Wednesday April 02, 2014 – Day 04 Marker Wadden Charrette

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Packing up from our stay at the Lange Jammer hotel on the harbor, students had a chance to tour the waterfront in the morning, then we worked again at Lelystad’s new “Sustainability Shop” on the main square.

We had the pleasure of two presentations, one from Jasper Fiselier, engineer at Royal HaskoningDHV for the Marker Wadden project. Jasper was very generous with his time, and explained in depth the hydraulic processes of the Markermeer.

In the afternoon, Mennobart van Eerden, avian biologist with the Rijkswaterstaat, spoke about avian habitat, ecological processes, and the significance of robust bird populations in the Markermeer area.

We also celebrated Jan Wouter Bruggenkamp’s birthday with delicious tarts that he brought us–thank you Jan Wouter!

After the presentations, we trained back to Utrecht for more days of working and desk reviews to prepare for final presentations next Wednesday. Design teams write about their progress below:

Lindsay Hawks, Alex Hill
The Marker Wadden charrette has raised many questions for us as design students, both technical and cultural. The idea of creating a silt based island, a feat with few precedents, suits the inventive Dutch. In a lake that used to be a sea, we are currently grasping at the methods and tactics that will help form land from silt, protect the soft material from erosion, and also blend the land into the waterscape. This will decrease the turbidity of the lake water, improve aquatic habitat and provide bird habitat. It’s exciting to work on a project that has a strong ecological focus, but is also open to recreational ideas. The horizontality of the Dutch landscape, and the local love of the Markermeer has shaped how the “land” will blend into its lake surrounding. No trees allowed, as not to mar the feel of the lake as vast blue open. It seems to demand a new name for itself, not quite island. A place where water and land form a continuous spacial concept, as they interplay in a mixed field.  The triple point of ecological space making.

The first day of the charrette was like building a puzzle in the dark. We weren’t aware of the shape of most pieces, or even their locations on the table before us. We were just clinching onto the few ones we had, jamming them into whatever other piece we could find with our wandering hands. It was stressful and they weren’t all fitting. However, the research and concepts are starting to work together now and are beginning to take shape. We are excited.

Grace Larson, Joseph Nowak, Shiyue Zhang
The idea of designing an island still seems daunting no matter how many times Vince reminds us to “not overthink it.” Our first day of preliminary design consisted of a three-hour exercise with three categories of focus – community, ecology, and economic development. Our community plan prioritized the need to have a high traffic area and the need for more intimate, quieter spaces differentiated by high and low ground. Our ecology plan prioritized varied shorelines and edge conditions that can shift over time and only allows limited human access dictated by seasonality. Finally, our economic development plan prioritized the need to have a large harbor with more trafficked areas for gathering and exploring, with smaller, intimate islands with holiday rental cabins for more private leisure.

After a very informative day of lectures from Jasper, an engineer, and Minnobart, an ecologist, we are beginning to reevaluate our approach from designing a static plan to designing a series of systems and conditions that will facilitate a wide range of habitats. Natuurmonumenten’s project timeline embraces this more hands-off process, as well, giving the contractor a set of guidelines and expectations, rather than a final design. The rest is up to the contractor. During his presentation, Jasper explained that giving the contractor a set of designs costs twice as much as installing the structural framework and letting the natural processes of wind and waves build the rest. This is very different from how we usually tackle a design project, so we will have to think very hard to avoid “overthinking,” in order to stay focused and keep ourselves in check.

Spencer Bauer, Rachel Kerber, Nicole Ponath
After the presentation from Jasper Fiselier, we were inspired by the amount and depth of information he shared with us. Coming from an engineering perspective, he successfully relayed detailed and technical fluvial dynamic concepts to an audience of landscape architects in a visual and compelling way.  His ability to answer questions we didn’t even know we had yet was something we found to be surprising and inspiring. As overwhelming as this information was it was extremely beneficial for this stage in the design process. Understanding these concepts is going to be crucial when developing a framework for the constructs and boundaries of the island as well as the development and processes over time.

