Airport and Region

Client: Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment Year: 2012
Output: Spatial models for the future development of Schiphol Airport and the Amsterdam Metropolitan Region.
Project: How to balance future economic developments in the Amsterdam Metropolitan region with the noise pollution contours of one of Europe’s busiest airports? Although limits of the noise contours have been legally set, the way they could be interpreted varies. This opens a playing field in which local politics, private parties and environmental agents act and follow their individual interests. The project entitled SMASH generated three spatial models of the playing field until 2040 through a series of large conferences and workshops with many stakeholders involved. These models are input for the national policy of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment for the airport and the metropolitan region around.

Dynamic Flood Control

As reported in the Economist this week, Ho Chi Minh City “must take drastic action to prevent flooding”. The low-lying city with over 8 million inhabitants could learn from the Dutch that developed Smart strategies to cope with peak levels in its rivers.
According to the Economist “yet nearly half of the city lies less than one metre above sea level…”and scientists say groundwater extraction in Ho Chi Minh City causes land subsidence may be having a huge unseen effect to the city of which nearly 70% is already vulnerable to extreme flooding.”…”Flood risks are rising in Ho Chi Minh City’s lower lying districts, in part because the property boom that accompanied Vietnam’s 2007 entry to the World Trade Organisation led many developers to build wherever they could” and because of “poor immigrants who build flimsy shacks in the city’s swampy outskirts”. Instead of only investing in a plan that comprises of over 170 km of dikes to protect urban areas Dutch strategies like the ‘Room for the River’ program might offer new useful insights in how to create flood-control solutions that are sustainable. The Dutch ‘Room for the River’ program is not fighting the water with investing in dikes that have to be heightened every decade. ‘Room for the River’ offers a dynamic systems that offers solutions for the increasing amounts of water in the Dutch rivers and the gradually subsiding land behind the dikes. The ‘Room for the River’ project literally creates more room for the river and with that guaranteeing the safety of over 4 million people living in risk areas along it. Work is carried out in more than 30 locations and interventions comprise of for example high water channels that branches of the river and offer separate routes for high water or temporary water storage areas.
Some of the interventions go hand in hand with the development of urban areas that take water management as a basis for urban planning. The ‘Room for the River’ program is more than progressive engineering. Above all it is a paradigm shift from a defensive ‘total control’ attitude towards a concept with a dynamic system that creates new spatial opportunities within the river landscape. The dynamics of the Dutch water system itself is accurately mapped by ‘Rijkswaterstaat’ the governmental department that is responsible for the design and maintenance of the main infrastructure facilities in the Netherlands.  Reliable water data is of great importance for controlling the flood barriers, sluices and pumping stations and the assessment of water quality. Therefore ‘Rijkswaterstaat’s measures include the daily tides, wave height and water quality. They also calculate water levels and wave forecasts. Something for Ho Chi Minh City to have a look at. To have total control with ‘hardware’ like dikes only will on the long term be very money-consuming. The dynamic ‘Room for the River’ project together with accurate data on water levels (the ‘software’) will set the example for future flood-control solutions across the globe. For a short introduction on the ‘Room for the River’ project have a look at the corporate video of Rijkswaterstaat. Picture: Ho Chi Minh City by Brian K. Smith. Sources: SmartCityStudio, Rijkswaterstaat, the Economist.

Community Mortgage

“In many poor and developing countries, land markets, prevailing policies, practices and institutions limit many of the working poor’s access to secure tenure and adequate land for housing. The Philippines is one such country, where patterns of urban growth and development make it difficult for the poor to remain in the cities where employment and other opportunities exist.”

“Through the Community Mortgage Program, the Government lends funds to informal settlers organized as a community association, making it possible for them to buy a piece of land that they can occupy permanently. The land can be on-site, presently occupied by the community, or an entirely new site to where the community intends to relocate. The CMP also offers loans for site improvement and house construction even if, in reality, the majority of CMP loans are issued for the acquisition of land. The CMP was designed to be a demand-driven approach; it is the community that needs assistance that decides to participate in the programme and initiates the process. In an on-site project, informal settlers can obtain ownership of the land they occupy by buying it through a community mortgage loan. One of the requirements is a subdivision plan, where the houses and plots are then re-aligned or re-blocked to conform to minimum subdivision standards. An off-site project, on the other hand, requires relocation to another area that the community chooses and purchases.”

