Geurt van Randeraat
Director and partner SITE urban development & director Master City Developer

by Christa van Vlodrop

1. Background

Raised in the ‘Rode Dorp’ in Alphen aan den Rijn in a family of construction workers. Studied planology and economics at the University of Amsterdam. First worked as an assistant for Riek Bakker, then more than ten years as a developer of large urban area development. Together with Leo Versteijlen set up the consulting firm SITE urban development in 2008.

2. Why are you fascinated with
architecture / urban development?

When I was 18 and went off to study I absolutely wanted go to Amsterdam. A big city with a diversity of people and anonymity. The old university buildings on ‘de Wallen’, smoky dance-basements, my student room in the chic Old South district . Through the urban dynamics it seemed I saw the light. It was overwhelming, everything accelerated: my thoughts, my world, my enterprise, all the people and ideas that I came in contact with. In my third year I arrived at the newly founded consulting firm of Riek Bakker. That's were my love for urban planning and design really fueled. We worked on major projects such as the ‘Kop van Zuid’ and the central area of Utrecht. The idea that you could own, (co) operate and build cities and urban areas and help other people realize the same inspiration as my own. This passion for the complexity of cities and urban dynamics has become a continuous driving force in my work.

3. Best city

For me Amsterdam and New York. Both have a vibrant urban life that you can feel in the streets. Open cities, tolerant, with a traditionally high entrepreneurial spirit and an above-normal attraction to people, rich and poor, young and old from all over the world. Because all these people meet every day, this results in new connections, new visions, new opportunities, which are open and freely accessible. The most beautiful city I know is Djenne in Mali. A compact city of clay in the middle of the desert with beautiful ancient Arabic influences in the architecture of the simplest houses. The solidarity after the rainy season occurs in the annual building of the city is fascinating.

4. Most beautiful building

The large mud mosque in Djenne is breathtakingly beautiful. The wooden beam structure that juts through the walls makes for a spectacular picture at any time of the day. A beautiful courtyard, with hundreds of pillars, a spiritual place that everyone feels when walking barefoot in the red sand. And the most beautiful new building I have seen in recent years is the Kolumba Art Museum in Cologne designed by Peter Zumthor. On top of the remains of ancient churches and fused with the ruins of the late Gothic church a beautifully detailed new monument has been built.

5. Most beautiful park or square

Bryant Park in New York City. A seemingly simple lawn surrounded by numerous skyscrapers on the busy 42nd street just steps from Times Square. An oasis of tranquility. Privately managed by the Bryant Park Corporation, which not only keeps the grass and plants in top condition, but places the many French chairs and tables everyday, provides free WiFi and books from the open air library from the New York Public Library.

6. Best public facility / urban infill

I am still impressed by the diligence and how the public area is organized in Barcelona. The best example, I find, is the Plaza Prim in Poblenou. A former deprived area where the combination of a beautifully decorated small square and authentic seafood restaurant is a catalyst for sustainable urban development, new entrepreneurship and private investment forms. Much more than that is clearly not needed.

7. Best 20th and 21st century innovations

The computer and the Internet are by far the most important innovations of recent decades. It is the superlative in the continuing globalization of the past centuries: the availability of information, the openness of the Internet and the speed with which we have access to. The most recent step is the emergence of social media. A trend that is already changing the world, not just Facebook and Twitter, but also by the growing influence of freely available video and film material on sites like YouTube. A strength that we still insufficiently comprehend. Examples such as the insurrections in North Africa, as well as new business models as Carrotmob.com are only the first hints of things to come.

8. Next groundbreaking innovation

The innovation in techniques and applications in the fields of energy and water. The widely felt need and the limitless ingenuity of man over the next few years to make major changes. Especially by the burgeoning knowledge of solar energy, I see major shifts occur. Less dependent on fossil fuels and also more independent from powerful institutions.

9. About the future of cities

More than half the world population lives in cities and that number continues to grow. The social and economic attractiveness of cities is large. In the base this is a positive and optimistic strength. Our future is an urban future. The test for us as professionals will be besides the quantitative increase to also ensure a qualitative increase. To ensure that as the cities grow larger: the urban dynamics, the beauty of the city and the opportunities to develop talent will increase diversity in living and working environments. The basic attitude that is needed is that of faith and courage. If we are unnecessarily anxious about urban life and diversity, then that fear will lock our cities up in social and economic terms. We will shortly become a poor state. I believe that we are capable of realising quality top cities in which living healthy lives, living comfortably and working hard go hand in hand.

10. Personal contribution to urban development

In recent years I have worked at many large urban areas and buildings: it is my passion so I will continue to do so. With SITE our focus lies on targeting concept and area. Currently we are helping the owners of the 'Beurs van Berlage' in Amsterdam to develop a new concept and a new business plan. We are the delegated developer for the new office of the housing corporation Stadgenoot in Amsterdam and we will advise the Minister and major trade associations as Neprom and IVBN on solutions for the office vacancy. In addition, I’m putting with MCD, organized by TU Delft, Erasmus University Rotterdam and the City Rotterdam, a lot of energy in the postgraduate training and coaching of experienced professionals.

11. Guerrilla in the city?

Urban development will be initiated by bottom up processes and small-scale local initiatives. The urban development will be less physical and social and economic projects and programs will play a big role. It is not just about construction and demolition. I think one of the finest examples of empowerment in urban areas is the project ‘Women are Heroes’ by the French artist JR. His photographs of the ‘housewives’ in the favela Morro da Providência, Rio de Janeiro, and huge posters pasted on the slums, have regained pride and ensured the preservation of demolition.