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Everytime we think about our future and our environment, the first thing that pops out in our head is ‘the climate change’. This particular issue has dominated our conversations, thoughts and future actions. This societal and ecological dilemma has sparked younger generation’s enthusiasm and developed a voice to challenge our government to take action. An excellent example is Greta Thunberg a 16 year old girl spearheaded a global movement to raise awareness on the effects of climate change.

The Paris AgreementWorld leaders during UNCC (Source: World Economic Forum)

The effects of climate change includes an increase of sea levels, abundance of severe weather and urban density problems are the topics that were discussed with Geoff Whitten on ‘Landscape Urbanism’ lecture. These effects are a threat that affects wide variety of scales from individual to entire neighbourhood. Furthermore, to mitigate and lessen the effects of climate change, the United Nation Climate Change has made The Paris Agreement with other countries as a collective effort to cut down the CO2 levels. The main aim of Paris Agreement is to strengthen the global response from climate change by keeping the global temperature below 2 degree Celsius. Additionally, “provide provision of financial resources, a technology framework and enhanced capacity-building is to be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries” (Unfccc.int., 2019).

7th Principle from The Landscape Urbanism Reader

In the lecture, Geoff Whitten discussed the 10 principles of Landscape Urbanism from The Landscape Urbanism Reader that can be applied to the principle of the Paris Agreement. However, out of the ten. I will unpack the 7th principle which stated “Landscape Urbanism Makes The Invisible Visible” (Thompson, 2012). The 7th principle entails the use of infrastructure and the public as a key driver to creatively regenerate the public space (Waldhiem, 2012). We have to let it organically grow to shape and organised itself regardless of its economic, political and social overbearing. It is creating space that is authentic and within its context of place, origin and scale that is relatable to everyone’s experience, harmonious to landscape and evoking a sense of place and belonging.

Ijburg’s Floating Homes

The 7th principle is applied on the Floating homes in Ijburg, Netherlands. It is a collection of floating houses that are built on artificial islands on Ij Lake in Amsterdam. It was their way to deal with housing issues due to housing shortages and its vulnerability of flooding -as more than 50% of the landmass of Netherlands are below sea levels (Ross and Paddison, 2019). The housing proposal accommodates a mix of floating condos and social housing. The main aim of this project is to create a close knitted neighbourhood for 45,000 people with all the basic necessities within the close proximity of the site such as library, parks, groceries, sport activities, school and etc (Ads.org.uk, 2019).

Floating Homes in Ijburg (Source: Author)

I was fortunate enough that I was able to have one to one interview with one of the residents of a young family of four who are currently living in the floating houses in Ijburg. This interview was held during the European Fieldtrip module for BA Architecture and Urban Planning. The housing scheme of floating houses offer a lifestyle quirks that both neighbours benefited by engaging a dialogue. For example, from my interview, houses are encourage a strong collaboration with neighbours when placing furnitures in their respective houses or else the entire infrastructure is unbalanced as it floats 2 meters above the sea ground. I believe this is a considered as a structural flaw in technical perspective. However, this way it passively forces homeowners to participate an interaction to their neighbours which it could be a start of forming relationships. Secondly, the majority of the homeowners are young families. The site accommodates school, shops, day care centres, parks and etc at walking distances which attracts young families or couples that are about to have their own. Thirdly, the first community that came to Ijburg has established a close knitted community which gives a warm welcome to anyone who just recently moved in. They have events such as BBQ sessions during summer, egg hunting during easter, exchanging gifts during Christmas and birthday invites.

The principle of “Landscape Urbanism Makes The Invisible Visible” is applied in context of Ijburg as it emphasises a great sense of belonging and community. The Ijburg floating house proposal is a people centric design that caters families whilst providing the basic necessities within walkable distances with great waterfront views that entice residents to be engage into the landscape. This way, the entire neighbourhood have a stronger relationships and connections as well as their well being, thus creating a space where it has huge impact socially. 

The question is, has the housing scheme in Ijburg appeal in terms of adapting climate change such as rising of sea levels and urban density? Personally, the housing project has given an alternative methods of building typology that is resistant and adaptable. In the global context, billions of people are currently living in flood prone areas in Lagos, Philippines, Indonesia, Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro just naming a few (Holder, Kommenda and Watts, 2019). This can be another solution that we can propose to our government with the help of Paris Agreement financial resources. Countries with large flood risk zones can build prototypes and conduct intensive study using Ijbugh floating technology to research and innovate using local sustainable materials. 