“To be eligible for loans, informal settlers have to have a homeowners’ association (HOA) with at least nine households but no more than 200. After an association has complied with the minimum requirement and met certain criteria, the Social Housing Finance Corporation approves the mortgage and advances payment to the landowner. The group loan is payable monthly for up to 25 years at 6 per cent interest per annum. The land to be purchased serves as collateral for the loan. The HOA is considered to be the borrower.Throughout the process, it is responsible for preparing documentary requirements, negotiating with the landowner, collecting the monthly amortizations of itsmember-beneficiaries, and ensuring that their financial obligations to the lending institution are met. The HOA also enforces sanctions on community members, and oversees the re-blocking and enforcement of the subdivision plan.”

“The Philippines is the fourth most populous nation in East Asia. Growing at an average rate of 2 per cent annually, the population is currently 92 million, of which an estimated 63 per cent live in urban areas. Metro Manila, or the National Capital Region (NCR), is the largest urban centre in the Philippines. At present, its 16 cities and one urban municipality together had an estimated population of 12 million. If the current trend prevails, the Philippines is projected to be 70 per cent urban in less than a decade with an urban population of around 86 million. Unregulated urban growth and acute poverty have resulted in severe housing problems. Of the roughly 10 million Filipino families living in cities today, an estimated 3.1 million lack security of tenure with 2.7 informal settler households in Metro Manila alone according to data from the National Housing Authority in 2007.” Source: Innovative urban tenure in the Philippines, summary report, UN-Habitat / Global Land Tool Network. Picture: Christoph Mohr

Shared Space

Shared space creates safer and more attractive streets. The concept of shared space is based on the idea that less traffic design, like traffic lights, asphalt and curbstones, creates more cautious drivers. The concept of Shared space has been introduced by a Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman. His Shared space concept has put the relation between traffic behavior and the design of public space on the cities’ agenda. Shared space concepts have been materialized successfully in many cities. The Guardian of last year reported on Exhibition Road in London: “The first thing to say about the remaking of Exhibition Road in London is how sane it largely is. Its concept is unimpeachable – to make a thoroughfare lined with famous museums and other institutions into a place more pleasant for the 11 million pedestrians who visit them each year. Its execution is well-judged, apart from the not-small detail that blind people find it alarming. Yet it has taken 18 years since something along these lines was first put forward, plus £29.2m, a court case and endless consultations, to get to this point. How difficult can it be to lay a pavement? Very, it would seem. The road was first developed following the Great Exhibition of 1851 and has the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum, Imperial College, the Royal Geographical Society and the Goethe Institute along its length, not to mention the Polish Hearth Club and a curious, spiritual-modernist-ish building that houses the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Like many spaces made in the aftermath of expos and world fairs, it has always had an uncertain air: it is wide and straight, which gives it a sense of purpose, but the biggest museums present only their side entrances to it, while strips of what were originally private houses blur its identity. Is it a grand avenue of culture, a convenient side street or residential? If it is the first, it is too variegated; if the last, it is too broad”…….”Its big idea, which originated with Moylan, was to create a “shared space” whereby pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles all occupy the same surface, without kerbs or barriers to separate them. It seems risky, but the theory is that if walkers and drivers can see that they are occupying the same space, they will behave more responsibly.”…..”The overall effect is of generosity and calm. Crowds can flow more happily over the paving and the route from South Kensington tube to the great museums, which was always a tricky one unless you took a long subway, is now a pleasure. The road is a place where you might want to be, rather than just a means of getting someone else. It is not fussy and prescriptive, as public space improvements often are.” Sources: The Guardian, Exhibition Road, Wikipedia. Picture:


Street plinth strategy

Friday January 11th the book ‘City at eye level, lessons for street plinths’ has been launched in Rotterdam. According to the website

“The plinths of the city are the ground floors that negotiate between the inside and the outside, between the public and the private: this is the city at eye level. Plinths are extremely important for the urban experience, which in turn is an important driver for the urban economy. The plinths might cover only 10% of the building, but determine 90% of the experience. While walking, you consciously and subconsciously examine the immediate eye-level surroundings and absorb any details.

