Five provocative strategies for the future of the Dutch delta

With ‘provocative’ designs, urban planners, landscape architects and engineers from fifteen firms have developed future strategies for five regions in the Netherlands. The plans should encourage bold long-term planning for the delta, the promoters outline. “It is time to think about such drastic interventions.”

The training is an initiative of the Delta Urbanism group at the Faculty of Architecture at TU Delft. In addition to researchers from TU Delft, experts from Deltares, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Wageningen University, PBL, IHE and engineering companies are gathered in the ‘Resilient Delta’ alliance. Five teams developed visions for five regions: Zeeland, Limburg, the city and port of Rotterdam, polders in Midden-Delfland and the Waal river area.

The teams were instructed to create a design that takes into account a rise in sea level of 2 to 3 meters. Housing, fresh water supplies, energy production, infrastructural adaptations, ecological and economic consequences have been taken into account. By bringing together diverse expertise and expertise, the alliance implements a different way of designing. “The combination of research by design and a physical system analysis provides opportunities,” says Ellen Tromp, program manager at Deltares and co-initiator of the program.

In the five visions, the design teams come up with far-reaching plans. “A provocative proposal takes people outside their comfort zone,” says Fransje Hooimeijer, Associate Professor in Delta Urbanism. “It forces you to think differently about your own discipline. Extreme designs are sometimes necessary to arrive at realistic solutions.”

The designs can be seen during the International Architecture Biennale in Rotterdam until 13 November.

The five designs in a nutshell:

1. Zeelandia
The vision looked at: fresh and salt water, ecology, floods, salinization, agriculture, energy conversion and transport. The Zeewaart scenario creates a large drop lake off the coast of Zeeland that protects the land and also helps generate energy. A Superdelta scenario has also been designed, where space is given to the water, and the sea can penetrate our country right up to the German border. Team: Studio Hartzema, Feddes-Olthof and Witteveen & Bos

2. Rotterdam as a mushroom city
Attention to: fresh and salt water, ecology, urbanisation, coastal defense and the harbour. Rotterdam will become a mushroom city with its own fresh water supply, because the Maas will become a fresh inland lake. The collected rainwater can be buffered locally in the city. This means that the city can provide for its own water needs. The port falls outside the ring road and must in future be completely raised in the existing tradition to keep the economic engine running. Teams: Urbanists, Lola, Royal HaskoningDHV

3. Midden-Delfland as national productive national park
Floods due to rainfall and flow and urbanization are the focus areas with the central question: how can the urbanization target act as a catalyst for a resilient water system? The design team sees Delfland as a national productive park with a simplified water system with fewer dams, pumps and locks, with opportunities to increase biodiversity, provide raw materials such as wood and food, and offer a solution against flooding, sedimentation and the threat of salinization. Teams: Sister, Flux and Sweco

4. Limburg: in the capillaries of the delta
How can the gorge valley in Limburg retain water better to prevent flooding during extreme rainfall? Key words: drought, floods, demography, urbanization. In the design, the whole landscape is again like a mushroom with traditional graves and forests. The design also highlights changes to the landscape that are needed to make it more productive, for example to store CO2. Team: Defacto, Vista and Arcadis

5. River area, Waal: Breakthrough!
The design team focused on the following research questions: how can different modes of transport and the strategic drinking water supply in rivers coincide with other functions along the river (agriculture, industry, recreation, etc.)? The result is ‘an extreme scenario’; In the long term, the water system with dikes and Delta works is not enough, the designers believe. Eventually, the inevitable system breakdown will occur: the river system will return to its natural flow in an open route between hinterland and sea. “All we can do is manage this ‘crash’.”

The design includes evacuation scenarios, withdrawal strategies and ways of rebuilding, where we re-learn to live with the seasons and the dynamics of the natural system, for example on ‘sand islands in seasonal houses’. Team: Fabrications, BoschSlabbers, Tauw

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