As we begin to move to the design stage of this project we are trying to keep our focus towards a set of goals and allow the natural processes to shape the form, function, and focus of the island ecosystem. The important step for us is to set the stage for the transformation of the island from a set of barriers to a fully functional system with varying edge conditions.  Although this sounds a lot easier than it may prove to be we are extremely excited to take on the challenge of such an exciting project for The Netherlands. We can only hope to match the enthusiasm of the many professionals who have been directly involved and engaged with us throughout this experience.

Rachel Burand, Bingquin Huang, Jody Rader
Tuesday’s meeting with Laura Bromet, a stakeholder manager with Natuurmonumenten was particularly enlightening, and gave us further insight into not only the Dutch construct of nature, but also into the ideals and values shared by people who live on the Markermeer. Regarding the Marker Wadden project, we learned that residents along the coast of the Markermeer are (in general) in favor of the island project because of the ecological aspect. This is mostly because of the benefits that it will provide to water quality and also to the recreational fishing industry (which is currently almost non-existent). Laura described many of the desires that stakeholders have expressed regarding the design and form of the island. The Dutch, and especially those who live along the former sea-coast, strongly value views of expanse. We have experienced this in nearly every place we have visited. This means that the desire to be able to look across the Markermeer, and see a blurred horizon, indicating an infinite amount of horizontal space, is very important. Translation: trees, as seen from the shores (approximately 5km away), are not a welcomed sight. As students of landscape architecture, this sounded sacrilegious at first. Then we let it sink in over the course of the day. While riding home from the Oostvaarderplassen, we found ourselves searching for the ‘infinity’ horizon, as well.

The park where we went was a treasure land hiding outside of the city. In that park, we enjoyed walking through different spaces. Golden reeds under the sun, muddy paths, wind, the lake and sound of birds were forming a beautiful and natural scene together. We also had a good birds watching experience. Looking out from the birds watching cabin, it was a big contrast between light and dark, nature life and human activity. We really liked sitting in the cabin, feeling the wind, hearing birds’ singing and sunshine through the windows. The process of a bird picking branches for building its nest totally attracted attention; the wildlife was really close. Animals like deer and foxes were bonuses to our park experiences; we really enjoyed what we learned and what we saw in that park

After conducting site analysis and hearing Laura’s feedback from community stakeholders, we began compiling initial ideas for the Markerwadden island. Each group was tasked with creating three proposals–one each to focus on community, ecology, and economic development. Our group proposed multi-modal access (including a zip line) to a recreational-focused island in response to the community’s feedback. Our ecology design utilized a variety of edges, landforms (above and below water), and water spaces (permanent and temporary shallow pools) to create habitat for birds and fish. To design for economic development, we proposed a series of eco-lodges built within an armored dike along with a mussel farm, aquatic playground, and boat rental. In the next week, we will draw from this charrette exercise, our experience of the Oostvaardersplassen, and upcoming lectures on water ecology to shape our final design.

A.J. Evert, Karen Criales, Hang Su
There are many tasks that come with designing space that, at present, reflect a number of differing ideals about nature in the Netherlands. The Marker Wadden charrette experience so far, has encompassed thinking about a range of topics that deal with this idea of ecology in the Netherlands. This complex issue is then tossed into a pot with different stakeholder’s wants and needs, as well as construction and longevity of designed nature spaces in the Markermeer.  After working in groups to understand large and small-scale contextual issues, and then synthesizing this group work into community, ecological, and developmental focused plans, new design groups are tasked with designing ecological processes that inform successful programs.

Our group is in the process of understanding how designing an ecological process translates into physical programing of space. These ideas begin with the ecological scale, which can range from micro to massive over many different layers. The creation of these islands will consist of layering water, land, and air. Creating a strong anchor as a starting point to build off of and organize these scales and layers will be critical. A strong anchor such as a break wall, or silt trap is one example. Once these anchors are realized, materiality will play a strong role in defining space, creating views, and displaying the softness of Dutch light in order to create a memorable experience for visitors, but also a successful ecological program.