Mirte van Laarhoven
Flowing Force - A vision for the river delta as a contiguous nature conservation area
The Dutch river delta plays a major role in our national identity and our economy. We have designed it so that we can live safely, are able to sail our ships through it efficiently, and can cycle along it when we want to. After decades of building, however, we have lost sight of the beautiful nature conservation area that passes straight through our country. Functionality prevails, the recreational value does not fulfil its potential, the natural dynamic is low, and the maintenance-prone waterways are facing more and more challenges due to climate change.
What if we transform the river delta into a more sustainable, self-sufficient system in which all important functions work together? A system where we make use of the natural forces in order to shape the landscape once again. And where we can create a dynamic system of rivers with the aid of flow, erosion and sedimentation that is not only safe and economical, but which is also beautiful and increases the biodiversity.
Flowing Force is a ‘cultural design’ for the Dutch Delta, which aims to make stakeholder ‘rethink’ their approach to assignments in this field. The project does not directly make execution-oriented design proposals, but views the Delta as one contiguous nature conservation area where water decorates the landscape and where man and nature can exist together. The vision looks at the DNA of the Delta and allows the various river branches to augment their own character. The impact of the vision is demonstrated in three subareas, which jointly sketch a cross section of the delta landscape and with which three types of missing links are restored.
With the aid of strategic system interventions at crucial linking points, assignments relating to water safety, biodiversity, recreation, infrastructure, preserving fresh water, restoring fish and bird migration routes and the implementation of ambitious European nature objectives are approached in a positive manner. Instead of viewing these assignments as conflicting, Flowing Force allows them to actually reinforce each other. One example is the high-water channel close to Varik, originally designed only to drain away a lot of water in the event of high water. By permanently using this channel for both water drainage and navigation, this means there is room to lay out the low-water channel as nature conservation area where the river can choose its own course once again.
A study into landscape design using natural processes led to a toolbox of 15 ‘landscape shapers’ that take the principle of building with nature as a starting point. These tools not only shape the landscape, but also deliver added value for biodiversity and recreation. Take, for example, active dunes created by the wind, which are suitable as mountain bike track.
In addition to system interventions and landscape shapers, the accessibility of the landscape was thought about last. Today, the area is difficult to reach by car, dull for the cyclist and unclear for the hiker. By making a few hotspots easily accessible, people from outside the area can get to know the river landscape more easily without disturbing the peace.
I am convinced that by looking at the design of specific places in another way, a totally different idea of the Dutch river delta can ultimately arise; one that is comparable to the grandeur and natural force of the national parks like Grand Canyon, while the landscape will still preserve its current functions. What’s more, the Dutch Delta can excel in its own flowing force and place a rich and dynamic landscape on the map as destination. A contiguous nature conservation area, with one powerful brand: a dynamic national park that stretches from the eastern to the western border of the Netherlands, where new generations of Dutch people can enjoy and which will also protect us against high water. A landscape that fundamentally changes, because our mindset changes.
Commission members: Bruno Vermeersch (mentor), Eric-Jan Pleijster, Eric Frijters. Additional members for the exam: Hank van Tilborg, Jana Crepon.