Jeroen Müller

Jeroen Müller

Landscape Architecture



Embrace the water

“One day we will give back this land to the waves with a sigh of relief,” said Johan van Veen.  

He was a hydraulic engineer and has been the ‘father’ of the Deltaplan. What he said sounds quite paradoxical or did he just have foresight? Due to climate change, more extreme weather arises in which water plays a dominant role, both from land and sea. Sea level rise is such a change. Only the height and speed of the rising sea level is very unpredictable. There are many different studies, in which a KNMI (Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute) study predicts a possible rise of 3 meters, around the year 2100. 

I assume that the current system is not viable and therefore can’t be maintained for the long term. Many newspapers in recent years have already reported a much higher sea level rise than has been predicted before. How does the landscape remain liveable with a sea level rise of 3 meters? This increase is not a threat, but an opportunity to shape a landscape where water and land emerge together in a whole. The city of Rotterdam can transform into a water city, which embraces the future sea level rise. 

Rotterdam has always had a connection with water. In the Middle Ages a wide estuary flowed here into the North Sea. Today, the Maas, followed by the Nieuwe Waterweg, is a tamed and canalized river, wedged between large harbours made of concrete, with stone quays. In my point of view, the water should be integrated again and be part of one large landscape system. Water and land should gradually merge into each other again. Rotterdam becomes a city that embraces the water. Therefore edges need to be softened, monumental sites must be protected and the current harbour will transform into a new water city. The location for this water city is at the former Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij (RDM), garden village Heijplaat and the Quarantine area. This location is well above sea level and therefore favourable in relation to the future sea level. 

The landscape becomes a place with more water, more beach, more vegetation, more animals and more food. A landscape with a lot of biodiversity that embraces the future sea level. By the end of the 21st century, the sea level may have risen 3 meters. The design for this new water city is an answer to the question: How will our landscape remain liveable with a sea level rise of 3 meters? 

It is not a threat, but an opportunity to reunite water and land in coherence. Due to a gradual transformation of approximately 80 years, people have time to get used to this new landscape. To me it seems possible to take a different path, so that the lower-lying Netherlands remains a nice place to live. So let's face the future and embrace the water with a sigh of relief. 

Graduation date: 11 July 2022
Graduation committee: Bieke van Hees, Kevin Logan, Maike van Stiphout (mentor) 
Additional members for the exam: Mirjam Koevoet, Yuka Yoshida

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