‘When seeing these plans, everyone gets a twinkle in their eye’

Bart Straatman, Erasmus Universiteit RotterdamBart Straatman, Executive Board, Erasmus University Rotterdam:  ‘Masterplan Woudestein 2028? Great plan! In February last, just after I became a member of the Board, I got my teeth into it. It was finalized by the previous Board, but because we, the new Executive Board, have become so involved in it, it really has become our story.

The crux of it? Enhancing the campus’ attractions, doing up existing buildings, facilitating growth. This plan is what EUR needs.

Student numbers are growing less quickly than was assumed in the Strategy Document 2013. Nevertheless, these investments are needed. The campus will gain in quality and attractiveness, will be given a heart. In the shape of a meeting point – the Student Pavilion – and facilities. This will provide an international feel to the campus befitting the first-class international education and research we carry out. The present use of space on campus by offices and car parks is blocking future growth. The Masterplan allows for flexible use of space, meaning new buildings are always an option.

The decision-making process is going well. It’s fun. Things are moving quickly now, too: on 1 September, the Executive Board will discuss the Masterplan with the Board of Deans; on 16 September, we will talk with the Supervisory Board, and 28 September, with the University Advisory Board*. After that, it’ll be clear exactly which part of the plans will be carried out! The campus will have undergone quite a change come our 2013 Centenary: half of Plaza and the underground car park will be completed, the C-building will have been restored, the infrastructure partly ready, and the Student Pavilion and student accommodation constructed.

There’s wide support for the Masterplan. People are enthusiastic. When you show them the plans, everyone gets a twinkle in their eye. Some say, ‘Isn’t this at the expense of education and research?’ But we need these investments – and the Erasmus Universiteit has sufficient capital. We’ve had everything recalculated and checked, and thoroughly discussed every single assumption. With the project organization, with programme manager Mark Smit, with the architects. Besides, we’re hardly about to do anything extravagant. There’ll be one architectural top piece, the Student Pavilion, and anything else will be esthetic but simple. That’s the way EUR is.

What I like best about the design? Oh boy, are you making me choose? Well, I guess the fact that those ‘lumps of metal’ on Collegelaan will make way for a park-like landscape. That’s the great thing about the Masterplan: on a compact campus, space may be greened and intensified all at the same time. In any case, the campus will have a completely different look to it, soon. And as for the Plaza’s water feature … I’d like it even better if it were turned into a natural swimming pool! Having students swim lengths there, that’d be fun.

We still have some way to go regarding sustainability. Our great ambitions must be made tangible. We’re working on that, together with – among others – GreenEUR and Gail Whiteman (Ecorys Professor of Sustainability and Climate Change, eds.). It’s becoming clearer and clearer what we have to do to realize our ambitions.

I think it’s fabulous there’ll be student accommodation on campus, a place of their own for foreign first-years. The Stadswonen (a Rotterdam housing corporation, red.) building is bound to look good, and there’s a lot of call for rooms. We can keep rent fairly low by keeping rooms quite sober. And what’s more fun than having students live on campus? It’ll liven things up a lot, especially around evening time.’

*please note: this interview dates from 20 August, 2010