FRIDAY MARCH 15, 2013 Tiengemeten

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Planning for Nature?
by John Briel

Our day began at 8:05am sharp with the charter bus departing Strowis Hostel for the ferry to Tiengemeten Island, a newly planned ecological restoration project. In keeping with previous days, the weather was windy and wet with a biting, raw sting. Tiengemeten (which translates to ‘ten-measure island”) lies in the Haringvliet, a large estuary connecting to the North Sea, within southwest Netherland’s Rhine-Meuse Delta. Due to the region’s extensive Delta Works project, the estuary’s waters have transitioned from brackish to entirely freshwater (or sweet), severely disrupting the formerly occurring salt gradient.

The primary goal of our trip was to better understand the national demand for more ecological and cultural space as well as how such projects are undertaken from concept to design to development. A secondary goal was purely to enjoy the highly planned, and highly controlled, Dutch ‘natural’ landscape –- a common overtone of each of our site visits to date. Instrumental to achieving said goals were Jan Wouter; with his thoughtful presentation on the island’s historical and cultural contexts; Hesper Schutte from Natuurmonumentem; and Roel Posthoorn, a project director also from Natuurmonumentem (the Dutch equivalent to the Nature Conservancy).

Following Jan Wouter’s presentation, we took a biking tour of the island to experience its contrived landscape features and contours. Although Mother Nature felt the need to drop snow and ice on our tour, all my classmates seemingly enjoyed the unique experience. After lunch we divided into teams of three (one MURP, two MLA students) to engage in a design charrette. Two teams focused on the Oud Polder, taking into account its militaristic and cultural past, and two teams on Midden Polder, to explore a redevelopment of space surrounding the main commercial node of the island.

The actions of my classmates and their utilization of collaboration to collectively solve site design challenges reflected the process of redeveloping Tiengemeten. For example, together with government, landowners and Natuuremonumenten, the island transformed from farmland into a multi-functional ecological space for nature lovers, bird enthusiasts, children, and families — and the river! As conveyed by Roel, hopefully the island’s history and development (and the charrette experience) provoked my classmates to think more creatively about their own landscapes and the positive outcomes of collaboration.

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by Solange Guillaume

Here on Tiengemeten, the wind sweeps the landscape in gusts of ice chips and snow today, pushing the reeds down and urging all of the students and professors to take shelter (which we didn’t—at least not right away!). Our journey to Tiengemeten began on the shores of Nieuwendijk at a ferry terminal and dock, with new pavement and a ticket machine since the program visit last year—yet another sign of how this created nature center has grown. Since its transition from agricultural polders to a as a human-made nature-based island, it has become a destination for recreation and ecological study.

As of 2010, about 30,000 people visit the island per year, regularly increasing in number. On a good weather day, as many as 1,000 visitors make the journey. Natuurmonumenten, the organization behind Tiengemeten’s transformation, worked to create land that was once farmed into a space that is now an island of natural habitat with some farming and historical remnants. At the ferry dock on the island, there are several remaining historical farmhouses, one of which has a visitor’s center and small museum. From there, we rented bikes and put our faces into the wind.

Our goal, albeit small compared to the long-term, large-scale work that has already been done at Tiengementen, was to have a charrette (the design version of a brainstorm) in which we discussed some design options for two locations on the island. Mentioned in the other blog post of today, Jan Wouter, Roel Posthoorn, and Hesper Schutte became our guides and advisors, having already worked on the space. An area called the Oude Poulder and the ferry dock/visitor center/private homes (Midden) were our foci.

Wind-whipping scarves and the slight tap of snow against rain jackets, we cranked on the bikes with fat tires to the west for a viewpoint slightly above the surrounding lands, then east to Herberg Tiengementen for lunch. Cameras in wet gloves, sketchbooks at the ready (or soggy) and attentive eyes and ears probed the two charrette study locations. Despite the cold, none of us seemed to have a bad time; the landscape was stunning. As my friend, Montana, said about photography there: “I like taking pictures when the wind’s blowing and you can see the color and light intersecting in the landscape”.

We brought our ideas to the table that afternoon. Midden charrette teams collectively considered gardens, vacation homes, vehicle circulation and new restaurant locations in the vernacular of the landscape. Oude Polder teams discussed spatial remembrance of train tracks to a military powderhouse shed, rocky outcrops, ferry docks, and pedestrian/kayak travel around the polder. An exercise in quick designing, we left the experience on a good note with feedback and thoughts from our kind hosts.