From December 2018 until April 2021 Pension Almonde was a meeting point, a temporary home for city nomads and neighbourhood initiatives and a hotel for international visitors and tourists who like something else than the usual. An experiment for a more inclusive city in 53 houses that were destined to be demolished in the Almondestraat in Rotterdam.
The rich, the poor, migrants, artists, professionals, students and original residents together make a diverse community that strengthens the neighbourhood. In the houses downstairs there are neighbourhood initiatives, like an informal language school, a coffee place, copy shop and a food coöp.
The appartments upstairs are the houses of the original residents of the street and the city nomads that are living temporarily in this transitioning street. The original residents are leaving their houses one-by-one as soon as they have found a new place. The ones that are still there became part of the community, living together with the city nomads until the houses will be demolished. The Pension prevents the street from emptiness and desolation.
What are city nomads?
City nomads is a growing group of people in the modern day city that cannot, or for whatever reason, don’t want to spend a large part of their income on housing. They rather have temporary, flexible space to live. They are refugees, students, people in between houses, people in a divorce, artists or free spirits.
It is also possible to stay temporarily in the Pension, as an alternative for a hotel. For example for tourists, international guests or people having their families over. There are rooms specially designed for these guests. It is also possible to stay in the homes of the city nomads. The neighborhood initiatives take care of breakfast.
How the board house shaped Rotterdam to an international city
Pension Almonde is an experiment for a more social-inclusive city. But actually the pension (boardhouse) is nothing new. Once Rotterdam was growing as fast as now. Laborers from everywhere moved to Rotterdam and found a job in the harbor or industry. They lived in boardhouses (‘pension’ in Dutch). A shared house: room and board. You could stay short or longer. A place where you could meet like-minded and different-minded people. A temporary home in a neighborhood in Rotterdam. This type of boardhouse has disappeared, while it is actually still a need for people who do not live traditional lives. Pension Almonde brings back this concept.
Experiment within the city
Pension Almonde is located in the middle of ZoHo, an urban redevelopment site in the Agniesebuurt close to the city center. De street exists out of housing projects of housing corporation Havensteder. Due to problems in the foundation the houses are getting demolished.
The original residents, some of them have lived in the street for 40 years or more, are slowly moving out of the street to their new houses. In the meantime they are mingling with the city nomads and guests of the boardhouse. At nr 157 there is a common living room where every Tuesday free soup is served and where they can join in common activities. Until the demolishing the experiment is unfolding. A project development company has bought the street in order to build new privately owned houses in the street.
‘Leegstandsproza’ and ‘Slopera’
Displacement, demolishing, temporality, gentrification are all part of the story of the development of Rotterdam. These stories are the corner stones of Pension Almonde and show were city development hurts and where it brings forth opportunities. Artists, writers, researchers and journalists can tell these stories and speak their voices in the discourse of urban renewal. Pension Almonde is one of the chapters. Writers in residence are connected to original residents and tell their stories in the project Leegstandsproza. The process of transformation is documented and will be performed in the Slopera, an opera that ends this chapter of urban development of the Almondestraat.
What is happening after the demolishing?
After demolishment we can look back upon the experiment of Pension Almonde and see how it contributed to making the city more socially inclusive. What happened after the houses became temporary working, staying and living places? The outcomes will be documented in a bidbook voor a socially resilient neighbourhood boardhouse. Hopefully the Pension can become nomadic itself, by starting again at a different location and maybe afterwards another one. This way the nomadic pension can become permanent.
About City in the Making
City in the Making Association (Stichting Stad in de Maak) has since 2013 taken on the redevelopment of vacant properties in Rotterdam. Driven by hands-on communities we manage different buildings currently for a period of ten years. Five years in, we see our challenge beyond such “temporary vacancy management” and aim towards permanence in affordable housing and working spaces in collective ownership and management. And possibly even a step further: a long-term socially and economically sustainable life in the city.
1. take the property off the market
2. convert into affordable housing and workspace
3. collective ownership, collective use
4. commons free of rent
5. economical, social and ecological sustainability
6. democratically organised
7. for the large part self-organised
8. on our own terms, on our own strength