Transformcity is based in Amsterdam and works with public and private clients worldwide. The company was founded in 2017 as a spin-off from the Amsterdam-based urban transformation project Glamourmanifest (later ZO!City). In 2010 Glamourmanifest unsolicitedly adopted Amstel III, a large office district with a lot of vacancy. After the municipality had to withdraw their top-down redevelopment plans due to the crisis, Glamourmanifest developed an alternative strategy based on multi-stakeholder collaboration, which tangible legacy is now showing in the area.
Over the years, Glamourmanifest and ZO!City received national and international recognition and awards as a best practice in urban process innovation and stakeholder engagement. It soon became clear that the question how to successfully set up urban transformation or change in areas with a lot of different owners and other stakeholders, is something that many cities around the world are struggling with. This led to transferring the project to a new team and the founding of Transformcity to scale all the knowledge, experience and tools that were developed in Amsterdam to other cities as well.
Both Glamourmanifest, ZO!City and Transformcity were founded by Saskia Beer. Saskia was trained as an architect and worked for renowned Dutch and Japanese offices. In 2009, she was one of the many architects, urban designers and planners who lost their job due to the crisis. While struggling with this sudden insecure situation, she was also fascinated by the fact that so many projects were frozen or cancelled while the actual local challenges were still unsolved. Urban wastelands, vacant real estate, areas in need of transformation: there was still a lot of work to do. Many of these challenges were even very urgent.
What was especially interesting about these challenges, was the fact that many of them were situated in existing urban areas with many existing stakeholders, not only the municipality and the real estate owners but also the companies renting the spaces and of course the everyday users. A lot of people and organisations had something to win and to lose in these areas. What if we could somehow connect and activate them and build very local projects with very local support base around them? Would we then not be able to create our own jobs? And would those jobs not bring about much more creative freedom and autonomy than the traditional commissions we were used to?
There seemed to be a lot of potential there for new types of initiatives, mixing spatial design expertise and problem-solving attitude with an ability to communicate with different stakeholders. What was needed was a healthy dose of entrepreneurship and optimism and the sense of agency to start an unsolicited initiative. This was a really exciting realisation and, given the crisis situation, there was nothing to lose and everything to win. Saskia decided to give it her best shot. In 2010 she was granted a start stipend from Fonds BKVB (now Dutch Creative Industries Fund) to research and kickstart her first initiatives for urban transformation. This soon led to the Glamourmanifest project in Amstel III.
Saskia is actively involved in academic research and education and the (international) professional discourse on urban development. She often contributes to urban events, panels, think tanks and award juries and speaks and writes about her work regularly.