referential preservation Rotterdam would not have been the first city I looked to for ideas of transforming vacant housing blocks; alas they’ve devised the perfect solution.

Living in Cleveland, where more vacant properties appear on the “to be demolished” register weekly and where the cost to maintain abandoned properties far outweighs the benefit of keeping these structures standing, it’s hard to be imaginative and devise creative solutions while the wrecking ball looms. However, in Rotterdam, they’ve risen to the vacant land challenge and instead of asking residents fill the huge housing blocks left behind in disadvantaged neighborhoods, apartments are being carved out of single family homes and condos to better serve the demand. Eventually, when the neighborhood reestablishes, the apartments may convert back into houses. Until then, more people can move into space that is custom tailored (sized!) to their needs. Oh yeah, and looks fantastic! How cool are these new windows, carved into the front of the row home as if in total disregard for the existing? While some might demand we preserve the old (and if Rotterdam is anything like Cleveland, preservationists are coming out of the woodwork trying to save history to make up for the mistakes of previous city administrations), it’s clear to see that the renovated apartments are referential of the existing.

These buildings could have been torn down; instead the great potential of the future is revealed by combining contemporary conveniences with warm textural materials, reminding the down-and-out neighborhood that its past was just as bright and it’s future can be.

We cannot be afraid of our existing housing stock or view current uses as the only or “correct” use of a space. Just as industrial factories have been converted to urban lofts with great success, single family homes of the past can be re-purposed in a a way that better reflects the way we want to live today. Something like this could positively work in Cleveland. So many of the houses that are abandoned contain three or more bedrooms and are just too much for any one person or small family to adopt. However, apartments are in high demand, especially so if said apartments looked like this!

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