Blue Papers #1: The Dutch Water Miracle
12 Apr 2021
Up until the 1960s, more than 750,000 houses in the Netherlands were built on wooden piles. With over 30.000 piles, the palace on Amsterdam’s Dam square is an impressive example of this type of engineering. As long as the piles stay under water, they retain their strength. If water levels fluctuate, however, bad things can happen. Mold or bacteria can damage the piles, and may cause our homes to sag. Water, therefore, is literally at the base of our existence.
A waterfront regeneration project for the Port of Odessa
6 Apr 2021
Ugo Poletti (Editor-in-Chief of The Odessa Journal)
The sea port of Odessa is one of the youngest among European ports. Odessa was founded in 1794 with the purpose to create a commercial port for Russian Empire, which had just conquered the Northern shores of the Black Sea from the Ottoman Empire and had still no ports. The initiator of this endeavour was a Russian officer in the army of Catherine the Great named José de Ribas. De Ribas was a nobleman from Naples and was the first to understand the need of a port for the Empire. He chose the harbour of Odessa. The port developed very quickly thanks to the arrival of Italians, Greeks and Jews, who became the commercial spine of Odessa. The strategic drive of economic development was the status of Porto Franco (tax free zone), which turned the city into the fastest growing and most innovative of the Russian Empire.
Port City Discourse: A New Vocabulary for Research and Action
31 Mar 2021
Over the last decades, research in the field of port cities has seen a progressive divergence in its literature of reference. This change, a breakup into different disciplinary approaches, has contributed to increasingly blurring the concept of port city itself. With it, the set of expressions with which scholars, politicians and citizens refer to the port city has multiplied. Port city interactions have been evolving since ancient times and creating diverse port city personalities.
Shady Heritage: Root or remedy to social polarization in port cities?
22 Mar 2021
The stories we tell about past events are unavoidably biased. Political or ideological agendas drive the selection process determining which stories are immortalised in history books and archives, and which are disregarded. This also goes for heritagisation – which is the process of designating, preserving and curating heritage buildings – as it creates a hierarchy within the built environment of historically ‘important’ buildings versus ‘insignificant’ ones. This heritage-driven hierarchy has far-reaching consequences. On the one hand, it freezes buildings that support the hegemonic history in both time and place, while on the other hand, it leaves out sites whose heritage value is contested. This increases the perceived importance of a chosen past and simultaneously fuels the loss of non-hegemonic memories that cannot endure the test of time without ‘built evidence’.
EUKN webinar “Port Cities and Mega-Trends: Glocal Approaches to Sustainable Transitions”
15 Mar 2021
The Covid-19 crisis raises questions of resilience, sustainable transitions and global trade in the wake of a pandemic. Port cities require new scenarios to deal with these questions, and over the past year several online initiatives were held to discuss this challenge. So does the European Urban Knowledge Network (EUKN) ‘Thinking Beyond the Crisis’ series, which explores the urban impacts of and responses to the coronavirus outbreak in EUKN member countries. The online webinar “Port cities and Mega-Trends: Glocal Approaches to Sustainable Transitions,” - held on 26 January 2021 and organised with the French National Agency for Territorial Cohesion (ANCT) and the port city of Le Havre - offered a platform to reflect on the global impact and local effects of mega-trends on port cities, including the recent, far-reaching impacts of Covid-19. The event specifically explored the strategies and experiences of the ports of Le Havre (France), Incheon (South Korea), Rotterdam (Netherlands) and Hamburg (Germany).
“Women and Children first!” Or: Where are the women in the maritime world?
8 Mar 2021
On first sight it seems that women are omnipresent and dominant in the maritime world: The Little Mermaid, as described by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, is a beloved fairytale. Sirens, beautiful and dangerous, have lured sailors – so the story goes – to their death for centuries. Female figureheads, often lightly clad, long served as ornamentation at the prow of the ship, and female names feature proudly on the side of ships, referencing goddesses and later mortal women. The Statue of Liberty greets people arriving in New York. Yet, when we look at the maritime practices and port cities through history, we see a largely male world. The seas have been controlled by men for centuries: traders were male, shipowners were male, captains were male, crews were male, and port workers were male. Having women on board was considered a bad omen, as they could be a distraction to the crew working on the ship.
Port Cities: Clusters of Risks, Examples for Anticipation?
4 Mar 2021
The explosion in the port of Beirut in 2020 showed that ports are clusters of risks, and that accidents in port areas can have disastrous effects on close-by residential areas or historic city centers. Such disasters are not new, and cities and nations have had time to establish special safety regulations and prevent such disasters. Because authorities implemented these rules in reaction to incidents rather than planning to prevent and enforcing existing rules, however, more disasters ensued. The evolution of industrial techniques and scales often overran the ability of law-makers to adapt rules and anticipate to industrial innovations.
Spiritism as the flagship of Modernity: Port cities and uncanny communications
22 Feb 2021
Judit Vidiella-Pagès, ERAM College, University of Girona
For over a century (ca. 1850 to 1945) Spiritism was a popular field of entertainment, and port cities had an important role in the spread of spiritist ideas. While many studies and accounts of Spiritism characterise it as a cultural interpretation of the period’s rapid development of communication technologies – telepathy as a simple imitation, or rapping communication in the case of typewriting - these studies neglect how occult practices themselves contributed to new scientific, communicational, and industrial systems that where emerging in that moment (Noakes, 2016). By using the theoretical framework of Geoghegan (2016), in this blog I analyse two examples of how Spiritists built their proper networks of communication and ‘uncanny infrastructures’ through port cities: Bremerhaven and Barcelona.
