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Polder landscape

From November 5 up to and including November 19, 2015 the Institute of Poldering shows in BK-expo. At the opening event a booklet with the results of the course has been presented. The booklet can also be downloaded as pdf from TU Delft Repository. An impression of the ‘AR0048 – Landscape architecture ON site’ projects can be found on the dedicated website IOPM.

The opening event November 5:

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An impression of the exhibition:

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All photos made by Boya Zhang.

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‘Institute of Poldering – Landscape under construction’ is a project produced by students of the Faculty of Architecture for the Expedition program of Oerol 2015, Terschelling.1

The chair of Landscape Architecture of the Faculty of Architecture and Oerol have worked together for a couple of years already on the theme ‘Sense of Place’ of Oerol . This year the theme was enriched by a cooperation with Bird Life Netherlands in the project ‘Polderpracht Terschelling’.Other important themes are coastal dynamics and climate change. But first of all it is a study project in which 15 students of different disciplines learn about the Dutch landscape and landscape design from a scientific background.

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Due to the nature of the project, the group also learns how to cooperate, plan, realise and present a design project for 5000 visitors, and about fields related to an artistic project like visual arts and theatre. Teamwork and individual work are used together to generate a range of ideas. In the 2nd half of the project the emphasis is on teamwork and making choices that everyone can agree with.

For Birds-I-View three main themes have been put forward: meadow birds, the Terschelling Polder and climate change. To highlight all aspects as balanced as possible, we followed two tracks: the Oerol project, an artistic, interactive installation that communicates an idea or vision on meadow bird related issues, as well as examining the landscape of the Terschellinger Polder and create a design for it. Both tracks run parallel and influence and enrich each other.

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Within the course, the role of individual students has been re-defined continuously in order to have the maximum of knowledge and skills of individual group members available for the team. This group work represents the situation where the designer operates in, a multidisciplinary team trying to agree on goals and how to achieve them. Learning to discuss ideas in a constructive spirit is essential in this process; looking for similarities rather than differences, possibilities instead of limitations.

The result is a project that evaluates the human impact on nature, but also interdependencies between humans and nature. We see the landscape of the island as a large construction site, where man in the course of centuries has modified nature through various interventions, creating a constructed landscape, with positive and negative consequences. Meadow birds are attracted to the agricultural grassland habitat in the polder made by man , and now that they are there, we have a responsibility for them. Do we continue with profit maximization at the expense of meadow birds, or do we protect them at the expense of our profit? A question regarding the future is linked to this; do we prevent the polder from getting lost for agriculture by sea level rise and salinization, also causing grassland birds to disappear? And in what way?

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With these ingredients the group conceived a dynamic structure, which deformed and moved under the influence of choices visitors made and where they during participation in the transformation process gained insight into their choices and the consequences for their environment.

Oerol took place from June 12-22 2015. More images and videos can be watched at the IOPM website

Invitation

The chair of Landscape Architecture of the TU Delft cordially invites you for the opening of the exhibition ‘Institute of Poldering’ on Thursday, November 5, 2015, where we will look back at the project and forward to the next move.

We will also proudly present a booklet describing the project, from the first steps on Terschelling to gathering information, discussion, generating design ideas, realisation and running the project.

Programme

The exhibiton takes place in BK expo, the exhibition space of the Faculty of Architecture in the east wing.

17.00 BK expo open

17:30 Speech and opening

18.00 Drinks

Please RSVP with number of attendees to: Margo van der Helm | j.m.vanderhelm@tudelft.nl | telephone +31 15 27 81298

Address: Faculty of Architecture TU Delft | Julianalaan 134 | 2628 BL Delft

The exhibition can be visited from November 5 – 19, 2015 during regular business hours.


  1. This text has been published before in Bnieuws 09 2014 2015, http://issuu.com/bnieuws/docs/bnieuws_09_2014_2015

The dike as a landscape element takes on many shapes [1]. Depending on their form and location, dikes determine the ‘face’ of the Dutch polder landscape. Of course vegetation, land allotment and building development patterns also play an important role. Yet dikes are vital to the landscape’s appearance: apart from their form and location, their uninterruptedness defines spaces in a landscape and connects areas with each other. Dikes make differences in the polder landscape legible: a dike in a river landscape is different from one built in a sea-clay or peat landscape or the area around the IJsselmeer lake. Dikes therefore contribute to the identity and variety of the landscape. They simultaneously provide coherence, a sense of space and a rich variety of appearances. But how do you get a grip on the dikes’ spatial significance?

