Micro-adaptation projects in the Zomerhofkwartier (ZoHo) and Agniesebuurt
Last week I was invited to join a participatory process looking at micro-adaptation projects. Initiated by De Urbanisten (who recently designed the Water Plaza in Rotterdam’s Benthemplein), the Rotterdam Climate Change Initiative, the spatial planning division of the Municipality of Rotterdam and the local ward of Noord, the workshop took place in the Zomerhofkwartier (ZoHo), a neighbourhood with plenty of empty office buildings that until a few years ago were in a “snooze state” due to the financial crisis. (I will elaborate about this in my next post).
The Climate Change Adaptation Strategy – Climate Proof (2009) for the city of Rotterdam shows how stress from extreme rainfall, drought and heat island effect may impact the city in the future. For some time now Rotterdam has been active in creating more rainwater storage space in the city to alleviate the burden from its sewage system. It invested in medium-large infrastructure (the Water Plaza, the storage space in the underground parking lot at the Museum Park, the plaza in Spangen) and it is now thinking about micro interventions in both the ZoHo and the Agniesebuurt (among others). The concrete landscape of the ZoHo is 75% non-permeable and 50% of the parking space (built for the offices in the area) is not in use. Further because the tidal water levels are fluctuating more than in the past, some of the underground housing plinths are deteriorating.
Residents and people that had ideas for the neighbourhood (like the 7 Seasons group, who are actively engaged in biodiversity enhancing activities in the city) were invited to propose them as part of the strategies suggested by De Urbanisten. These included façade gardens, water butts, green courtyards, blue infrastructure, public squares, de-paving, planting trees, bioswales and wadis. A preliminary brainstorming in groups involved thinking about spatial information on street use and width and addressing the current spatial weaknesses of the area (low permeability, unused parking space and degrading housing plinths). All the ideas were then combined into one or more visions for the area linking in environment, ecology, society and the economy and stating which actors would be working together to implement the micro projects.
(Source: De Urbanisten)
The four groups came up with a series of ideas and visions, which were ranked from 1 to 3 by each people present in the workshop. Four ideas, which partly combined similar suggestions from different groups, stood out among others:
- Inside/Outside: make better use of the south-west facing terraces in the neighbourhood which offer greening opportunities
- Socialize parking lots (de-paving): to increase the permeability of the neighborhood a percentage of the total unused parking space will be de-paved and handed over to interested citizens for temporary activities (such as gardens, car booth sales, street stalls)
- Greening the Hofbogen’s façade (the former train high-line): the high-line is the main westerly axis of the Agniesebuurt and is currently in a planning deadlock due to a raw between the two private owners. The former high-line has a huge potential and many local groups are interested in activating this space. By engaging with local residents and several small businesses currently having their offices in the warehouses below, a vertical green wall will be built on the façade of the high-line. This will contribute to reducing the heat island effect, and we hope, become a landmark in the neighbourhood
- Rainwater harvesting: to ease the rainwater pressure on the drainage system, Studio Bas Sala proposed a system of interconnected rainwater butts stretched across parts of the neighbourhood. The water collected can then be reused by local residents.
The workshop clearly tried to exploit this areas’ spatial problems and turn them into an opportunity for tweaking the landscape of the ZoHo and the Agniesebuurt. One of the key principles I learnt about how the Dutch do climate adaptation is to take advantage of the already scheduled works that the city will undergo to sneak in improvements that would make the city more responsive to, for instance, bouts of rainfall and heat stress. The neighbourhood is indeed scheduled for replacing its sewage piping system, and this is seen as the perfect opportunity for introducing small changes efficiently. The current municipal officers in the district of Noord are also pressing for action now before the heads of the department change in March of 2014. Another workshop is scheduled soon to come up with an Action Plan.