Contested port cities: a global geography of community conflicts
17 Feb 2021
At the time of writing, several ongoing civic protests are paralyzing projects of port expansion. In Piraeus, Greece, citizens are contesting the complete privatisation and acquisition by COSCO, the consequent encroachment on urban areas, related environmental impacts and worsening labour conditions. In Sri Lanka, fishermen and other citizens are protesting against the Colombo Port City project, which counts with the expansion of the port and creation of a new financial district on land reclaimed from the sea. This is entered in conflict with local coastal communities (both urban and fishermen communities), which are experiencing displacement and dispossession. In Valencia, Spain, citizens have been fighting the port’s plan of logistic expansion on a territory of particular ecological use-value for local communities, causing houses demolitions and triggering other socio-spatial conflicts. These are just some of the on-going citizen contestations to port expansion, making apparent the threats felt by ports with which communities had previously coexisted.
PortCityFutures in Rotterdam: Conversations on the Waterfront
10 Feb 2021
Sabine Luning, Carola Hein, Paul van de Laar
How to maintain the identity of a port city in transition, and at the same time do justice to its socio-cultural heritage and diversities? We decided to film our ongoing conversations at different sites that are emblematic for historical developments and characteristics of the portcityscape of Rotterdam. The non-scripted conversations, which were edited into 5 small films, were taking place on the basis of a loosely defined division of labour: the anthropologist, Sabine Luning from Leiden University, would ask questions to Paul van de Laar, Chair in Urban History of Rotterdam at Erasmus University, and Carola Hein, Chair of the History of Architecture and Urban Planning at TU Delft and expert in the longterm development of port city regions, including the impact of petroleum on port city development.
Hull’s fishing heritage and the clashing mindsets of 21st century port city identity
1 Feb 2021
As in many port-cities, the history of Hull, a medium-sized port-city in East Riding Yorkshire, England, is that of an endless struggle to keep up with industrial ambitions which came to a halt in the mid 1970s. Containerisation and roll-on-roll-off facilities made half of Hull’s docking facilities obsolete. At the turn of the century, Hull needed a new identity as a partially post-industrial port-city, and its disused docks needed a new purpose. Given the built environment signposts the societal values of its time (Mazumdar and Mazumdar, 1994), the study of Hull’s reuse of its redundant docks provides insight into its maritime industrial past, and to what extent it was instrumentalised in the creation of a 21st-century port-city urban identity.
Understanding how words matter for port heritage: towards a network perspective
26 Jan 2021
Tianchen Dai, Carola Hein, Dan Baciu
“Port heritage” is a term that emerged in the English-language literature in the 1960s. According to the Google Book NGram Viewer, its use peaked around 2010. At that time, the global popularity of waterfront renewal projects was shining a light on historic port structures—cranes, warehouses, and other industrial buildings—often as part of cultural tourism (Grindlay, Bestue-Cardiel, Rodriguez-Rojas, & Molero-Melgarejo, 2018; Pagés Sánchez & Daamen, 2020) Modern ports were reluctant to maintain these historic structures, but waterfront renewal projects and the growth of the cruise industry made this port heritage especially attractive and worth retaining for some stakeholders. Rather than a burden, port heritage became an opportunity for port development. Port city associations, such as the Worldwide Network of Port Cities (AIVP) now emphasize the role of port heritage in (re-)connecting citizens to the port.
COVID-19: it is the logistics, stupid!
21 Jan 2021
Paul van de Laar
Within Europe, the Netherlands is lagging behind in enrolling vaccination against Covid-19. This does not mean that the Dutch neglect the seriousness of the epidemic. Almost every evening, Dutch television viewers can witness how their country is struggling with the disease, watching virologists, epidemiologists, and even philosophers, psychologists, ethicists or economist interpret the crisis and plausible strategies to solve it. What strikes me, however, is the absence of logistics experts and professionals. From the start of the crisis, it was clear that the success of beating the virus depends on the efficiency of managing the logistics of tests. Especially now the vaccine must be distributed and lives are at stake, the key issue is - to paraphrase Bill Clinton - the logistics, stupid! And where do you find experts on this issue? Exactly: in the mainport of Rotterdam.
Port city revitalisation in sister-cities Rotterdam and Shanghai
19 Jan 2021
Maurice Jansen and Yueyue Zhang
In 2019, Rotterdam and Shanghai celebrated 40 years of sister city relationships. Both cities have drastically changed during this time: the scaling up of industrial activities led to large scale port expansions, but also to the emergence of vast areas of disused waterfronts. City and port authorities have played a significant role in steering the redevelopment of these disused areas into new directions and developing new futures for citizens. These redevelopments, however, raise new questions regarding the transition of old port spaces into new uses and purposes, whether these developments are more “pro-port” or more “pro-city”, meaning whether they serve the interests of the port or those of the city. This distinction depends on the type of business functions that generate most value and thus should re-occupy the brownfield ports on the port city interface: large scale industry (e.g. biochemicals, scaling up hydrogen production and use), light industry (e.g. circular designs, 3D manufacturing), a maker’s movement, an urban service sector, urban housing or even tourism.
Increasing the international competitiveness of ports and cities by leveraging human resources
12 Jan 2021
Renée Rotmans (Port of Rotterdam Authority)
The Rotterdam port region is Europe’s largest port and industrial complex. As a facilitator for import and export, the Rotterdam port region creates significant economic activity for the local and regional economies (Hollen et al., 2015). Ports also provide essential support for commercial activities in the hinterland, because ports are able to make crucial connections between land and sea transport (Ducruet et al., 2010; Ferrari et al., 2010). The Rotterdam port region is an important European entry gate for trade and a hotspot for energy, industry, innovation and digitalization (Port of Rotterdam Authority, 2019). It is currently going through two transitions related to renewable energy sources and digitalization. In view of that, there is a compelling need to invest in social innovation and underlying strategic investments in human resources (Birkinshaw et al., 2008; Damanpour et al., 2010).
