Friday March 29, 2013 Presentations Marker Wadden Charrette
Today we traveled to the Natuurmonumenten headquarters in ‘s-Graveland to present the Marker Wadden charrette design work from the week.
We had beautiful weather and a great audience. Natuurmonumenten folks working on the Marker Wadden included Roel Posthoorn, Titia Zonneveld, Hesper Schutte and Idco Duijnhouwer. Landscape architects Jan Wouter Bruggenkamp and Livina Tummers attended, and two students from Arnhem, Abel Brouwer and Teun van Teeffelen who are doing a senior thesis project of an “earthship” sited in the Marker Wadden.
The mix provided lively and expansive discussions about the four design strategies and the overall process and importance of the Marker Wadden. More information on the charrette and the project boards can be found here:
After the presentations Roel led us on a walk around the grounds of Natuurmonumenten property. It is a beautiful area that exemplifies the difficulties of maintaining and renewing an historic cultural property. The buildings need ongoing maintenance, and the landscape has its own cycle of growth, overgrowth and decay, in regard to original vegetation and spatial designs.
Some of the cultural attributes are physical objects, such as the ice house that is now used as an overwintering location for bats. Decisions have to be made about the mature tree allees as well – how are they maintained in maturity, how are trees “replaced”, when does the entire allee get replanted?
Students Reflect on the Charrette
The Marker Wadden charrette was an amazing experience – the quality and quantity of design and finished product we were all able to create was impressive in the least. I’m still in awe at how much we learned and accomplished in less than a week’s time. We spent hours devouring this project (and many sleep-deprived nights making it happen) and I enjoyed every minute. But more impressive was the Marker Wadden project itself.
It was a blessing to work on such a large-scale project that will most likely be built in the coming years if all the pieces fall in place. The mere thought of constructing islands from silt, building land from essentially nothing, is still hard to grasp for me. I think we all understood the ecological and recreational importance of the project, but getting to solid design took some trial and error. The thing was, we only had a few days to reach that point unlike our previous school projects. But through research and great help from Jan Wouter and Roel of Natuurmonumenten, our class jumped at the opportunity and devised four unique designs that will hopefully steer the Marker Wadden project in a more succinct direction. This was not just a confidence builder for me; I believe it helped create more energy for the Marker Wadden project as a whole, which in itself was worth every minute.
Our work on the Marker Wadden charrette tied neatly into everything that had come before it. For two weeks we’ve toured the Netherlands, seen water systems and landscape projects that were historical, cultural, functional, so design felt like a natural extension of our knowledge gathering. What was easy: coming up with a large swath of ideas; what was hard: sifting through those ideas to find something that was both feasible to make and true to a central theme for our group.
When I think about what I might do differently to approach this kind of intensive charrette in the future, it might be to come to a conclusive design more quickly—maybe even producing graphics before we officially start graphic production. Another thought is that I might push for more experiential graphics/sketches sooner; we worked through technicalities for a long time and the experiential side of the design popped up at the beginning and the end, which left some gaps in continuity of design.
As Vince mentioned after the presentations, our class did struggle with the scale of this project. The final projects ranged from ecologically focused to programmatic, to functional—but it was difficult to grasp the size of the island/land mass in this huge lake and to understand how what we designed would fit within a projected expansion to 4x its size over the course of 10+ years. However, what the groups presented in the end were divergent and creative and it was clear that we were leaving Natuurmonumenten with some good ideas to seed the project’s future stages. In all, a very satisfying experience!
What a different experience this last week was than our time so far! The first two weeks of touring were packed full of traveling, meeting with knowledgeable people, and absorbing all the information they shared with us. With the Marker Wadden charrette, suddenly we were thrown into a project where we were expected to go much further than that, and quickly. The charrette required not only grasping the issues, but then also thinking critically about them in order to inform a design on a scale that was way beyond anything I had ever attempted before. We had to consider the form and programming of our islands through numerous lenses (ecological processes and systems, engineering/construction feasibility, and what makes a meaningful human experience, to name a few), then integrate our thoughts into something spatially and experientially cohesive, and then visually communicate our concepts in a captivating way. All in four and a half days. Whew. To think that just last weekend I knew hardly anything about the Markermeer and the dream to improve it is kind of mind-blowing.
