Make Your Own Neighbourhood

A Communal DIY Marketplace for the Zomerhofkwartier in Rotterdam

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The project initially started out to be engaged with the sociocultural phenomenon around amateur production and its physical manifestation of the DIY store as an integral of everyday life in today's society. In order to gradually develop an architectural brief for the eventual design, a number of case studies has been examined in various forms: visual, logistic, social, cultural, economic. This original fascination based on the availability, aesthetics and intimacy of the public interior observed in the existing spaces opened up a wider field of literary research towards a profound understanding of the theoretical background of DIY in a historical context. The analysis of self-made creation– mainly related to domestic crafts and home improvement–has been directed to the relationship between consumption and production as the programmatic challenge for the architectural assignment. As per now, the processes around DIY are rather clearly separated and manifested in both urban and suburban conditions where public retail facilities offer materials and tools for the assembly in the private domain. Popular media and illustrative manuals have proven that the educational function of such activities is an essential part of its nature, a potential platform to show, explain, exhibit, inspire, share, help and collaborate. The digitalisation of knowledge in forms of instructions, ideas and models has isolated amateur practice as much as the exchange of immaterial information has established an own social space. The thesis takes these conclusions as a starting point to find a way of giving DIY a pyhsical platform to bring together interests, competences and cultures by creating an urban model where building materials can be purchased, collected, reused, processed and exhibited for the benefit of the chosen neighbourhood. The economic circulation of things and thus actions aim to contribute to an identity-establishing institution for, within and through the area.
In parallel to the phenomenological investigation on the cultural conditions, a design brief has gradually been assembled to turn the personal fascination into a critical execution of an architectural programme. Being part of an open studio with a variety of themes, the choice of a legitimate site for the intervention has been a crucial part of the research. Since the means of production at hand demand an adaptive and yet framed context for its future use, the selected place offers a infrastructural foundation while being open for spatial transformation. After having tested scenarios in which the desired activities are directly inserted into an existing related typology, it has been logical to occupy a mostly vacant building in the city of Rotterdam that currently hosts workspaces for creative professionals, a social cooperative, a second hand material shop and an open event space. "Het Gebouw" is the focal point of the Zomerhofkwartier and works as an identity- establishing object for events, workshops and think-tanks for local transformations. The existing network of interests–consisting of a social housing company, active neighbours, social workers and schools–creates the ideal framework for the proposed agenda.