Protecting Cultural Heritage as a Resource for Sustainable Development of Port Cities (AIVP webinar)
5 Jan 2021
Port city functions and cultural maritime heritage are often at odds. Culture is a difficult and sometimes contested concept in the scholarly environment, and functions of maritime identity in port cities, are often not recognized as culture. To discuss this issue, the international port city organization AIVP (Association Internationale Villes Ports) organized a webinar last October where representatives of UNESCO and the port authorities of Dubrovnik and Dublin were asked to reflect on this issue. Port culture and identity are part of the AIVP agenda for port cities in 2030, which proposes to promote and capitalise on “the specific culture and identity of port cities and allowing residents to develop a sense of pride and flours as a part of city port community of interest”. This blog reports on this webinar, and discusses why the maritime functions of trade, shipping and water are still overlooked when we discuss the culture of a port city.
Post-oil issues in the port city of Skikda, Algeria
21 Dec 2020
Amira Ghennai & Said Madani (LaboratoirePuvit, Setif 1 University, Algeria)
Despite its strategic importance as the second port of Algeria, the port of Skikda is still little known internationally. In this blog, we try to present the history of Skikda and its port, and to discuss its future in the light of post-oil issues. Skikda (also known as ancient Russicada) is a city located in northeastern Algeria, on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, which gives testimony to the long history of Mediterranean civilization. The city is characterized by a fascinating natural landscape, dating back to prehistoric times, which makes it a coastal town with significant tourist potential. It is also, however, dominated by the oil landscape. These contradictory elements forge the general landscape of Skikda.
‘Tis the season: The Magic of Port Cities
17 Dec 2020
To address challenges of climate change and sea-level rise that will particularly affect port cities and regions, PortCityFutures aims to inform diverse groups of people and bring stakeholders together in the process. The production of the short open access film The Magic of Port Cities is a case in point: funded with a NWO KIEM subsidy and sponsored by a diverse group of stakeholders, the animated film takes a playful approach to the understanding of port city regions, and emphasises the need for change that will make possible a sustainable future. We need novel creative approaches to engage non-professional audiences in ongoing transitions. The film informs the general public of both the particular character of port cities, and of the challenges and opportunities inherent in their location at the edge of sea and land. It makes viewers more aware of future urgencies and helps them define the role they may want to play themselves.
Port City Heritage: Contested Pasts, Inclusive Futures?
7 Dec 2020
Asma Mehan, Hilde Sennema & Saskia Tideman
As hubs of global exchange, port cities are host to inconvenient and contested pasts. Many of these pasts have yet to be fully recognized. In the wake of demonstrations against racial injustices this summer, the PortCityFutures team discussed how our own research practices relate to systemic inequalities within port cities. It was concluded that we need to better understand how these contested and complex pasts, legacies of diversity and segregation, and colonial pasts impact port cities today.
Port cities, architecture and the return to water
30 Nov 2020
Nadia Alaily-MattarEver since the 19th century, ports have been associated with industrial activity. Ports were dirty, ugly and carried a bit of stench for those with a sensitive nose, and therefore were places that city residents would rather shun. The urban waterfronts were mostly occupied by the port and its functions. This led to a difficult relationship of port cities to their waterfronts, both from a planning perspective and from the quotidian experience of citizens. As cities turned their backs to their ports, they frequently turned their backs to their waterfronts as well. When waterfronts were abandoned in the process of containerization, a window of opportunity opened for port cities to reconnect to the water. In this process, architecture is used to signpost the return to the water. This article shows that using waterfront architecture as a signpost is not new, and indicates the importance of considering the interests such signposting serves.
Deep Maps and Time Machines: Exciting Times for Collaborative Research on Port Cities
24 Nov 2020
Is science becoming more like science fiction? One might easily think so when hearing about a novel research network called Time Machine Europe, or other interdisciplinary collaborations on practices of ‘deep mapping’, for instance. Behind these imaginative keywords, however, are research endeavors that firmly rely on a thorough understanding of the past in order to take on the future. This deceptively simple, yet fundamental stance also shines through many blog contributions from the PortCityFutures team. We have to imagine, design, plan and assess the future of port cities by taking stock of their complex maritime urban histories.
Cultural Anthropology, Infrastructures and Envisioning Futures
19 Nov 2020
Sabine Luning, Andrew Littlejohn, Carola Hein
This blog was originally posted on the leidenantropologyblog of CADS.
Port City Regions are global hubs which invite anthropologists, planners, geographers, and architects to rethink disciplinary foundations, interdisciplinary collaborations and future-making, as Sabine Luning, Andrew Littlejohn, and Carola Hein explain.
Heritage Words: Exploring Port-city Terms
16 Nov 2020
Carola Hein, Tianchen Dai, Dan Baciu
Words construct realities. Through words, people communicate sensory experiences, feelings, beliefs, and theories. The way in which we conceptualize things shapes the way we live and build, as well as how we conceive the past. The symbolic system of language facilitates communication between oneself and the outside world, aiding with the interpreting and sharing of experiences. Moreover, it acts as a tool for the mental manipulation of information (Malt & Wolff, 2010), and for the understanding or shaping of in the past, present and future. The systematic analysis of words can help understand the impact of specific political, economic, social or cultural systems, such as port cities.