The seminal publication Het toekomstig landschap der Zuiderzeepolders (literally, ‘The future landscape of the Zuiderzee polders’ [1928]) provides some leads. In this manifesto of Dutch landscape architecture, planning experts such as D. Hudig and T. van Lohuizen described the importance of dikes as follows: ‘The dike is a significant element in every polder. Located on the border, it provides a view on one side of the landscape at its foot, unfolding its particular structure; on the other side it provides a view of the surrounding land, which often has a completely different character. The long, broad slope is one of the dike’s most beautiful features (. . .)’. From this, it can be inferred that a dike’s spatial significance depends on your vantage point, on the perspective you choose for reading and understanding dikes in the landscape. There are at least two different ways of looking at dikes: from the air and from the ground. In these vertical and horizontal perspectives features such as the dike’s course, cross-section and revetment always play a different role.

The course, cross-section and revetment of the dike exert great influence on its spatial significance. Plan for a new sea dike in the IJsselmeer area (Netherlands), Jacob van Hoorn, 1737 (source: TU Delft Library, Kaartencollectie Trésor TRL33.5.07)

The course, cross-section and revetment of the dike exert great influence on its spatial significance. Plan for a new sea dike in the IJsselmeer area (Netherlands), Jacob van Hoorn, 1737 (source: TU Delft Library, Kaartencollectie Trésor TRL33.5.07)

The view from the air

You get a bird’s eye view of the dike system regardless of whether you view it from the air or on a map. It becomes clear that dikes form spatial patterns that endow the landscape with structure. They provide cohesion in the landscape and are also the interface between land and water, or between different polders that are enclosed as spatial units. Dikes ‘frame’ different types of landscape and landscape units. Like the black lines that separate the pictures in a comic book, the dikes are the green lines that demarcate the Dutch landscape. This also means that dikes are connecting structures:  through cities and nature, they meander everywhere and connect the coast with the hinterland. This is significant, not only for plants and animals but also for humans.

Dike patterns also make the history of reclamation in the polder readable: in Friesland (NL), for example, you can see an intricate, irregular pattern of dikes and quays, an echo of the early individual reclamation that from the time of the Romans gradually developed into ring dikes; you can discern the haphazard process of diking accreted silted soil in Zeeland, and the systematic reclamation of the West-Frisian and Holland-Utrecht peat areas that started in the early Middle Ages. The ring dikes mark the areas of reclaimed land that have lain low in the landscape since the sixteenth century. Dike patterns are a record of the formative force of water and the way humans have dealt with it. Natural processes of sedimentation, erosion and stagnation through water provide the foundation for a rich variety of polder landscapes in the coastal, river and peat areas. Dikes also reflect technological progress, such as the Dutch Delta works, the Afsluitdijk (the enclosing dam of the IJsselmeer) and land reclamation in the IJsselmeer area. In a nutshell, the shape of a dike makes it possible to read how we have dealt with water: from the small-scale and winding in early times to the very large-scale and rectilinear today.

The development of the landscape expressed by the pattern of dikes, here visible on the island of Goeree Overflakkee (SW-Netherlands)  (drawing by: Michiel Pouderoijen, TU Delft)

The development of the landscape expressed by the pattern of dikes, here visible on the island of Goeree Overflakkee (SW-Netherlands) (drawing by: Michiel Pouderoijen, TU Delft)

The view from the ground

Viewing the dike from the ground means you stand on or next to the dike or see it from a distance. Here, conditions affecting visual perception such as vantage point, the viewer’s elevation and viewing direction, movement, and the weather play an important role. The interplay between the dike’s sideways slope, structure and revetment determine its spatial significance at eye level.

