Tuesday April 2, 2013 Day 2 Rotterdam Charrette

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Nate Bond,  Elissa Brown, Ryan Coates, Stephanie Erwin
“More boats!” Today we headed back to Rotterdam and jumped on the Aqualiner for a return visit to the RDM campus and Heijplaat. A refresher: we visited this part of Rotterdam while the urban planning students were still with us two and a half weeks ago (has it been that long?!), and we had an introduction to the campus and the village then. We were blown away by the concept and facilities of RDM – a research and educational campus focusing on tech, manufacturing, and sustainability – and also by the contrasts between the historic village of next door Heijplaat and the ginormous Port of Rotterdam that surrounds it. Our goal on this visit was to understand the area from the perspective of design in our second charrette. We started by biking the future heavy truck route that will surround the village and then broke off to look more in depth at the existing edge conditions along parts of the road and the water in the new village, and the character and spaces in the old village that could help inform our design.

We were fortunate today to have a number of people welcome us back to RDM by sharing discussions and presentations. Before our bike exploration of Heijplaat, we sat down with Peter Blokdijk, a lifelong resident of the village whose family lived and worked at the old RDM (a ship building and repair company from 1902 to 1996) for two generations. He now works at the new RDM and has in recent years become passionately involved in thinking about Heijplaat’s revitalization and sustainability. He shared with us a moving take on Heijplaat’s past and future, including the community’s thoughts on sea level rise and government involvement, and why he has chosen to keep his family in Heijplaat even through difficult times – it has much to do with the potential he sees the RDM campus bringing to the area. We are grateful for the opportunity to hear an inside perspective as we move forward in our design process.

In the afternoon we met with professor Rutger de Graaf and a few of his students who are working towards “the blue revolution” and on climate change mitigation. The Blue Revolution is a plan to use the earth more efficiently by shifting our urban development and productive systems off of land (which is finite and running out) and into the ocean (which is vast and underutilized). To that end, Dave Zuiwiecki and Joost Derijck are working on developing affordable floating housing, and Bob Souwer and Tom den Ouden are working on metrics about how to plan for flood protection, both on land and in water. The concept of the blue revolution sounds a bit incredible to us now, but who knows where we will end up in the coming decades?

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Solange Guillaume, Montana Harinsuit, Stephen Himmerich, Michael Schiebe
Today as a group, we explored the RDM campus and Heijplaat area in Rotterdam to work on analyzing the site and work on coming up with concepts and designs for the new project. Heijplaat village used to be housing village for people who work at RDM in the past. Currently it is more diverse, with a population consisting of people who work in Rotterdam area and residents seeking low income housing. A small percentage of people who live in the village work at the RDM campus.

Heijplaat is the neighborhood located somewhat in the middle of shipping industries surrounding by high stack of containers and cranes. There is a high wall blocking RDM and the village as an old gate and standing in the village makes you feel isolated from the outside and really disconnected. The village is separated from RDM’s harbor; people only use RDM as a pass-through space to get to ferry access.

We took a bike ride around the area to experience the site. We were looking at existing public spaces and new potential public areas for people who live in Heijplaat village as well as investigated frequent truck traffic and noise pollution from transportation around the area. We were also looking at spatial design and the different experience that people can have in throughout the site.

As we recapped the day, we decided that there would be two key motives to how we approached the site: connectivity (between RDM and the neighborhood/the neighborhood and the outside world) and water use: how it is brought into the site and how the neighborhood is protected from it. The diagrammatic sketch is of the site and two design issues that will be foremost for us: a truck reroute and green space. The second image shows the place where all of us essentially had an “Ah ha” moment. We decided to try making several green space connectivity moves throughout the site, stitching together the neighborhood, RDM, water, and even the truck route through these connections.

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