This charrette was definitely a valuable experience, both in terms of gaining a greater understanding of water issues in the Netherlands and also working through the design process in a different way. There was just no time to be overwhelmed by all we had to think and do, and the week passed with surprisingly low stress and surprisingly high productivity! Knowing that is possible is inspiring, in itself, for future projects. It was both a challenge and a relief (mostly a relief) to work in a team of two, and having such support from everyone we worked with over the week – especially Roel and Jan Wouter – was also hugely helpful. So it felt like a big accomplishment, and very rewarding, to be able to show up to Natuurmonumenten on Friday and have something to give back, in the form of fresh ideas. The Marker Wadden is still in the dreaming phase – What can it look like? How can it function? What values can it provide? – and our post-presentation discussion made it clear that sometimes what is most appreciated at this stage is the excitement that can come from refreshing the feeling of possibility.
Roel asked each of us, “How was working on this project, as a landscape architect?” At least as students, we’re being taught to take a wide-ranging approach and to not be afraid to try something different. I hope this mindset continues as planning for the Marker Wadden progresses, and I can’t wait to see this project gain more support, bring together more people and ideas, and begin to be realized.
Moving quickly is the name of the game. A flood of information compressed in a short period of time began the experience which resolved to accomplish a seemingly impossible task for the few days we had. There was no time for second guessing oneself or getting caught in over analysis. Talking and drawing out ideas was the only way issues were resolved. Paired in our groups of two we sprinted through concepts and issues we found important as we came upon our final theme for the Marker Wadden. We focused our efforts around developing a series of islands which played on the idea of developing interactive ecologies; building a place where experiences could be created in a land of water. Many ideas were thrown around but the goal was to connect individuals with the Ecosystems being developed while also preserving the vastness of the Markermeer.
The process moved us quickly along with Sunday and Monday focusing us on developing a concept, Tuesday and Wednesday being devoted to the creation of our master plan, and Thursday pushing us into final production for our presentations. It was a quick back and forth with each of the groups developing ideas, presenting them, gaining feedback, and then refining their plans. This process moved us through the week in a blur. With travel, site visits, development, and production all planned for the week it seemed like things would not get done. I briefly felt overwhelmed considering how everything would come together but that feeling quickly disappeared. With all our time being spent pushing ideas forward there was no time to even consider being overwhelmed. We were excited and devoted to the project and that lead to a quick but refreshing pace of development. While staying at this pace might eventually wear a person out, it was a good exercise in seeing what we are capable of in a short period of time. The project proved to be a challenge yet the process was surprisingly fun. To move our concepts forward and then present them in a professional atmosphere where they would be considered as informants to the future design of the Marker Wadden really brought the week to a satisfying close, exhausted but energized.
The Maker Wadden charrette we completed last week was a great experience. It was a challenge for me at first to wrap my head around the construction of the island and the scale of the area, we are after all creating this new land from nothing! It was fun to challenge yourself into making a quick decisions, follow your instinct and not seconding guess yourself, try to absorb new information while working on coming up with new concept and design, producing visual graphics to present and better express our ideas in really short amount of time. It is also a refreshing experience to tackle a design problem from different cultural and perspective that make me have think so outside of the box and be far out of my comfort zone.
The water was big. The task more so. I had no time to vacillate, I needed to jump in and keep my head above the surface.
My first task was figuring out what a hectare even was. Having recently gotten into the headspace of the metric system, it took a bit of time to wrap my head around the vastness of the space. At such a scale, 1,000 hectares, I dropped the idea of scalar programming -with that amount of time, it would have just driven me even more crazy- and I worked on metaphor and the human perception of the space. Having the project area just outside the window, I was afforded plenty of time to envelop myself in the character of the space. It also afforded me a good view at which to space out for a few seconds.
