‘Imagination is crucial. As an architect you can use it to give hope, to show a future direction of things,’ says architect Elma van Boxel. Van Boxel co-founded the design bureau, ZUS [Zones Urbaines Sensibles], in 2001 with Kristian Koreman, where they work on solicited and unsolicited designs and research studies in the field of architecture, urbanism and landscape design. With a strong belief that an architect has to claim a strong position in the public debate on the future of our cities, van Boxel and Koreman see a large share of their work as urban politics.
Today, the company consists of a 22-strong international and multidisciplinary team, with offices in Rotterdam and New York. Realized projects include the landscape design of the Dutch Pavilion for the Shanghai World Expo 2010, the Central Park on the World Expo, the Printemps park at Grand Bigard Brussels and the exhibition pavilion Spiegelzee on the Dutch coast.
More recently, ZUS has taken on number of large-scale urban plans, such as the transformation of the Schieblock—a vacant office block in the middle of Rotterdam—into a lively and sustainable urban laboratory. Under the same spirit of contemporary citymaking, Koreman and van Boxel designed the Luchtsingel, a 400-meter-long pedestrian bridge which has reconnected and re-energized the three main districts of the former heart of Rotterdam. Completed in 2015, the Luchtsingel is also unique in that it is the world’s first piece of public infrastructure to be accomplished mostly through crowdfunding.
Van Boxel was also a member of curatorial board of the 5th International Architecture Biennale 2011 and the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam 2012. Currently, Van Boxel and Koreman are working together with MIT and Urbanisten on the Rebuild by Design – New Meadowlands Project in the U.S.
*Portrait photo by Fred Ernst