Bike Lace Fence

Rotterdam (NL)



Old bicycle frames are salvaged and, with the help of local youngsters, given a new lease of life when recycled to create eyecatching decorative fencing dividing the communal gardens from the public street.

The project is part of the renovation of the communal courtyard garden of a block of flats in Rotterdam’s Provenierswijk, the neighbourhood behind Central Station. The master plan was developed by Kool ontwerpers (Tanja Lina, Barbara Janssen) from Rotterdam. The courtyard, which is currently divided into small individual gardens, is transformed into communal gardens. And the residents are also given a brand new shed, and vegetable plots are laid for those who want them. The gardens are separated from the public areas by an amazing latticework fence made out of recycled bicycle parts, designed by Studio Schuim. When finished, the interlaced bicycle parts resemble filigree or lacework, hence the name ‘Bicycle Lacework’

The idea grew out of seeing so many old bicycle frames left to rust in the building’s communal courtyard. So one way of resolving the problems was to transform the rusty bicycle parts into a trellis-work. There weren’t enough old bike frames to make the length of fencing needed, so additional scrap cycle parts were provided by Havensteder housing federation and the municipality of Rotterdam (two organisations that clear old bicycles off the city streets). The filigree-effect fence will use around sixty old bicycles – men’s and women’s bikes, racing bikes, children’s bikes, folding bikes and BMXs. The designers prefer working with ladies’ cycles because of the sweeping lines of the frame.

Chain rings are attached along the top of the fence as a precautionary measure to prevent people climbing over. There’s no problem getting extra materials. Around five bike shops within a 1-kilometer radius of the project save unwanted chain rings, which Studio Schuim collects every week – sometimes there’s just one, sometimes a whole bag-full. The materials that are discarded by bike shops are a crucial ingredient in the design. Other bike parts that feature prominently in the latticework are frames, front forks, handlebars, wheels and luggage carriers.

Young guys from the local community help out by taking the bikes apart. These boys, mostly of non-Dutch origin, are often believed to cause trouble in the neighbourhood. But nothing could be further from the truth. The designers partner up with a youth worker and, by getting busy with the project, the boys have a chance to save up for fun trips. When they worked on a previous project, the boys managed to save up enough to pay for them all to go to Disneyland Paris.

The housing federation that is responsible for the flats let Studio Schuim have the use of a work-shed in the community. The bikes are taken to pieces on the pavement in front of the shed, with the help of the boys. And local residents drop by to pick up the odd spare part for their own bikes – sometimes a saddle, sometimes a bike lamp. Once all the bicycles have been taken apart the steel components are sent to the sub-contractor, GKB, in Barendrecht. There, Studio Schuim and the group of boys make a design for the fence, and the final product is completed. After being powder-coated, the trellis-work fencing is put up in the neighbourhood, next to the shed that was the site of all the work. And the fencing literally becomes the final, concluding element, of the renovated courtyard garden.

The filigree bike fence was ready in May 2012.

Story by Martine Zoeteman – NAi team Architecture of Consequence

Project architect : John Bosma
Coworker: Anna Cowan
Coworkers neighberhood: Youth workers: Ibrahim Tonga en Hamid Karroumi – Youngsters: Semir, Abdelhay, Soefier, Mohammed (Mo), Celal, a.o.).

Pictures by Frans Blok and Ibrahim Tonga

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Toon Verberg