Simon Verbeeck

Simon Verbeeck

Landscape Architecture

The sandy soil of de Kempen Nature Reserve as sustainable drinking water battery for Flanders

Flanders is experiencing a drought crisis that is slowly escalating into a genuine drought disaster. From 2020, the Flemish government will be forced to selectively turn off the tap with a shutdown plan. My analysis and design-based research clearly show that a spatial solution to drinking water production within the fragmented spatial structure of Flanders is needed. The sandy soils of De Kempen nature reserve turned out to be ideally suited for this. The restoration of the infiltration and buffer capacity within one of De Kempen’s sub-water basins, the basin of the Beneden Schijn river, can generate sufficient water annually in order to provide the whole of Flanders with drinking water. The basin of the Beneden Schijn was not only suitable due to the underperforming agricultural and forestry production, but the proximity of the city of Antwerp also provides opportunities for the future recreational functions.

Four different landscape types transform the water basin into a drinking water battery that simultaneously holds out prospects for the local economy, recreation and ecology. The infiltration and buffer capacity is preserved through the design of ecosystems, so animals manage and transform the landscape at low cost as ‘landscape engineers’. Ecosystem services pertaining to the drinking water production (quantity and quality) and the nature-supporting sustainable forms of agriculture yield more for the landowners. Architectural design elements and the activation of natural processes are combined in the transformation of the landscape. For example, paths with integrated storage dams are introduced and beavers and their dams are given a place. The new drinking water landscapes form a continuous green structure in the valleys around Antwerp. A metropolitan landscape arises that connects the Antwerp conurbation of the Beneden Schijn Basin recreationally — through the construction of bicycle highways — with the city
centre. A new green structure covers the ring road.

The new green spaces provide cooling and clean air to compensate for the poor air quality and increasing heat stress of the city. The drinking water extraction is visibly designed in the landscape, as a result of which the story of the drinking water production, the metropolitan drinking water park and the industrial side to this landscape are made palpable.

Graduation committee: Lodewijk van Nieuwenhuijze (mentor), Steven Delva and Jorryt Braaksma. Additional members for the exam: Marieke Timmermans en Niké van Keulenx.

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