For this latest instalment of Down to Earth, the ninth edition of the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR), lead designer Adriaan Geuze (West 8) collaborated with EGM architects on a research project and exhibition on water safety and urban development. Down to Earth - The High Ground can be visited until 14 August in the Biesboschal in Dordrecht.
Exactly 600 years after the St-Elisabeths flood, one of the worst floods in Dutch history, Dordrecht continues to be vulnerable and is always looking for ways to improve water safety for the city. De Staart, an area outside of the city on relatively high ground, could offer a refuge in case of future floods, while also providing an opportunity to create a sustainable living environment now. In other words: How can water safety be used as a leverage? With his Map of Opportunities, West 8 created a vision for De Staart that allowed for five sub studies to be commissioned. The results of these studies by West 8, VenhoevenCS, PosadMaxwan, DVMB and EGM architects are presented at the exhibition by use of video animations and scale models.
IABR–Atelier Dordrecht made an analysis at the level of the city and of the district, but also conducted research at the building level. To turn De Staart into a high-density city with numerous additional functions, that is also able to serve as a temporary refuge in the event of an emergency, requires a flexible building type. EGM architects designed a multifunctional and energy-neutral building that can be produced economically and quickly. This sustainable building is attractive to different types of residents. The multifunctional base is ideal for start-up companies, as rents can remain low. The building is composed of different modules, a standard unit can be divided, combined, and expanded in different ways, to facilitate different living needs. Above the base, space has been reserved that can be filled with public functions, also for people from the neighbourhood who don’t live or work in the building, while a large number of evacuees can be accommodated here in times of flooding. Inside are a market square and meeting places, among other things, and the green roof offers space for urban farming. The result is a rich and diverse live-work complex that facilitates cooperation and community, also in times of catastrophe.
For the ninth edition of the IABR, curator George Brugmans asks the question: Where can we land? Can we re-establish ourselves on planet Earth, in a sustainable balance with other life forms? Down to Earth is a plea for systemic thinking and proposed to use recognisable and urgent tasks as leverage for the sustainable transformation of the entire system. Not only transforming our urban landscapes and living environments, but also stimulating the political-social debate about nature, quality and ownership of radical change.
The exhibition The High Ground takes place at the Biesboschhal, a former machine factory of shipyard ‘De Biesbosch’, allowing visitors to better experience the city of Dordrecht’s approach to water safety. The High Ground is open to the public till August 14th, from Wednesday until Saturday, from 1 pm to 5 pm. Free entrance. More information on The High Ground can be found at the website of the IABR.
Images: IABR – Aad Hoogendoorn, EGM architects