In the field, dikes are spatial borders: they determine the form of the landscape, the two- and three-dimensional composition of vertical elements that define the landscape space. The composition determines the scale, proportion, orientation and significance of the space. Every dike has its own specific characteristics, with form creating the connection between a landscape’s history and our spatial experience. Apart from the sideways slope, the cross-section and revetment are also important. The dike cross-section describes the dike’s height, the angle of inclination of its slope, and the width of the crest and the toe. This is important because a high, steep dike creates a different spatial effect from, say, a gently sloping wide dike. Whereas a steep dike makes a spatial border palpable, a dike with a gentle slope tones it down. Whether a dike is revetted with stones or only with grass also plays a role. The revetment is an indication of the function and use of the dike’s inside and outside, and it can create visual continuity or, in fact, contrast. Trees reinforce the three-dimensional effect of the dike but due to technical considerations they cannot always be planted.

The dike as landscape balcony at Wörlitz, Dessau (Germany) (photo: S. Nijhuis, 2013)

The dike as landscape balcony at Wörlitz, Dessau (Germany) (photo: S. Nijhuis, 2013)

Standing on a dike is like standing on a landscape balcony with sweeping views on either side – stretches of water or polder, or both. Movement plays an important role in how we experience these landscapes because there are often roads or cycle-paths on top of the dikes. Seen from the car or bicycle, aspects of the landscape succeed one another like a cinematic experience, as we float above the landscape. The straight or curved course of the dike then provides variation or calm and opens up perspectives on the landscape. Here, too, the cross-section strongly affects spatial experience: if the road and cycle-path are both located on the crest, for example, their width might diminish the special experience of the dike, whereas if the cycle-path is located on the dike’s flank more of the dike remains.

The dike’s continuity makes the landscape’s cohesion visible and connects the local with the supra-regional: in the Rhine-Meuse river area dikes follow the course of the rivers with  occasional sharp bends around deep lakes that bear silent witness to past dike breaches; in the peat area dikes support a system of drainage lakes and cut through the low-lying polder land; in the coastal area dikes are like the layers of an onion, enfolding and merging the land as it grew; and the dikes in the young IJsselmeer polders and the ring dikes around the polders of reclaimed lakes make it possible to experience the former stretches of water as landscape spaces.

Research through design exploring spatial qualities of re-enforced river dikes (source: Y. Feddes & F. Halenbeek, 1988)

Research through design exploring spatial qualities of re-enforced river dikes (source: Y. Feddes & F. Halenbeek, 1988, compilation: S.Nijhuis)

In conclusion

Taken together, these ways of looking create a basis for approaching the dike from a spatial perspective and endowing it with aesthetic landscape qualities. Thus, if work is carried out on a dike attention must be paid not only to safety and multi-functionality but also to scenic beauty. Carefully designing a dike’s course, cross-section and revetment ensures its contribution to the identity, spatial aspect and variation of a landscape. The design disciplines are vital here: landscape architects and urban planners play a key role in planning developments that affect the landscape, and they should take the lead in developing the expertise and tools to formulate the dike as an object of spatial design in a context of functionality and social embedding.

 

Note:

[1] This text is published as:  Nijhuis, S (2014). Dikes in focus. In EJ Pleijster & C van der Veeken (Eds.), Dutch dikes (pp. 72-75). Rotterdam: nai010 publishers. In Dutch: Nijhuis, S (2014). Oog voor de dijk. In EJ Pleijster & C van der Veeken (Eds.), Dijken van Nederland (pp. 72-75). Rotterdam: nai010 uitgevers. Both available at: http://www.nai010.com/dijkenvannederland

 

Smallest polder - plan overview

Polder Garden – bird’s eye view Campus Delft

Last year Michael van der Meer, the director of the Science Centre and Rolf Hut from the Faculty of Civil Engineering asked us to design the ‘smallest polder of the Netherlands’ at the Campus of TU Delft. We invited 5 students (Lowin van der Burg, Marij Hoogland, Linda Nijhof, Emma Ottevanger and Cem Steenhorst) from the faculty of Architecture, who invested quite some time next to their regular study program, to make a design. Denise Piccinini and myself from the department of Landscape Architecture coached them.

The project should demonstrate, especially to foreign guests and children, who visit the Science Centre, a typical piece of the man-made Dutch landscape.

Furthermore the polder should explain the principles of water management of the lowlands. Rain drops fall into the polder, are collected in the ditches, flow to the main canal and are discharged via the screw pump onto the ring canal that surrounds the polder.

