In the graphic novel METRO O1O readers follow the history of Rotterdam, starting in the year 1240, towards the city that it is today, and what it may become in the future. It embodies the idea that a city isn’t built at just one moment in time or by one individual but created over time by a community. METRO O1O is not just an immersive urbanist account of the city’s narrative, but it serves as a call-to-action for its readers, by tackling urgent contemporary topics such as citizenship, diversity, inclusion, equality, and climate. The book emphasises the importance of reading and interactive learning and invites the younger generations to proactively take ownership of their own living environment, and influence the development of their street, neighbourhood, or even the city at large.
The objectives of METRO O1O are threefold: to create a historical awareness of the city's development, form a collective narrative, and serve as a tool for educating the City Makers of the future. The graphic novel does this by employing several dialogical and interdisciplinary learning methods, which inform its readers about the history of the city, teaches them to conceptualize its future and invites them to talk about the city in a different way. In turn, it aims to better connect citizens to their city by cultivating active citizenship. This connection ought to be fostered in communities all around the world to ensure citizens are engaged with, and well equipped to deal with the ever-increasing array of complex spatial, socio-economic, environmental, and other challenges we all face.
Transformation processes in cities today are increasingly complex, and have more far-reaching consequences on where we work, how we live, and how we move. Even abstract concepts such as personal happiness and prosperity are actively redefined. For young generations, a fast and targeted approach is central to these future transformations, which can only succeed if we ensure that our discourse is open, broad, and scientific at the same time. With METRO O1O, De Zwarte Hond opens this discourse. The book is a new and inclusive tool for actively fostering the connection between a city and its inhabitants, and getting young generations involved with important issues by enriching education programs and provoking students to think differently and collectively share ideas and visions of their city.
METRO O1O was made by Rotterdam for Rotterdam and combines education, art, culture, architecture, urbanism, and creative industries. A team of around 40 Rotterdam-based illustrators, authors, historians, photographers, poets, urban planners, archivists, conservationists, teachers, graphic designers, and more collaborated on the richly illustrated graphic novel. The book was further enriched with input from city cultural institutions such as the Maritime Museum, Boijmans van Beuningen, the city archive, the central Library, and it received support from the Rotterdam municipality. Said Kasmi, alderman of Education, Culture and Events in Rotterdam stated: "I’m impressed by how you manage to involve the entire city in the project: from makers to institutions and from education to publishers."
METRO O1O will be freely distributed to all 9000 freshmen (age 11-12) in Rotterdam, launching the project’s five-year educational phase. Ultimately, about 45.000 students, regardless of cultural, religious, or socio-economic background, will receive the book as they enter high school, the moment they spread their wings and start exploring their city, showing them the impact they can have on its development. The book will contain additional teaching materials, easily integrated into the curriculum, and combined with existing educational tools. The combination of text and imagery will foster their dialogical skills, enriching students’ imaginary powers and providing them with a common language through which to talk about their city in inclusive, understandable, and visually attractive ways.
“If you get to know a city, you start to love it, and what you love, you take care of.” METRO O1O allows people of all ages to better grasp the socio-environmental challenges we face, and equipping populations to tackle pressing issues more effectively and inclusively. It teaches readers that only those who actively intervene can really shape a new future and that this future can be better than the present. The production process and book itself are easily replicable for different contexts and audiences, and several national and international cities have already shown interest in doing so. In fact, the book was presented and enthusiastically met at both a school conference on citizenship in Rotterdam, as well as the Baukultur Nordrhein-Westfalen: Building Bildung conference in Germany.