Charlotte van der Woude
Nature is Under your Feet
From ancient times, people and their surrounding were closely connected to each other. When settling down and finding a place to live, man would always find strategic spots in the landscape to build up a home. Topography, water, forest and underground would give people different opportunities in finding a good spot to live, which resulted into a particular use of the surrounding landscape. Restrictions and chances in terms of resources and climate actually shaped our first settlements, resulting in not only knowledge of the surrounding place, but mainly a sense of belonging and identity.
Today, some of these settlements have changed radically and turned into cities that are ever growing. The connection to their under¬ground and original landscapes has become blurry and can hardly be experienced. Layers of concrete and asphalt covered the landscape’s rivers and soil. Not only does this affect how people feel and experience the city, but also how our cities respond to current issues like climate change, the degradation of biodiversity and water questions.
As a result of the ever-changing city, it seems that we need to travel far to find ‘nature’, but what if we look more carefully? Is nature still present? Isn’t it just covered beneath all these artificial city layers? Is nature closer than we think, and it may be hidden beneath our feet? Can we find opportunity in our underground landscape? And if so, can we try to implement these hidden structures better into the city?
In order to find answers to these questions, this project investigates the city of London, where many of the former side-rivers of the Thames are now buried beneath layers of concrete. Like many other cities worldwide, these brooks were the starting point for people to settle down, but because of heavy pollution in the industrial era, these rivers have been turned into underground sewage systems that date back to the Victorian time. This graduation project tries to discover if this hidden structure could be a chance to create a ‘new nature’. One that cannot survive the harsh citylife on top, but could facilitate a whole new type of habitat: a fragile nature to be discovered under your feet.
Graduation committee: Mirjam Koevoet (mentor), Ricky Rijkenberg and Paul Achterberg. Additional members for the exam: Philomene van der Vliet and Peter Lubbers.