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When you say ‘urban’, you say Rotterdam. And in this case we don’t just mean ‘urban’ in the literal way, but also as in ‘urban culture’. There’s no other city in the Netherlands where urban culture (in English better known as street culture) can prosper better than in Rotterdam. 

It was just a matter of time before the first urban expert stood up. Let us introduce to you: Mathis J. Bout. A young architect. His bureau URBMATH especially designs environments to facilitate the new creative class in Rotterdam. A group that has its roots in urban culture. To really get to know this new class, he submerged himself in the urban culture. His prediction for street culture in Rotterdam? “It all goes back to the essence.”

The term ‘urban’ has caused a lot of confusion in Rotterdam during the last years. One group associates ‘urban’ with a new creative class, derived from street culture. The other group sees urban culture as a destructive culture which is unfriendly to women and glorifies gangsters.
It’s obvious that Mathis J. Bout is part of the first group. In his opinion Rotterdam is thé urban culture city of the Netherlands and that offers the city a lot of chances. “Urban culture is the new creative class in Rotterdam. It’s the engine behind our city’s economy, so it should not be underestimated”

« Urban culture is the new creative class in Rotterdam. It’s the engine behind our city’s economy, so it should not be underestimated. »

Urban culture is the culture of the young citizens, a culture that has its roots on the streets. In Rotterdam hip hop culture has been the most important inspiration for the kids on the streets. “It’s quite easy to explain why hip hop and Rotterdam go along so well. Rotterdam has the right state of mind. ‘No words, just action’ is what we say down here. And that is exactly what hip hop culture is about. It’s not a coincidence that in Bed-Stuy (Bedford-Stuyvesant, an area in Brooklyn; red.), where rappers like Mos Def en Notorious B.I.G. come from, they say ‘do or die’. It’s the same attitude as you see in Rotterdam.”

From underground and misunderstood, urban culture has turned more and more into an accepted new creative class. In Rotterdam local authorities even started an institute to stimulate this subculture. (whether this is going to work is a subject for another story…). Fact is that urban culture develops fast in Rotterdam. “I think we’re at a point where it’s all gonna turn 360: back to the essence. You can see it happening in hip hop music in Rotterdam already. The sound is more authentic again. You hear it in the use of rough beats and the message in the lyrics is becoming more important. Guys like Vieira and MuSiz are a good example.”

“I think the same thing is going to happen in street art. Street art came from graffiti. Graffiti started with writing down your name on the wall to let people know you exist. Later graffiti was used to proclaim a message. That used to be all in words, but at the moment street art becomes more and more illustrative. People use illustrations to tell their story instead of words. I think there’s gonna be a movement with people who choose to go back to the roots of graffiti.”

Though in street art Mathis also sees a new trend. Artists do not only use a wall and paint or stickers and pens anymore, they explore other ways of sending out their message. “I’ve already seen urban knitwear; Colourful knitwear around a pole. I wouldn’t be surprised if artist start exploring more and more new ways to tell their story.”

Innovative street art in Rotterdam

Mathis’ mission is to facilitate all these forms of urban culture with the right environment. In his point of view not the architect, but the user is the starting-point for designing buildings and environments. He’s ready to give Rotterdam and other cities what they need with his bureau URBMATH. The website is online soon.

Author: Ellen Mannens

Source : is a project of the ecce (european centre for creative economy), an institute of RUHR.

Filed under: Analyses, Expériences, Gouvernances, Ingénieries, Politiques culturelles, , , , , ,

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