 

Reference:

Ads.org.uk. (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.ads.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/7799_final-ijburg-case-study.pdf [Accessed 28 Dec. 2019].

Holder, J., Kommenda, N. and Watts, J. (2019). The three-degree world: cities that will be drowned by global warming. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/ng-interactive/2017/nov/03/three-degree-world-cities-drowned-global-warming [Accessed 28 Dec. 2019].

Ross, E. and Paddison, L. (2019). Floating homes: a solution to flooding, crowded cities and unaffordable housing. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/oct/29/floating-homes-architecture-build-water-overcrowding-cities-unaffordable-housing [Accessed 28 Dec. 2019].

Thompson, I. (2012). Ten Tenets and Six Questions for Landscape Urbanism. Landscape Research, [online] 37(1), pp.7-26. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01426397.2011.632081?scroll=top&needAccess=true&instName=Newcastle+University [Accessed 27 Dec. 2019].

Unfccc.int. (2019). What is the Paris Agreement? | UNFCCC. [online] Available at: https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/what-is-the-paris-agreement [Accessed 27 Dec. 2019].

Waldhiem, C. (2012). The landscape urbanism reader. New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press.

One response to “The rising of sea levels and floating homes in Netherlands”

  1. Thank you for sharing your personal experience of the floating houses in Ijburg, Van!

    It isn’t surprising that we are yet again learning such valuable lessons from The Netherlands. It was extremely interesting to hear how your interview with the residents showed how building quirks and flaws force neighbours to enter a conversation together, and therefore create a sense of community which also increases the safety of the development. People might assume that living on water would be a lonely, cold and isolated lifestyle, however these dynamics enable the residents to feel both the freedom of a mobile home and the togetherness of a longstanding community.

    I would also like to answer your question ‘has the housing scheme in Ijburg appeal in terms of adapting climate change such as rising of sea levels and urban density?’ In summary – yes! On one hand – of course floating houses are not capable of preventing the actual rise in sea levels themselves. But they do offer the resident a more sustainable structure in terms of its low energy usage, lightweight structure and minimal waste during construction [1]. After visiting these floating houses, myself, I discovered that living so close to the water, almost at one with nature the inhabitants felt a higher sense of responsibility. The residents were more inclined to act in a sustainable way, therefore, having a less damaging effect on the environment and a more respectful relationship with their surroundings.

    As for rising sea levels, these homes fit in harmoniously with their environment, moving simultaneously with water. This allows them to compliment and work with their environmental context, rather than against it. Suggesting that the floating houses have in-built flood defences, instead of the house being flooded, they simply rise and fall with the changing water levels [2].

    In terms of urban density, The Ijburg floating house development is located seven kilometres east from the centre of Amsterdam, connected to central station by public transportation [3]. This high density surrounding the public transport node reduces urban sprawl and limits car usage. The schools, shops and parks which you informed us about which are all walking distance, making this community a compact and connected development.

    I strongly feel that this development has created a successful place in terms of sustainability, supporting a healthy resident lifestyle, tackling flood prevention whilst working with nature and by ultimately providing beautifully serene housing so close to a busy city centre. Thank you for sharing, Van!

    References

    [1] Frearson, A. (2015). Prefabricated floating house can be transported to lakes and waterways worldwide. dezeen. [online] Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2015/10/19/floatwing-prefabricated-floating-house-shipped-worldwide-university-of-coimbra-portugal/ [Accessed 30 Dec. 2019].
    [2] Ross, E. and Paddison, L. (2016). Floating homes: a solution to flooding, crowded cities and unaffordable housing. The Guardian. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/oct/29/floating-homes-architecture-build-water-overcrowding-cities-unaffordable-housing [Accessed 30 Dec. 2019].
    [3] Maps.gvb.nl. (2016). GVB. [online] Available at: http://maps.gvb.nl/en/lijnen/26/dienstregeling [Accessed 30 Dec. 2019].

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School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

Tel: 0191 208 6509

Email: nicola.rutherford@ncl.ac.uk


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