Think, draw, work, present, re-work, re-draw, present again. That was our day from Monday to Wednesday. My partner, Solange, and I were dead set on creating something slightly crazy, which I guess fits in around here, so our project went through a number of exhausting iterations.
Nearing the t-minus 10 hours to deadline mark I thought I was hitting the wall, but I found a second wind and thanks to the unrelenting positivity of my partner (a lot of high fives were given) we pulled together everything with a good five minutes to spare. I used this luxury of time to have a celebratory orange juice at the breakfast buffet before finally going to bed.
I was remiss that I had not brought my fancy pants to the presentation, which ended up being at a countryside estate complete with an english landscape-style park for a back yard. But I had no time to think about that, as adrenaline and confidence in our concept carried me through the presentation. We came out unscathed.
Last week, Ryan and I worked on the Marker Wadden design charrette. We started the process by reviewing the Natuurmonumenten presentation and the stakeholder notes. We identified our motives (access, responsive infrastructure, recreational programming, and ecological richness) and our values (gradients of ecotypes, structures, and landforms). With a series of diagrams, we communicated these ideas during our first pin-up critique. Our next step in the design process was to develop a general conceptual plan. We were interested in using a gradient of hard to soft infrastructure and deposition/scouring qualities to create the cultural and ecological islands. We generated a concept plan that centered recreational programming near the dikes of the island and zones of ecological richness in more secluded areas. After we had a grasp of everything, we began rendering the illustrations to communicate our concept.
Through out the entire process, I kept wondering when the stress was going to hit me. All the causes of stress were present: tight deadlines, important clients, group dynamics. But for whatever reason, the stress never manifested itself. During normal studio projects, I find my fretting over the whole process, each day building up to the final critique, then (emotionally and physically) crashing the moment your presentation is over. It was nice to be able to produce something without having the intense peak then prompt valley. In my eyes, our project was a success. We took a challenging issue and came up with a design solution that focused on culture and ecology as its main objectives – landscape architecture in a nutshell.
Although the design process was interesting, I feel the most meaningful part of last week was the group dynamics. I have always enjoyed working in groups. It just feels like more vigorous projects are born from many minds rather than one. The investigative, iterative design process in a group always facilitates interesting interpersonal dynamics that shape relationships for life. This weekend has allowed me to reflect upon just that (and I’m still processing it). What were the successes and what could be improved? Not to air out our dirty laundry, but Ryan and I recently discussed our group dynamic. Essentially, we both are strong, opinionated people who rarely back down from a position. This personality trait we both possess, at some points, became a hindrance in the design process. Slowly, we started to talk through our disagreements and compromise when needed (thus creating a more powerful concept). Our relationship as peers and as friends became more robust because of the intense design process. Last weeks exercise helped me to understand how to better communicate with someone who is just as strong-willed as me.
The Marker Wadden project was one of incredible scale developed at an incredible speed. This compressed timescale was really important for design thinking and decision making. I felt like the process demanded quick judgments and assessments of the site and the ideas generated from this had to be almost a gut reaction move. Reflecting on this it was really a project about how I think as a designer, what my sense reactions are to a problem and how well I can act on those. It really tested my design instincts which I found really rewarding. Working in a group setting was also an important part and I feel like the design developed was much stronger than it would have been if it were just a solo investigation. Working with someone who has a different thought process from mine helped me to see holes in my own process and try to develop those areas more. Overall, the experience was a very positive one and I feel like we investigated and explored a very large amount of design ideas in a very short time and came to a rather complex understanding of the Marker Wadden project.
Working alongside Jan Wouter, Roel and the Natuurmonumenten was also an incredibly unique experience. I was very impressed with the fact that we were operating with actual input from actual people invested in this project. This is a tremendous opportunity as a graduate student to think about a real world project, and to have feedback from interested parties is something that I haven’t experienced before. This made the project more engaging and the desire to create and design stronger. I think the level of work we as a group were able to achieve was spurred by having that feedback loop in our process. The project was huge but so were the results.