Mapping Maritime Mindsets: Deep Maps from Inspiration to Feasibility
9 Nov 2020
Thomas van den Brink
Port cities have a certain ambiance, a culture that makes them different from other cities. This is embedded in tangible elements like ships, quays, waterfronts and warehouses, as well as in immaterial elements like language, myths, rituals, images, texts, sounds, and architectural form. Capturing this multiplicity, however, is difficult.
Port Cities and Crisis: Reflections on What COVID-19 Revealed
2 Nov 2020
By Josef Konvitz
It is commonplace to say that crises reveal latent strengths and weaknesses. When the COVID-19 epidemic of 2020 hit, economies had barely returned to their pre-2008 level, meaning a net loss of several years of growth. Shipping is responsible for most of the world’s trade, yet the growth of world trade, usually a leading indicator, was already lagging behind economic growth. Since circa 1990, probably due to climate change, natural catastrophes in coastal cities and regions have increased in cost and intensity. The worst is yet to come: rising sea levels affect nearly 1 billion people. We like to say that the weather is unpredictable, but now it seems as if forecasting the planet’s future on the basis of global warming is less risky than predicting when international trade and travel will return to 2019 levels. Port cities face two different time-lines: one short-term, economic, the other medium-to-long term, environmental. Win-win solutions good for both will be rare.
The Role of Port City Images in the Development of Maritime Mental Maps
26 Oct 2020
Port cities have been a source of inspiration for painters through time. The dynamic life and diversity within these cities has sparked the imagination of artists and has resulted in a large number of port-related imagery like paintings and photographs. These images often focus on the waterfront where the city and water connect, and on port infrastructures representing maritime practices. Paintings with such a perspective are important pieces in collections of maritime museums worldwide.
Oil in Oil (and Other Art Media): Painting the Petroleum Port
20 Oct 2020
From the 1850s onward, petroleum took the world by storm. Following industrial drilling in Canada and North America in 1858 and 1859; in the early decades, it was particularly popular as lighting oil. Whereas the oil industry depends on water both for the refining process and for transportation, many early oil companies sited petroleum storage and refineries near rivers and in port cities. Old and new ports - Philadelphia, Rotterdam, Dunkirk, Abadan - offered ideal conditions for storage and refining, and were well located to serve as hubs in the emerging global network of oil. Artists noticed the new structures, and their admiration and curiosity were visible in their artwork. Heads of corporations and public leaders used the depictions for promotion, and perhaps decorated their offices with them.
Why does the History of Port Cities Matter? The case of Fin-de-siècle Salonica
Cosmopolitanism derives from the ancient Greek words for citizen of the world. The concept gained its modern sense during the socio-economical transformations of the nineteenth century. The reason for this resurgence has often been linked to the rise of capitalism, the emergence of global trading, and the idea that all human beings—regardless of their communal affiliation—can be members of a single, global or ‘cosmic’ community. Within this framework, port cities emerged as a site of cultural exchange where people from different parts of the world mixed and influenced one another at a greater pace than ever before.
The COVID-19 pandemic: an opportunity for a European policy within the Mediterranean area?
5 Oct 2020
Pietro Spirito, President of the Port Authority of Mar Tirreno Centrale
The function of ports and port cities has radically changed in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century as maritime business has become more and more global and complex. As Antoine Fremont (2010) has pointed out, carriers that traditionally served the East-West market, circling the globe, added North-South connections in the 1980s. This maritime revolution permitted, together with the lower cost of work in the newly industrialized countries, the process of industry delocalization, therefore reducing the cost of transport and logistics. Containerization, intermodality, and naval gigantism became the major characteristics of the new era. Furthermore, maritime services are provided by companies and assets from across the world, such as ship building (92% in China, Korea and Japan), ownership (32% in Germany, China and Greece), flagging (70% registered in a country different to the country of ownership) and scrapping (94% in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and China), with crew drawn from countries like Philippines, Indonesia and Ukraine (Wilmsmeier & Monios 2020).
Designing for climate change in port cities: the case of Kirkenes (Norway)
28 Sep 2020
Port cities around the world face spatial, cultural, economic and institutional challenges of climate change. Because port and city coexist within the same territory, they need to negotiate visions, values and goals with a wide variety of stakeholders. Despite the increasing number of urgencies, port-city stakeholders continue to plan as before, prioritising economic growth over integrated socio-spatial development. This is a risky strategy, because it increases friction between people, planet and prosperity, and emphasises the institutional separation of port and city. Designers and planners are left to decide: should they approach port city landscapes to generate the maximum amount of capital, or should they facilitate a balance of economic, social, and ecological interactions?
Taking Sustainable Port Development Seriously: Serious Gaming in the Port of Rotterdam
21 Sep 2020
Many ports in the world are pivots of social dilemmas, such as coastal protection versus port expansion, attractive urban housing versus port activities, jobs versus automation, fossil versus renewable energy, and logistics efficiency versus strict border control. Such dilemmas can easily lead to conflicts if not managed well. In a mature port cluster, conflicting interests are usually accommodated by a settlement of differences, which is the outcome of a negotiation process. This approach suggests that the quality of cluster performance is a product of a zero-sum game - the gain for one goes at the expense of the other - or even a negative-sum game, when parties cannot come to an agreement at all. The biggest challenge of the 21st century is the development and implementation of methods that at the same time strengthen the economy and improve the environment, while making optimal use of the available space for port activities. One of these methods is serious gaming, which allows for better understanding of social dilemmas and mechanisms that drive decision making behaviour.
Port City Scenarios During and After Covid-19: The case of Livorno
14 Sep 2020
Barbara Bonciani - Councilor for port and port-city integration at the Municipality of Livorno; external Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Pisa; Research associate Ircres Cnr (National research council)
The Covid-19 crisis has changed the face of many cities as people change their lifestyles, mobility and consumption patterns. In port cities, it has had a serious impact on port and logistic activities. The Covid-19 crisis raises the question of how to manage urban life and socio-economic problems in the wake of a pandemic, and requires new scenarios.
