developments? Keep an eye on the Embassy page, or get in touch with us.

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