Our history: 60 years of making cities work

IHS was established during the period of Rotterdam's post-Second-World-War reconstruction. As the international arm of the Bouwcentrum, IHS had the task to communicate the knowledge gained, through the development of the city and its housing, to government authorities in developing countries. Sixty years on, times have changed. Worldwide, cities are growing at an explosive rate. Along with considerable expertise IHS has accumulated during the last half century, the institute has built up an international urban management network enabling IHS to help managers, government officials and policymakers to improve the way cities function across the globe.

The 3rd of November marks exactly 60 years since the first International Course on Building (ICB) started at the Bouwcentrum. Although the course had a mere nine participants and lasted just five months, it was the start of what would later become IHS. Since the course began in 1958, several thousand professionals have undergone training at the Rotterdam-based institute and hundreds of professionals have participated in tailor-made programmes held in their countries of origin.

Continue reading below for a detailed history of IHS. 

The early days of IHS

course participants

The Bouwcentrum: rebuilding Rotterdam

The Bouwcentrum was a private, non-profit development institute for housing, building and physical planning. It was established in 1946, immediately after the Second World War and was an initiative of the Association of Dutch Architects and the Central College of Construction. 

One of its main missions was to develop methodologies and technologies to foster the rapid construction of affordable and adequate housing in response to the shortages of the post-war period, as Rotterdam was severely damaged by a bombardment during the Second World War. The Bouwcentrum officially opened in 1948, in what was known as the round building in the heart of Rotterdam. It grew rapidly into a huge institution renowned for its extensive knowledge and experience. Rotterdam, meanwhile, grew to become a city known internationally for its innovations in housing and architecture.

International training wing

The foundation of IHS is associated with the Bouwcentrum and the knowledge and experience that emerged from this institution. In response to an increasing international demand for the expertise of the Bouwcentrum, an international training wing was created in 1958 to provide international education and transfer knowledge to professionals from developing countries, seeking solutions in housing and construction sectors.

Jan van Ettinger Senior, managing director of the Bouwcentrum, established the International Course on Building (ICB) in 1958. His objective was to acquaint planners, architects and engineers from developing countries with the methods required to achieve a systematic solution to building requirements. Professionals from Western countries were also interested in the programme. The five-month course was divided into theoretical and practical elements. The theoretical part contained planning, programming, techniques and organisational skills. The practical element, which lasted four months, served to give participants and opportunity to specialise. During practice, each participant was coached by a staff member while placed at an institute or bureau. Part-time director Frans Verschoor oversaw the organisation of the courses. In 1968, Jan Ettinger Junior was appointed permanent director.

Bouwcentrum International Education (BIE)

On June 30 1971, ICB's educational activities were transferred to Bouwcentrum International Education (BIE), which remained located in the round building, while the remaining activities of the Bouwcentrum were housed in new premises in a high-rise building.

With the move, a clear physical and financial distinction was made between the two, with BIE gradually becoming more independent and self-sustainable. With the changes, administration posts were filled with qualified staff and permanent academic staff was appointed. BIE also set up its own library. In February 1972, a newsletter was launched; it became a bi-annual publication. BIE specialised in low-income housing projects and providing technical assistance to developing countries. In addition to the standard course available, more and more specialised courses were added to the teaching programme.

From BIE to IHS

A new phase began in 1982, under Cor Dijkgraaf, appointed in 1976, when BIE changed its name to the Institute for Housing Studies (IHS).

After having focused increasingly on the complexity and integrated nature of problems faced by cities, the institute redesigned its programmes to promote skill development with which to solve problems in the local context. In 1990, the name changed again to Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies, but the acronym IHS remained unchanged. At the same time, the institute began linking its short courses to the development of a Master's in Urban Management and Development, pioneering the design of two major courses for urban management and urban environmental management. 

During the '90s, activities overseas intensified. Longer-term institutional development programmes evolved and participating students were assigned to significant sector studies, looking at housing reform and municipal development projects. IHS was responsible for the establishment and strengthening of more than a dozen international training, research and capacity-building institutions abroad. There was also a significant increase in projects involving multilateral and bilateral organisations, including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. Cooperation established with UN-Habitat and its various programmes - particularly with its capacity building activities and the Sustainable Cities Programme - brought the parties involved close.

Joining Erasmus University

In January 2000, IHS moved premises on the Woudestein campus of the Erasmus University Rotterdam. IHS was, at the time, undergoing a complex process of reorganisation, that resulted in an institutional adjustment of the way of work and programme offer.

The activities were organised, as they still are, around the triangle "Research-Training/Education-Advisory services", where each feeds into the others. In 2004, IHS became an independent company associated in the Erasmus University Holding. The move resulted, in January 2005, in the appointment of a new supervisory board, with Nico van der Windt as a director. The Master's programme was redesigned as a one-year unified Master's degree in urban management and development, containing six specialisations.

More and more experience is drawn from the various faculties of the Erasmus University and from newly-formed collaborations with other institutes in the Netherlands and abroad. In Rotterdam, which is seen as a centre of modern architecture, IHS functions not only as a bridge to the rapidly urbanising world in developing countries, but also as a bridge between academic disciplines and practice.

A centre of excellence

In 2007, IHS received the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour award, for leading the way as a global centre of excellence and knowledge through its high-quality teaching programmes in housing, urban management and urban environmental management and planning.

This award is granted every year on World Habitat Day, a day established by the United Nations General Assembly to raise awareness about the state of human settlements.

"This is the most prestigious award given by the United Nations in recognition of work carried out in the field of human settlements development." (UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka)

Making cities work

In 2008, humankind reached a historic milestone: more than half of the world’s population was living in urban areas.

IHS recognizes the global impact of cities, as well as the importance of sustainable development. In line with the mission statement, "Making cities work", IHS develops human and institutional capacities to reduce poverty and improve the standard of living in cities. Our research, educational programmes and advisory services provide valuable assistance in tackling the multi-faceted challenge of urbanization.

In over 55 years of activity, more than 8,500 professionals from 140 countries have received training at IHS. The IHS alumni are active urban experts, ranging from architects, social scientists, economists, to public administration workers, civil servants, and government officials.

 

60 years and counting

This year, we celebrate 60 years of activity. During these decades, IHS has built a strong network of partners and over 9000 alumni worldwide contributing to sustainable urban development. In November we will celebrate our anniversary by organising the "Empowering Cities and Citizens" conference in Rotterdam.