When artist Jorge Bakker came up with an idea to fill an aquarium with floats containing model trees, little did he expect his installation to turn into reality. Trying to raise questions regarding the relationship between nature and people living in cities, Bakker surely couldn’t imagine that his concept would be recognized as something that should actually be given an opportunity to thrive in real life through groundbreaking architectural concepts.
Naturally, such recognition could only have come from people who understand, love and respect nature and who had to learn so much about it before making the most of what it gave them. So, if you find yourself in Rotterdam and see floating trees rooted in buoys next to the Floating Pavilion, another landmark in this Dutch city, it doesn’t mean your mind is playing tricks on you. On the contrary, you’ll be treated with one of the most eye-catching and original installations in this part of the world.
Moving towards the modern city center, you might come across a square tucked in between a 19th-century church and a long linear block containing houses, offices, a theater and two schools. This unused and dull space often used to be flooded, since it rains quite a lot in Rotterdam.
Most other places would have solved this problem differently, but not the local city council. A significant investment was made to convert this square into one of the most interesting and vibrant places in Rotterdam. Namely, three pools were created which fill up with water when it rains, and are then used as sports playgrounds and dancefloors. The Water Square is now one of the most popular attractions among both the locals and tourists.
Floating park, hotel,…
Another fascinating idea related to water and its preservation is the emerging Recycled Park, whose purpose is to use recycled plastic to create litter traps for marine litter, thus preventing it from entering the North Sea. The more plastic is retrieved, the bigger the Park will grow. However, the most important impact is, by all means, the protection of water.
And it is more than obvious that Rotterdam is not going to stop there. The list of projects being currently developed includes a floating subdivision of houses, a floating dairy farm and a floating hotel, deep down in the harbor, at the Innovation Dock.
Now, you might wonder how come the citizens of Rotterdam are so keen to manage water so carefully. The answer is pretty simple, actually. With almost two-thirds of their country below the sea level and their own town situated around six meters below the sea level, it’s clear that local authorities have to make the most of the advantages that water provides.
As we have seen, they often have to come up with innovative solutions, such as those for emergency storage during heavy downpours and systems for a delayed discharge of rainwater, which ensures that the city has enough high-quality water even during the driest spells.
That’s why the water storage is omnipresent in Rotterdam, with green roofs doing their part in creating a healthy, sustainable environment. They absorb rainwater, lower the runoff, which in turn leads to less pressure on the sewage system.
For almost a decade now, the City of Rotterdam has been running a subsidy scheme for supporting the installation of green roofs on private residential buildings, so more and more people are using this opportunity to improve their living conditions, help the environment and lower the installation costs.
It’s pretty obvious that Rotterdam has not only turned its potentially most dangerous enemy as a means of improving the quality of life of its citizens but has also made it a tourist attraction. It’s widely accepted that Rotterdam’s example is one of the best in terms of collaboration among key stakeholders and experts. Many have been calling it the “water city of the future” for quite some time now, and rightfully so. The way this city uses water should also help us all in our struggle to deal with the climate changes and the consequences they bring.