Since the polder is very small and situated next to the Science Centre, neighboring a future international housing block we decided to design the polder as being garden. The image of the design should convince decision makers who are involved in planning process of TU Delft campus, that this Polder Garden can become an educational and spatial interesting hotspot. And moreover the first polder we, the Dutch, build in the Netherlands after having finished South Flevoland in 1968!

The Dutch have a rich tradition in creating polders, nowadays approximately 50% of the country consists of polder land. But the difficult and challenging task of land reclamation would never have been possible without a strong sense of solidarity and an urge for cooperation. That is the explanation most often heard for the historical origin of the consensus model in Dutch politics. This attitude got a new meaning in the eighties and nineties of the last century with the introduction of the ‘poldermodel’ in the relationship between employers, unions and government. Negotiations would have a better success rate if the parties seek a win-win situation instead of highlighting the contradictions. Since that time the verb “polderen” has been used for various forms of cooperation that aim to achieve compromise and consensus. But what is their connection?

The political landscape has changed dramatically since the beginning of the 21st century, polarization was socially acceptable again, with major implications for the relationship between politics and society. Have we forgotten how to ‘polder’ since the last reclamation (in 1968)? One could possibly speak of the ‘ontpoldering’ of politics.

In 2005, the Chair of Landscape Architecture started a study on the spatial characteristics of the Dutch polder landscape for the 2nd International Architecture Biennial Rotterdam. By “naming the special characteristics and the reduction to a compositional model “(1) we could make ‘polder modellen’, scale models of 14 polders that showed the structure and components that the polder is made of. The exhibition resulted, after another 5 years of work, in ‘The Polder Atlas of the Netherlands’ (2) a massive design atlas for the polder landscape, which in turn was the start of several consecutive research projects.

Polder model of the Noordoostpolder for the exhibition ‘Polders – the scene of land and water’ in 2005 (4)

With the debate around the Hertogin Hedwigepolder the series of polder studies by the Chair of Landscape Architecture gets a present-day significance. The Hertogin Hedwigepolder is a relatively young (1907) and small (306 ha) agricultural polder at the border between Belgium and the Netherlands that has been proposed to be ‘ontpolderd’ (de-embanked) as compensation for the loss of natural values due to the dredging of the seaway in the Westerschelde. Belgium and the Netherlands signed several agreements on the accessibility of the port of Antwerp (3). To make things more complex, the Westerschelde is also a designated Natura 2000 area since 2009, with strict requirements for the maintenance of natural habitats. The dikes would be removed, and the polder would become a saline marsh. The proposal was met with a stubborn ‘no, we will not give up agricultural land’ by the local population, although there are very little alternative options (see for example the website ‘Red onze polders‘). The last compromise is a combination of cutting bits and pieces of several polders along the Westerschelde and improving natural values of mudflats.

Topographical map of the Hertogin Hedwigepolder, just after completion in 1907 (5)

Presently we have come to realize that the way we have engineered the delta is not sustainable indefinitely. Among others, climate change, development of cities and industry and nature, all demand a part of the scarce space. In many areas there are problems to be resolved with water quality and quantity. To accommodate these changes, knowledge of the existing polder landscape and the development of adaptation models is crucial. We can do better than just removing dikes, by a more careful transformation a beautiful new landscape could be created. To achieve this, connections between spatial and political issues should become apparent again. We are happy to be part of this process by developing both “polder-” and “ontpoldermodellen” and develop design tools as medium for negotiations. Perhaps even politicians can learn from us.

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Current polder related research:

Digitale polderatlas (pilot)

Bobbink, I. Water in Zicht (Amsterdam 2012)

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(1) Van den Heuvel, B., Reh, W. en Steenbergen, C.M. Poldermodellen. Het Hollandse landschap als bouwdoos (Delft, 2005)

(2) Steenbergen, C.M., Reh, W., Nijhuis, S., Pouderoijen, M.T. The Polder Atlas of the netherlands. Pantheon Of The Low Lands (Bussum 2009)

(3) Scheldeverdragen, among others: Verdrag tussen het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden en het Vlaams Gewest betreffende de uitvoering van de ontwikkelingsschets 2010 Schelde-estuarium, Middelburg, 21 december 2005, Tractatenblad 2005, nr. 310

(4) Photo by Hans Krüse

(5) Chromo-topographische kaart van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden, sheet 703, partly revised in 1908. Map room TU Delft