The Color of Protection: Greening Port Cities in an Era of Rising Tides
7 Sep 2020
Andrew LittlejohnPorts, and their neighboring cities, are dense concatenations of infrastructures. Many of these are things enabling other things to move. Ships bear their loads through bays and, when heading inland, canals; at docks, stevedores load the wares onto lorries, which carry them along roads and across bridges; and all the while, pipes channel water, oil, or gas to and from facilities. Indeed, from a certain point of view these ports themselves appear infrastructures. They are nodes through which many things we use must pass on their way from sea to land; the connections established by these flows make such interior areas what they are. However, as noted in our recent call for papers, port cities also host another type of infrastructure. These are things not facilitating flows inland but preventing them, like seawalls, dikes, and other coastal defense structures. The latter aim, as I have written about previously (Littlejohn 2020), to ‘saturate’ space, meaning ensure control by confining all parts and parties to their ‘proper’ places (most notably the sea and rivers, which must be kept separate from the land).
What’s in a Name? Re-thinking Port Cities as Systems
31 Aug 2020
Within Port City Futures, we use several ways of referencing to the port city. Some definitions are geographical, such as region, cluster or infrastructure, while others are metaphorical or borrowed from other sciences, such as hub, interface or ecosystem. Whereas our multidisciplinary approach enables us to learn from each other’s methods and expertise, these definitions can also get lost in translation and are often cause for discussion. If we look at it as a spatial entity, how do we define its borders? If we look at it as something fluid, how far do we follow flows of money and goods crossing these borders? And to what extent do port city stakeholders share interests that legitimize the port city as an analytical unit?
The Creation of the Central Tyrrhenian Sea Port Authority: A critical juncture for the Naples port city region?
24 Aug 2020
Paolo De Martino and Carola Hein
The reorganization of the Italian port system through the legislative decree n.169/2016 has created port clusters—an institutional reorganization aimed at providing ports with more efficiency for logistics. This development challenges the urban strategies of many cities and municipalities that are part of the larger regions to which these ports belong. The presence of the port in the territory is manifested through the use of infrastructures, construction of logistic centers and industrial sites; in line with their role as nodes in the sea-land continuum. These spatial claims of the port systems challenge the goals and interests of local stakeholders, each of which has its own cultural belief and has independently developed land use claims, spatial patterns and governance arrangements. The port reorganization therefore requires a parallel rethinking of the existing institutional arrangements and spatial structures as well as of the longer-term plans of all actors in the region. It also requires a new conceptualization of the role that space can play in institutional realignment. The case of Naples stands exemplary.
Writing Port Cities
19 Aug 2020
This blog post was written for the PORTUS online magazine of RETE
In Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino famously imagined Marco Polo describing imaginary cities to Kublai Khan. Reflecting on his home city of Venice, he “put together, piece by piece, the perfect city,” a city that is “discontinuous in space and time” . The image of the contemporary port city similarly emerges from multiple pieces: port authorities promote the port’s efficiency and future potential; local governments advertise the heritage value of historical waterfronts and old portequipment as part of urban sustainability in all its facets; and artists and the general public write up and photograph these places. Collectively, these multiple groups create locality-specific port cultures across time.
Beirut Blast: A port city in crisis
11 Aug 2020
Asma Mehan and Maurice Jansen
On 4th of August 2020, the Lebanese capital and port city, Beirut, was rocked by a massive explosion that has killed hundreds and injured thousands more, ravaging the heart of the city’s nearby downtown business district and neighbouring housing areas, where more than 750,000 people live. The waterfront neighbourhood and a number of dense residential neighbourhoods in the city’s eastern part were essentially flattened. Lebanese Government officials believe that the blast was caused by around 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored near the city’s cargo port without proper control for six years.
The role of port cities in building a sustainable shared future: The Union for the Mediterranean Action Plan for Sustainable Urbanisation
10 Aug 2020
Roberto Rocco, Carola Hein
The Mediterranean has long been at the heart of urban and rural development in all of its bordering countries. Sea-based trade and exchange has fuelled the development of numerous cities on the coast, on rivers and in the hinterland. Current challenges, from the climate crisis to migration, have put the Mediterranean again into focus. The COVID-19 crises shines additional light on the need for close collaboration in the fields of spatial and economic development, including port and port-related infrastructures. To provide a framework for sustainable and inclusive urban and regional development for the countries around the Mediterranean is the mission of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), an intergovernmental body that brings together all the countries of the European Union and 15 countries from the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean. On 22 May 2017, at the Second Ministerial Conference of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) in Cairo, the UfM has enacted the “Union for the Mediterranean Urban Agenda” (UfM, 2017). Since 2018, a team from the Delft University of Technology (Roberto Rocco, Remon Rooij, Carola Hein) has elaborated an Action Plan for Sustainable Urbanisation around the Mediterranean for the UfM.
The Post-Covid Time: A Post-Normal or Pre-Environmental Time?
6 Aug 2020
The European Green Deal, discussed in a previous blog post, offers a wide range of climate policies and measures. However, due to the current pandemic, the European Commission and Parliament have delayed the Green Deal’s adoption. As of July 2020, the main topic preoccupying national leaders is the economic renewal of the European Union and consensus over the economic Recovery Package. These discussions are complex given the timing, the economic situation and the lack of convergence between actors. Moreover, they obscure the legal necessity to act upon existing agreements, from local to supranational levels, to mitigate environmental damage.
