Open the City

Cities 04 March 2016 | 4.08pm

I had the awesome opportunity to represent the Australasia Region at the Europe Design School in Amsterdam in May 2015. The venue chosen was a historic power plant, now occupied by Impact Hub, a global creative group who transforms the buildings space into any creative uses that are required by their clients.

The ‘Open the City’ four-day workshop was attended by up to 30 participants from around the globe and was coordinated by Katharina Schwarz, Gereon Uerz and Kristian Winther who each brought an enthusiastic spark to the workshop.


                The Impact Hub


                Are the buildings straight?

Day 1 – Thirsty Thursday

Introductions were not just the generic go around the room – we had to bring along a picture of a design that inspired us and meet with different people to discuss why it did so.

The evening concluded with inspiring presentations by Joop Paul (Europe Region Board) who was interviewed by Gereon and Jan Wurm (Research Leader) who presented on creative design.

Day 2 – Fantastic Friday

Kristian kicked off the second day with a creativity workshop. We went through a number of key design elements, utilising Lego, paper and crafts to form buildings and shapes. The key message was to communicate quickly and effectively through design using simple clear concepts.


                Clear Concept


                Walking through scaled home…

The participants were then split into six teams and issued a challenge – to write a Design Brief for the physical connection of the North and Centre of Amsterdam across the IJ.

Flexibility allowed us to undertake a City Safari and community consultation. We interviewed users of the ferry crossing and surrounding areas to better understand their needs and values for the connection.

The evening closed out with dinner at a Nigerian restaurant and an interesting dance off with the organisers.


                IJ Ferry


                Party Time

Day 3 – Super Saturday

After preparing the design brief, our team presented the briefs to another team through a series of square photos. It was then the other team’s responsibility to think up a solution to our brief within the parameters we specified.

We were also tasked with thinking up a solution to another team’s brief. It was interesting how different the design briefs actually were. We had the day to design a solution using elements from the creativity workshop.

To conclude the day, we ferried across the IJ to the Nooderlicht which was a greenhouse bar situated in the former docklands area.


                Client presentation


                Nooderlicht greenhouse bar

Day 4 – Sunny Sunday

The workshop concluded in the morning with Arup Core Values, and presentations (and wacky ideas) from all teams for solutions to the challenge. Our solution was a masterplan for the foreshores to make the place a destination. Since we acted for both client and consultant during the workshop, we were able to think and look at the problem more broadly.

I have been able to use the skills developed during the workshop in my everyday role, often thinking up solutions that may be considered outside the box. The workshop made me more aware of the client’s point of view and how this may be persuaded, but. I especially valued the networking opportunity with the colleagues who attended from around the globe.

I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all the organisers who arranged and facilitated the workshop, and all the participants who made it fun and a really unforgettable life experience.


James Turner

Sydney, Australia

“I am a civil engineer working in traffic engineering, transport planning and road safety. I have a developing interest in how risk management and common sense can be used in traffic and transport engineering.”

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