(Re)tooling the Port City Territory: People, planning and participation


organized by the UNESCO Chair, PortCityFutures, UFM and RETE, from 2 to 4 December in Delft (Netherlands)

Experts in port-city integration gathered at TU Delft from December 2nd to 4th. This event is part of the activities of PortCityFutures, the LDE center focused on the space, society and culture of the territories of port cities. It also served as the occasion for the launch of the UNESCO Chair Water, Ports and Historic Cities. The meeting also coincided with the 35th meeting of RETE, an international non-profit organization interested in promoting collaboration between ports and cities, in analyzing and interpreting the dynamics and phenomena that manifest themselves in their relationships, in exploring their horizons and in drawing visions and strategies that contribute to building their future. It further served as meeting of UFM, an intergovernmental institution that brings together 42 countries to promote dialogue and cooperation in the Euro-Mediterranean region.

During the conference we launched the Portus Portrait number 42 on Rotterdam, edited by Carola Hein and Andrew Littlejohn from PortCityFutures. The journal issue brings together a broad array of scholars exploring the past, present and future of the port city territory of Rotterdam.

We first introduce the Rotterdam past and how it continues to influence the present. Our articles trace the port and city’s historical development from a fishing village by the river Rotte to a global maritime hub and beyond. In doing so, we pay particular attention to the role of technological and infrastructural innovations and the development of port and city as petroleum hubs. We also dive below the surface to seek Rotterdam’s history. The city contains a rich archive underground. Under the water, meanwhile, the dredging necessary to maintain depth in the New Waterway undermines the area’s wider biodiversity both literally and figuratively. Our articles explore the roles that both underground and underwater efforts have played in creating Rotterdam’s port and city (and might play in shaping their possible futures). 

Having explored these currents of the past and their present impacts, we turn to the Rotterdam of today. The contributing authors add insights regarding the port’s leading role as an innovator, exploring responsible cargo, the port’s sustainable roadmap, and the role that hydrogen can play in the energy transition. The scale of the port-city-territory is not limited to the immediate vicinity of the port, of course: our authors show how logistics centers for the port of Rotterdam can be located more than hundred kilometers away, emphasizing the widespread territorial impact of the port. If attention to the regional scale is one part of innovation in Rotterdam, attention to local development and the human scale is another. Our articles explore recent innovation in former port areas, notably in Rotterdam’s Makers district, the Merwe Vierhavens or M4H, as well as interventions to nurture new talent for maritime practices.