Mapping Maritime Mindsets: Mental Maps
28 Jul 2020
Imagine: You are asked to draw a port city from memory. What would you put on paper? Do you think of harbours? Water, docks, cargo, moving loads, and ships? If your drawing shows these elements, don’t be surprised. Sixty-five graduate students also took on the challenge. In answering: “draw the port city of Rotterdam by mind”, the drawings of the participants (fig.1) displayed exactly the above features. Of course, this makes sense. A port just happens to be a place on the water in which ships shelter and dock to (un)load cargo and/or passengers. A harbour is a sheltered place too, and in its nautical meaning it is a near-synonym for sheltered water, in which ships may dock, especially again for (un)loading. So, all the above linguistic lemmas are there and all these are connected to imaginable objects.
Challenges for city development and port activities after COVID-19: the Case of Montevideo
20 Jul 2020
Fernando Puntigliano, professor of Logistics at the Universidad Católica del Uruguay.
Montevideo is located on the River Plate, the river mouth of the 3440 km long Paraná Paraguay Waterway. The River Plate is the gate to the heart of Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and the richest provinces of Argentina. This strategic location of the port of Montevideo is the main reason of the existence of Uruguay as an independent country, according to former President Lacalle Herrera of Uruguay. The territory was an area of dispute, first between Spain and Portugal, and later between Argentina and Brazil. The port was conceived by Spain as a logistic centre for the region. The local commerce was initially meaningless. In 1928, British diplomacy suggested a political solution to the conflict area by creating a new country named Uruguay. Access to the rest of South America remains a key activity today. Imports and exports to and from Uruguay represent still today less than 50% of the port activity.
Mapping Maritime Mindsets: Towards a Shared Methodology
13 Jul 2020
Yvonne van Mil, Vincent Baptist, Thomas van den Brink, Tianchen Dai, Hilde Sennema
The PortCityFutures team aims to study port city ecosystems and the concepts of ‘maritime mindsets, port city cultures and values’ from a variety of disciplinary angles. In our subgroup, consisting of four PhD researchers and one postdoc, we assess various mapping techniques (geo-spatial, socio-cultural and mental mapping) to move towards a shared research methodology. In a blog series under the title ‘Mapping Maritime Mindsets’, we will monitor, document and share our research progress on mapping port city regions, and especially address the theoretical and methodological issues that we face during the process. Moreover, we ask guest writers to reflect on related themes and projects.
The Shifting Values of Port Cities: Towards “what if histories” and “design fiction”?
9 Jul 2020
What if we had the chance to reboot and redesign our society? Who would have considered it possible that the current pandemic crisis offers exactly that opportunity? Within a matter of weeks, we have experienced a change in lifestyle that seemed impossible as a response to climate change a few months ago. The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting people and businesses hard. This is also true of ports and their surrounding cities. Attempts to protect people from a life-threatening disease have changed the functioning of such port cities around the world. In some, ships continue to deliver much-needed goods. But in others, they have become floating storage or laid up, upsetting the entire maritime system. Meanwhile, streets and public spaces are emptier than usual, with satellite images revealing significant drops in air pollution. While some people are working harder than ever—think of the medical professions—others have lost their jobs and their livelihood or even died.
Port cities as hubs of diversity and inclusivity: The case of Rotterdam
7 Jul 2020
This blog post was written for the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus magazine June 2020
Port cities are a particular type of territory and are often long-standing examples of resilience, bringing opportunities, wealth, and innovation to their nations and their citizens. They have developed at the crossroads of international trade and commerce and the intersection of sea and land. Flows of people through trade and migration have played a key role in their spatial, social and cultural development. Their strong local identities share legacies of diversity and cosmopolitanism, but also of colonialism and segregation. The Qingjing Mosque in Quanzhou, Fujian speaks of the exchange between Arabia and China along the maritime silk road. Hanseatic cities stand as an example of far-flung networks with districts for foreign traders—think of the German merchants who established Bryggen, the German dock, in Bergen, now a UNESCO world heritage site.
A Guggenheim effect for Rotterdam South side?
29 Jun 2020
Rotterdam-Zuid, a district that has grown near and along with the port of Rotterdam on the South side of the River Maas, is lacking behind in terms of economic growth and prosperity compared to the city district on the North bank. In terms of unemployment, income levels, education performance, and value of real estate, Rotterdam-Zuid performs worse on key performance indicators than Rotterdam as a whole and scores lowest compared to Amsterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, the three other major cities in The Netherlands. For years, a national pact of institutional stakeholders have made considerable efforts to improve this urban area and make it more livable and attractive. South is slowly but surely catching up, but arguably as a function of the development of the North (EVR 2020). The river is not just a physical barrier, there are also institutional barriers. What can the port city of Rotterdam do to involve ‘South’ and to realize its ambition for an inclusive and productive city? Does the South need a Guggenheim effect – a major overhaul through large investments in culture, such as done in Bilbao with the Guggenheim Museum – to incentivize larger urban redevelopments?
Disruptions and the effects of covid-19 on city and port plans. Valencia
25 Jun 2020
Prof. Vicent Esteban-Chapapría
Protecting people's lives against the potentially lethal COVID-19 disease has changed patterns of life and working conditions all over the world. Self-isolation, lockdown and numerous restrictions have changed our lives. The situation is new and absolutely exceptional, with keywords being: UNCERTAINTY, RISK and VULNERABILITY, and in that order precisely. This raises the question: the current pandemic different from earlier disruptions? What would make it a major game-changer? It is necessary to know about earlier disruptive situations and to compare them with the current situation.
