Monday April 1, 2013 Day 1 Rotterdam Charrette

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Today we began the Rotterdam charrette week with a water tour of the transect from Dordrecht to the port of Rotterdam. For this week’s charrette, students will be exploring the design of multifunctional landscapes in a highly developed urban area.

Working in the Rotterdam harbor between the Waalhaven and the Eemhaven, the focus is on the Research, Development and Manufacturing (RDM) campus and the historic garden village of Heiplaat. Currently under industrial, commercial, residential use, the site lies outside protection dikes and is thus ripe for climate adaptation and mitigation design.

Designing in groups of four, students will choose their focus from a panoply of options – designing for greenspace compensation and noise abatement along a new commercial road alignment, flood protection for climate change +100 projections, water retention for surface water runoff, connecting RDM and Heiplatt programming.

Tomorrow site analysis and an exchange with four Dutch students of Rutger de Graaf, followed by two solid days of design towards presentations on Friday. Below students review their group’s line of thought.

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Nate Bond,  Elissa Brown, Ryan Coates, Stephanie Erwin
Charette week two began with a comparison/analysis trip through the city of Dordrecht and port of Rotterdam. Upon arrival at Dordrecht station the class embarked on a walking tour through the city to study their water defense measures. As has been repeatedly driven into us, the subtlety of landform elevation was key here. Alleyways around the city center had what you could call miniature dike systems, two rising slopes reaching roughly 18-20 inches high intersecting at a plateau of about 10 inches, upon which was a system that allowed the insertion of boards up to 18 inches high to block the water. We also saw that the city simply built on top of the dike system, making the protection a part of the urban fabric. In one plaza, we saw the intersection of three dikes, across the street was a staircase leading to a canal which reached the harbor.

After, we took a ferry from Dordrecht to Rotterdam to experience the varied edge conditions and to get an idea of what the port landscape looked like before it was built out. Generally, the edges along the river appeared softer and more vegetated. Although shipping industry’s presence was very prominent, the appearance of open space along the shore was striking. The ferry ride allowed us to get a better understanding of the gradient of rural, residential, industrial and urban in the Port of Rotterdam.

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Solange Guillaume, Monrana Harinsuit, Stephen Himmerich, Michael Schiebe
From the docks in Dordrecht to the Port of Rotterdam we traversed the waters of the River Maas gaining an experiential overview through the city. We inspected edge conditions watching the shore as it moved from gradually meeting the water towards a much more rigid embankment that divisively separated the water from the land. As we moved towards Rotterdam there was also the experience of scale change. In Dordrecht the scale of construction, apart from a few larger apartments, was at a relatively human scale, but as you approached the port the scale of building increased dramatically towards high rise construction and  an expanded scale of port infrastructure. If you were to compare the construction in Dordrecht with the ports infrastructure there would be a large disparity. Most of the construction up river ranged from around three to five floors with the port development standing much taller with shipping containers stacked eight high and gantry cranes each standing around 70m high. The transect of the river is broad, changing rather quickly towards port activity as you approach the North Sea but still has a diversity in operation, which can be seen as you move down river.

After an insightful day touring the River Maas and Rotterdam’s port, we headed back to Utrecht for some initial group work.  Our intent and instruction was to create a set of helpful diagrams, sections, plan views – anything to convey our experience of earlier in the day.  We started by outlining the River Maas and then proceeded to draw sections at various points along the river where we felt there was a substantial shift in perceived scale and/or river edge change.  We also drew a smaller map and axon displaying the entire transect from Dordrecht (where we launched in the morning) to Rotterdam’s port, attempting to stitch together a wildly varied constructed landscape.  Our hope is that these initial drawings will help guide us through smaller-scale design work in the next few days.

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