03-29-05 Master class Flood Resistant Housing by Greg Lynn

The Berlage Institute, in collaboration with the Technical University Delft and the Rotterdam Academy of Architecture, organize the master class Flood Resistant Housing as part of the International Architecture Biennale in Rotterdam. The theme for the biennale is the Flood. The master class will challenge the participants to explore solutions for housing that can withstand the flood.

In Holland there is a program of redesigning the river landscape due to new calculations on flood risks. The Netherlands is a low-lying country in the delta of the Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt Rivers. More than half the land lies below sea level and fifteen per cent of the surface area consists of water. Half of this area is inland freshwater: rivers, lakes, pools, canals, brooks and marshes, bearing testimony to the fact that the Netherlands is a country dominated by water.
Our climate is changing, the sea level is rising, soil is eroding and there is increased precipitation. In the coming years, the excessive quantity of water will mean that technical measures, such as dyke-raising will, in themselves, no longer be sufficient. If we want to keep the Netherlands, most of which lies under sea level, safe and inhabitable in the future, the water must be given more space again, before it takes back that space itself. Historically our defense against floods has been to raise dikes. However this caused problems related to displacement of houses situated near the dikes. Also the risk of serious damage also rises when the dikes are ever higher. If they break the water has so much energy that it will destroy everything in its way and increased levels and speed of flooding bring higher risks in case of a flood.

To turn this process around a program has been stated to find solutions that take on a new direction. This means finding solutions that are focused on widening the floodplain in order to give the flood more space in a horizontal rather than a vertical sense. Together with authorities in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and France, the Dutch ministry has drawn up plans of action for the Rhine and the Maas, which comprise a range of high water protection measures. These include the relocation of dykes, the leveling of foreland areas, the creation of retention areas, and the excavation of side channels. In this way, rivers are reallocated part of their natural space. These are however also very difficult options in a densely populated country such as the Netherlands.

Architecture is conventionally conceived as being inert, vertically structured and shaped by purely visual forces. In addition, design often begins from an abstract tabula rasa or uniform extensive plane of the grid. Instead of thinking about housing from the perspective of vertical force and the horizontal extension of the grid, the master class students will be asked to design in a milieu of hydrodynamic forces. The ground will be the first task and housing will be thought aqueous drawing on the fields of civil engineering, landscape and naval design. As an assignment to be prepared prior to the master class, participants are asked to develop an innovative solution for a flood resistant building. The biennale is searching for housing solutions that are a little more daring and seek the confrontation with conditions in the newly formed floodplain. The goal is to give an innovative solution to building in the floodplain that is desirable to live in as well as functional and durable.

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