Researching Historical Entertainment Culture across Port Cities: Why ‘Pleasurescapes’ Matter for ‘PortCityFutures’
22 Jun 2020
‘Where people have fun, encounter happens. Where encounters take place, change begins. Are pleasurescapes in port cities Europe’s true driving forces after all?’
The tagline of the HERA-funded project ‘Pleasurescapes: Port Cities’ Transnational Forces of Integration’, which looks into entertainment spaces of European port cities throughout recent history, suggests that this research topic has been rather neglected up to now. The ‘Pleasurescapes’ project proposes to (re)discover this theme within a collaborative European framework. For a long time, historical research that dealt with port cities has favored traditional maritime-industrial perspectives in investigating these particular urban hubs. Over the past few years, however, more publications have come out that focus on the socio-cultural significance and legacies of ports, and that offer new, creative approaches to study port city identities and representations (see among others Van de Laar 2013; Mah 2014; Beaven, Bell and James 2016; and Milne 2016). The ‘Pleasurescapes’ project intends to further build on these research directions, while also incorporating a significant influence from the field of cultural studies, to put the spotlight on past public spaces of entertainment in European port cities.
Port City Culture - Culture(s) and Cultural Practices
16 Jun 2020
Port City Futures is an interdisciplinary group concerned with different aspects of the social and cultural dimensions of port cities and their technological and economic development. It brings together scholars from the humanities and a variety of technical and social sciences. However, what unites us is interest in culture, e.g. by questioning whether we can identify ‘maritime mindsets’ in port cities. But what is culture?
Port Futures in Postnormal Time(s)
8 Jun 2020
Stephen J Ramos
“Any useful idea about the futures should appear to be ridiculous.” In one of his three axioms, Futurist Jim Datour establishes criteria for how the process of future visioning must be ongoing and changing, with feedback loops that continually introduce new challenges that restart and revise the process. “The future cannot be predicted,” he continues, “because the future does not exist.”
Insights from the RETE/PortCItyFutures Webinar - Port-city scenarios during and after the Covid-19 - May 18th, 2020
2 Jun 2020
To what extent is the current health crisis detrimental for port cities, and how are different port cities reacting to this crisis? Researchers and practitioners from around the world discussed this question in a webinar co-organized by RETE and PortCityFutures held on May 18th 2020. (Blogs on the individual contributions are forthcoming on the PortCityFutures website). One of the main questions here was how to navigate between the paradigm of ‘never waste a good crisis’ on the one hand, and ‘business as usual’ on the other.
Measuring health in port cities
25 May 2020
Sarah E. Hinman
Urban public health is extraordinarily relevant currently, but health in port cities holds a critical place in history, too. Monitoring potential epidemics in port cities in the 19th century was critical to long distance trade. In 1878 New Orleans a sailor “jumped quarantine,” introduced yellow fever to the city, and sparked an epidemic killing thousands. Public health debates in port cities continue as shipping brings together people, goods, and foreign microbes. Air pollution from ships and industries affect the neighboring areas. The port city of Rotterdam is an ideal place to explore the impacts of port activities on health and environmental justice. Interdisciplinary research by Bachelor students at Leiden University College provides examples of methodologies and outcomes connected to health and inequality in Rotterdam.
The Port City’s ‘Cine-scapes’
19 May 2020
Cinema acts as a significant mediator between urban reality and the imaginary sensory experience of the fictive world. Viewing the city through the lens of a camera enables us to build new narratives. Films have captured port cities within the flows of, goods, people, and ideas, making them ever-present in shared memories, historical narratives and urban nostalgia. Cultural production plays a role in the on-going construction of local port cultures, whether films, festivals, music, literature, theater, advertisements, or events. Telling the story of the port city – its past, present, and future; its buildings and its people – contributes strongly to the creation of port city cultures.[i] The big screen can help viewers to perceive complex port city regions, learning from their history, understanding cultural values and developing shared urban narratives to tackle the upcoming challenges. In a broader sense, port city’s ‘Cine-scape’—to use a term coined by Richard Koeck,[ii] puts the cinematic approach to port cities into the spotlight.
Who owns the city after all? Can sea cruise tourism help develop Amsterdam as a ‘City in Balance’?
11 May 2020
The city and region of Amsterdam, together with the historical and cultural sights of the city, offers excellent facilities for ocean cruises, which contributes greatly in economic growth and employment. Meanwhile, a significant value conflict (Mager, 2020) exists among stakeholders. To deal with ‘over-tourism’ and maintain a ‘City in Balance’ (City of Amsterdam, 2016; Municipality of Amsterdam, 2019), since late 2010s the city has endeavored to take measures to reduce the number of budget travelers, and attract more higher-paying tourists (Aalbers & Sabat, 2012; Kavaratzis & Ashworth, 2007).
The future of port cities: thriving within the planetary boundaries
4 May 2020
The debates over the future of ports and port city areas have been largely dominated by the narrative of blue growth (e.g. OECD, 2019; World Bank, 2019). Promoted by large corporations and authoritative international organizations, this narrative promises to reconcile the imperative of economic growth and profit-seeking with the well-being of communities and the environment. This approach has led to technical solutions (such as robotics, more efficient wastewater treatment) and incremental fixes to become the key focus in sustainability transitions (Soma et al., 2018).
New Neapolis: A Creative Teaming Up of Port Cities
27 Apr 2020
In January 2020, Rotterdam-based artist Gyz La Rivière released a new film project, entitled New Neapolis, in which he connects his Dutch hometown to three other European port cities: Liverpool, Marseille and Naples. Grouped together, they form ‘New Neapolis’, building on the ancient name of Naples that meant ‘new city’. Following an earlier book publication of the same name, and accompanied by an exhibition, La Rivière conceived New Neapolis as a metropolitan league that turns the national underdog position of all its members into an advantage. Compared to the stately capitals London, Paris and Rome, New Neapolis builds on the international network of the port cities and their inhabitants’ traditional ‘can do’-mentality to strive for a shared, utopian future.
