Friday April 5, 2013 Presentations Rotterdam Charrette

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Today marked the final day of the Netherlands portion of Cities on Water, and was also presentation day for the Rotterdam charrette designs.

Held at AORTA Architecture Center in Utrecht, two four-person groups presented their work to landscape architects Jan Wouter Bruggenkamp and Livina Tummers, and  Jan Frans de Hartog, retired head of planning at Almere and long-time colleague of Jan Wouter Bruggenkamp in designing Southern Flevoland and planning the New Town of Almere.

The groups took differing approaches to the site, which includes the historic garden village of Heijplaat, a “new” extension of the village dating from the 1950s, and the repurposed RDM manufacturing site, now a campus for research, design and manufacturing, including Rotterdam University, Albeda Technical College, the Port of Rotterdam, and many businesses working at the intersection of design, manufacturing, and technical training.

Presentations can be viewed and downloaded here:

In the evening we had a celebration dinner and launching the students on to Venice, where they will engage in a 5-week design studio.

Student Reflections on the Rotterdam Charrette

Elissa Brown
Another week, and another whirlwind design project! Coming off the Marker Wadden charrette, I felt prepared for anything Rotterdam could throw at us. The two charrettes turned out to be very different projects from each other, but in the end, they were both centrally about water. At RDM/Heijplaat, we were pushed to take on different complexities – this time it was less about ecological processes and recreational opportunity, and more about multifunctional infrastructure, community development, and human quality of life.

On our first day back in Rotterdam, we had the opportunity to talk with a lifelong Heijplaat resident who shared with us his feelings on the village and its future. He described Heijplaat’s relationship with flooding and went on to say that he wasn’t worried about it – he trusted that the government would make sure Heijplaat remained safe. But from what we heard, the government has no such plans. I think that expression of vulnerability is what most stuck with my group as we began designing, and thus we focused on providing Heijplaat the infrastructure it will need to be resilient in the face of climate change. Over the last month, we’ve seen many ingenious examples of Dutch multifunctional landscapes; that approach inspired us to figure out ways in which our proposed infrastructure could provide more than just flood projection – also parks and open space for community connectivity, plus visual, sound, and pollutant barriers. This project was a great opportunity to synthesize our the knowledge we’ve gained and tackle some of the major issues the Dutch, and all of us, are facing as paradigms change around climate, industrial areas, and water management. Thank you to everyone who made this week possible and a great learning experience for us!

Michael Schiebe
Our final week in the Netherlands brought about our final design charrette – the Rotterdam/Heijplaat/RDM project in which we were to design and connect the old village of Heijplaat with the innovation and education center of RDM.  This project was quite the diversion from our previous Marker Wadden charrette, but both presented great challenges and opportunities.  My group focused on community involvement and reconnections for the Heijplaat/RDM charrette, and I really feel we accomplished a lot in less than a week.  Although we chose to avoid building a dike around the city, we decided to implement other measures that would take care of the residents of the present time and attract a more reasonable solution for connection issues.  Examples of this included creating more community-connecting programs such as a community garden, a new skatepark, and a large increase in the amount of useable park space.  Although times were a bit stressful trying to quickly design a large space and insert specific program elements – we did a great job and finished strong.  It was great to present to our peers, professors, and three special guest critics on our last day in Utrecht.

Two hectic weeks of design charrettes brought about little sleep and anxious moments, but what we all accomplished makes me so proud.  I had the most amazing experience in the Netherlands during the past month.  We met so many influential and important people that are involved in design and planning and it was so inspiring to see how they interact and manage the land and water here.  I will take many lessons back with me and I will strive to use many of those lessons during the next year in school as well as my entire career ahead of me.

Solange Guillaume
Having a little space of time between the charrette and my travels today, it is incredible to think about how much we can accomplish in a few short days. Our class worked basically nonstop from Tuesday, when we toured the RDM site until Friday when we presented. This type of work requires quick thinking, skimming references the night before for the pertinent facts, making design deductions at the same time as analysis.

It has been incredible the amount of support we’ve had—from Cor’s initial tour to Peter Blokdijk’s talk about his life in the RDM village, to the landscape architects and urban planners who came by our makeshift studio at Strowis to advise and suggest ideas/concepts we might have missed. It was like sliding down a snowy hill in one of those sled saucers where you can flip around and end up backwards at the bottom.

Some of the ideas that our group began with as a focus—connectivity, storm water mitigation/management—ended up being the driving force of our design at the end. Others, where we took a U-turn in our thinking, had more to do with our decision not to create a preventive dike around the old town. I think that particular choice stays with me because it would have great repercussions if the town floods, but it was also in keeping with what the people in the old village wanted, per the minutes we received from a recent community meeting.

