Every designer and every civil servant knows that there are big differences between working for a municipality and for an agency. What is it like to experience these differences firsthand?

My name is Vera Kuipers and I work 5 days a week at the Municipality of Rotterdam. In addition, I spend one day a week on PEP, the Professional Experience Program to bear the title of urban planner. That day I work at a design agency and from February to December 2021 this is at Urbis.

At Urbis I work on two projects; the greening of Stieltjesplein for the Municipality of Rotterdam and the Station West area development for the Municipality of Maassluis. Municipalities are therefore the client in both projects and I am sparring with municipal officials (my colleagues!) from the role of commissioning designer. At the municipality I work on a wide variety of projects, for example on the Rijnhaven area development. The Municipality of Rotterdam has commissioned landscape architects there for the development of a park design. I am also involved in preparing a sustainable market consultation for project developers who are going to develop the real estate.

In addition to the substantive differences, the differences in attitude and working atmosphere are also very instructive. At the Municipality of Rotterdam, a gigantic organization, everything is structured around digital meeting requests and I am very flexible in my working hours. At Urbis there is a direct working relationship with each other, we consult during office hours and there is less autonomy.

It is precisely this variety and versatility that makes the extra PEP day so valuable. It provides an interesting interplay between the roles of client and contractor. It gives me new insights about my work at the municipality, about how the role of external designer can best be used and about the collaboration between designer and civil servant. Who will say? Am I getting tired of the many e-mails and meeting requests from the municipality or just the close collaboration and filling up the agenda with consultation within the office? Maybe in a few years I'll start my own agency where I process the ingredients of both organizations in my own way. Time will tell. For now I am enjoying my time at Urbis and what will come in the next year and a half before I finish my PEP.