Being an urban designer with knowledge of youth culture, David Dooghe, was invited to participate on the debate: ‘Whose is the city?’ discussing youngsters and their use of public space of Rotterdam.



The last couple of years Rotterdam invested in the public space of its inner city, with the goal to create a ‘City lounge’, a space where people meet, stay, repose.

“Youngsters are the main users of Rotterdam inner city’s streets to meet and stay”, stated David, “Being the city with growing percentage of youngsters, this could have a good effect on the goal of Rotterdam, to create a city lounge in the inner city.”

But while Rotterdam invests to create a public space to meet, the use of the public space is more and more regulated. In some places meetings of a group larger than three persons in the public space is prohibited. The security concerning festivals gets stronger regulated, making festivals impossible to happen.

In the debate quickly the Friday evening ‘problem’ on the Lijnbaan, the main shopping street of Rotterdam and the place and time were youngsters meet, became the main case. The presence of the youngsters creates fear, a passive aggressive atmosphere like somebody in the public stated, among the other users of the shopping street.

“Isn’t this fear more of a generation conflict than a real threat?” David asked the other participants and public, “Knowing that ‘staging’, defining your personality by ‘taking the stage” at every possible moment, is an important part of the youth culture. They aren’t really threatening the others, but they will make sure the others have seen them. What better place in Rotterdam than the Lijnbaan to do this?”

For the politician present, the world works in a way that once something is a problem, it stays a problem. Therefor the rest of the debate got lost in convincing the others of the urge of the problem.

A pity, an out of the box brainstorm with all these interesting participants of the debate could have created new insights.