I hope that we can continue to hear news about the developments of RDM, having gotten to know so much about the site in a short amount of time. From this and the other Marker Wadden charrette, I will be taking away greater knowledge about the engineering of land and water and the creative possibilities of quick design iteration. Many thanks to my team mates in both projects and the support of professors and landscape architect mentors in The Netherlands!

Ryan Coates
Heijplaat was a new and complex challenge to wrap up our experience in the Netherlands. Here was a project that brought together multiple parties, multiple issues and multiple histories into the folds of developing a future vision for this area. We tackled climate change infrastructural issues as well as historic preservation in the same breath and at a large scale.

Our understanding of the issues was challenged greatly by the quickness of the charrette but I think that the groups were able to come to sophisticated conclusions rather quickly. Understanding the Old Village’s needs in different ways led to different proposals challenging the perceived notion of flood frequency on one hand and the perception of dikes on the other. Both create different potentials for spatial layout and program and construct different opportunities within these programs.

At the end of the project and coincidentally end of the Netherlands portion of Cities on Water, I believe we have been exposed to new problems and new possibilities in this field. From both the construction of entirely new landscapes and natures to the integration of large scale infrastructural thinking into the process of landscape making, these are new precedents (though old for the Dutch) that can be taken into our creative process. The sky seemed to be the limit in what can be imagined and proposed here, and now the task is to retain that sense of possibility elsewhere in our studies and practice.

Stephanie Erwin
It was a whirlwind of a week and what a way to wrap up our stay in the lowlands.  We had visited the site once before and made one more visit before we started the design process. Time was tight, but I was amazed at how much we were able to achieve in just a week.

Over the past year, I have become more comfortable in my ‘designers’ skin. Each project increases my confidence and I’m able to realize my design without doubt. Once-stressful critiques have become the fodder I crave to push my ideas further. Every new site consideration or project challenge embeds my interest even deeper.

On the Netherlands
Our constant touring of the lowlands was pure stimulation. This trip resonated the fact that I belong there. I encountered so many ways in which the Dutch manipulate, engage, and control the landscape in an infrastructural and societal spectrum. The country, in its entirety, is a cultural landscape, ever changing and always blurring the line between the built environment and nature.

Stephen Himmerich
Rotterdam was the focus of the week with much to do and see both on the RDM campus as well as in the broader context of the city. We brought many of the concepts that we learned during our first two weeks of study into our further exploration of Rotterdam as we ventured through the city exploring its structure. Beginning the week with an overview of the broader city context through informational tours. Beginning by looking at details for flood protection in the Dordrecht we moved down the river towards the port by boat to experience a transect of the city and its changing typologies.This would eventually lead us into our designs of the RDM campus and Heijplaat neighborhood giving us the basic structures that we would be exploring in the charrette.

We made our way to the RDM campus as we continued our week dreaming up possibilities for the issues that surround the Neighborhood. By meeting with individuals we further added to our knowledge and were informed of innovative developments in Rotterdam in the realm of water management.  This manifested itself in ideas such as the development of floating homes and waterpleins which work to mitigate large stormwater events. We even had the opportunity to meet with Peter Blokdijk, who lives and works in the Heijplaat / RDM area and he discussed with us what it was like to grow up there and how the neighborhood has been changing, expressing to us his wishes for greater connectivity between the village and RDM as it was in the past. These talks and discussions became the focus of our groups design; thinking about social aspects of the town and how we might bring those issues into the development and connectivity of storm water management.

The project progressed slowly at first with a bit of hesitation in how we would frame the project but as we refined the structure of our design concept, really understanding our focus, we were able to hone in on the specifics of our design intervention. We delved into ideas of connectivity and water management, blending those concepts together with the specific concerns of the community. By doing this we hoped to get Heijplaat engaged with the changes and create an all around better atmosphere with much more interaction with the work of RDM.

The project pushed us to quickly explore ideas similarly to the manner we went about the Marker Wadden charrette but with more of a focus on the finer details, considering some of the networks and typologies that could further the redevelopment of the neighborhood. Throughout the project we received feedback from various individuals which provided us unique views for how we could further explore opportunities. This proved to be quite helpful as it created a structure for how people perceived our work, framing the story of how we would eventually present our work. In doing these things the presentation fell into place with the group easily portraying the ideas in final presentations. Overall things finished off nicely with the final product being much more solidified than we would have thought possible only a few days earlier.