Maritime Mindsets of Rotterdam’s Port Communities
23 Apr 2020
Rotterdam is a major port city of The Netherlands, with a colourful history of trade, war and immigration. As the port of Rotterdam, the biggest port in Europe, has largely moved out of the city, the City of Rotterdam aims to compensate for this with festivals, museums and other events to engage and strengthen the maritime mindset. This institutionalised and heavily funded approach is centred on securing Rotterdam’s reputation as a globally leading port city. There is more than a top-down intervention to construct a maritime mindset. Smaller communities near the port itself have their own. They are further from the main hub of activity and political centre, have less centralised funding and are not a priority in the City’s strategy. But that wouldn’t tell the whole story.
The European Green Deal: New Opportunities for Port Cities?
20 Apr 2020
With the European Green Deal made public last December, the new European Commission took the first steps to transforming Europe into the first climate neutral continent by 2050. The Green Deal offers a wide range of climate policies and measures that directly affect European cities and citizens. Whereas port cities are high polluters and important economic concentrations, they are not mentioned in the European Green Deal as such. However, to make the ‘’effective and fair transition’’ that the Commission aims for, port cities could make a difference as they concentrate key economic and industrial facilities and are key to the EU’s long-term economic competitiveness.
Making the next port city of Rotterdam
16 Apr 2020
Amanda Brandellero & Maurice Jansen
The COVID-19 outbreak constitutes an unanticipated resilience test for our cities and societies. Resilience encapsulates the capacity of systems and societies to get back on their feet and to adapt to a new set of conditions, following major challenges or disasters. For port cities like Rotterdam, the current global shock triggered by the Corona crisis presents a number of challenges to ongoing transitions and global supply chains. To what extent can local-to-local supply and demand chains offer solutions to these challenges?
New recommendations from the Port City Futures Team and Port City Music on Spotify
9 Apr 2020
Yvonne van Mil
Port cities speak to the imagination of people around the world as special places where land meets the sea, where goods and people arrive or depart, and where cultures mix. Many artists including painters, directors, authors, poets, singers and songwriters are inspired by ports and port cities feeling attracted to the atmosphere, culture or ambiance of the port. As a follow-up to the blog by Hilde Sennema (posted on April the 1th, 2020) about different forms of port city culture, the Port City Futures Team made a list of music recommendations and favorite songs concerning ports and port cities. These include songs that glorify port cities such as Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg, or ones in which the port serves as a symbol of freedom, romance, nostalgia, or desire, or yet others that include criticism of the working conditions of dockers, sailors or prostitutes.
Change of perspective: value-based deliberations for improved port-city relations
3 Apr 2020
Tino MagerIn the course of the 20th century, some port cities, especially larger ones, have experienced an increasing separation of their port and city areas. Not only are they spatially separating from each other; they also follow different agendas in economic, ecological and cultural terms. At times, communication between port and city can be severely impaired due to diverging interests, for example, when port and city leaders respectively pursue diverging agendas in terms of energy generation, for example from fossil or renewable sources. Port cities around the world face these dualities, some captured in the visualization of PortCityFutures. For the benefit of the larger port city region, they need to find answers that benefit both actors. A first step towards a shared perspective is through the development of shared values. As members of the PortCityFutures group, we argue that port and city actors can better negotiate, and find solutions for their differing interests, when they focus on underlying values.
Experience Port City Cultures from your couch
1 Apr 2020
During this crisis, you might already have received many suggestions on how to spend your time at home. The Port City Futures Team thought to make a small contribution as well by recommending our favorite cultural expressions concerning port cities. Being transported to those special places where the land meets the sea might be a welcome, yet educational, distraction. So stay safe, stay inside, and we hope you will enjoy our suggestions during this difficult time. We are also curious about yours: share them with us at email@example.com.
Are Cities, Ports, and Port Cities Systems? From Optimizing to Co-Creating Resilience
26 Mar 2020
In the context of rising sea levels, “resilience” is a growing priority for many ports and cities. Resilience typically refers, as Olsson et al write, to a system’s ability to cope with stress. How much stress the infrastructures, institutions, and inhabitants of cities and ports—and port cities—can absorb is certainly an important question. However, there are limits to how far those governing and managing them can, or should, think of them as "systems". Perhaps the most important issue is whether or not what we call “society” actually functions like a system—or, put differently, the kind of “system” imagined by engineers, industrial ecologists, and others drawing on resilience theory to design spatial, institutional, and social measures. Social scientists, including anthropologists, have long criticized such thinking’s implicit functionalism: the assumption that we can break society into parts, with distinct functions, that when properly aligned can reach equilibrium. These theories lend themselves easily to managerial approaches: all one needs to do is optimize the system. However, they neglect how our societies often do not, in fact, fit neatly together.
Port City Resilience: (Re-)Connecting Spaces, Institutions and Culture
17 Mar 2020
Ports and cities and their surrounding regions coexist in a limited, shared space; today, they face multiple challenges, including climate change, energy transitions, digitization, or social transformations. These challenges require coordinated responses from all stakeholders: port authorities, city and regional governments, private and public actors, as well as NGOs and citizens. Historically, such collaborations are a trade mark of port cities around the world, their public and private stakeholders displaying great capacity for overcoming challenges meaningfully, forcefully and rapidly. Together, such stakeholders have dealt with a broad range of external and internal shocks to the advantage of both their ports and the neighboring cities.