Our book shows you how a good plinth “works” for a better street at eye level. It contains concrete and inspiring examples of strategies for design, land use/programme, the relation to the street, passenger flows and the collaboration of partners. The book is a collection of stories from over 25 experts all over the world: a collective product with lessons from planners, owners, managers and designers. In addition to many international examples and case studies, the book contains several interviews and research articles. It concludes with practical lessons for the reader to put into practice in their own cities.”

The city at eye level promotes a plinth strategy for the city in order to give an impulse to the urban experience and the urban economy.

Pavement lighting









According to Organic Green Roots: ‘photoluminescent Core Glow pebbles provide an interesting, almost ethereal feature to outdoor design. When the eco-friendly pebbles are exposed to light sources, (solar or otherwise) the special light capturing pigment within them becomes chemically excited and will ‘glow’ once that light source is removed. The luminescent material is a multi-activated, highly efficient powder cultivated from the earth, that enables light-storing with a long afterglow.

When added to a concrete driveway and exposed to the sun, the pebbles will store enough energy to illuminate a dark pathway all night long, initially very radiant, then slowly dissipating as dawn arrives. With only 10-20 minutes of exposure to daylight or lamplight, the pebbles can maintain their afterglow for about 10-12 hours.

The CORE Glow pebbles are non-radioactive, non-toxic and environmentally friendly. They can be implemented in a variety of  landscaping,  custom concrete or masonry needs. The material is a inert long lasting recyclable plastic but are also available in a recycled glass.  Both last an average of 20 years.

So what makes them glow? A chemical element called Strontium aluminate; and an activator, Europium is added – this causes a chemical reaction, creating the glow. The material is biologically and chemically inert, so completely safe for home use.

These pebbles are primarily an esthetic element that can add a new layer to hardscape designs but certain applications will help to greatly reduce pathway lighting costs. Since the CORE Glow products require no electricity, no power supply and no batteries they saves natural resources and offer an alternative to traditional pathway lighting.’

Disaster control

Hurricane Sandy has made it ever more clear: disaster control or emergency managment should be a priority in urban development and urban managment. People keep moving to urban areas, which become vulnerable when it comes down to natural disasters. Not in the least because they are often situated along coastlines and in delta’s. Here the impact of heavy weather and flooding this could cause is a primary concern. Disaster control or emergency managment requires some basic but elaborative concepts which are described by the ‘Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHS)‘ of the U.S.A. These include among others: Emergency Sheltering Provision, Dam Safety Preparedness and a Hazard Analysis Program. Emergency Sheltering requirements foresee in the provision of safe havens for large populations. These shelters require good accessibility and large scale sanitary infrastructure for example. Dam Safety Preparedness regulates the condition of the Dams in New York State. According to the DHS ‘There are approximately 400 high-hazard (Class C) and nearly 800 moderate-hazard (Class B) dams that pose a threat to jurisdictions in the event of a dam failure. Approximately 70 of the high-hazard dams produce hydroelectric power’..The Hazard Analysis Program ‘Hazny’, ‘is an automated hazard analysis program. HAZNY asks questions concerning hazards that you face and, based upon your responses, rates and ranks each hazard. It includes guidance on organizing a team approach in conducting the hazard analysis’. Planning and controlling cities in order to secure safety is a Smart approach but not new at all. The lay-out of many historic towns worldwide has been based on the concept of security, though disaster control in those days was primarely related to military defense. Safety and emergency managment has been on top of the urban agenda sinds 9/11, Hurricane Sandy is stressing again the necessity for a Smart infrastructure to cope with natural disasters. That might prevent New York against flooding and another blackout.

Picture above: ADA Security Checklist for emergency Shelters. On top: New York Magazine cover, photograph by Iwan Baan.

Creative spaces for safety

In the summer of 2007 the ‘Coalition Project 1012’ started. This collaborative project initiated by the municipality, intends to reduce crime and to contribute to the economic upgrading of the postcode area 1012, the Red Light District in Amsterdam. 1012 is located in the heart of historic Amsterdam and is a major attraction for visitors from home and abroad. In order to maintain and improve this condition the Red Light District should be diversified. One of the applied strategies is a street-oriented one. Quite some red light windows and coffeeshops will dissappear after negotiation with the owners. To upgrade the street, ‘streetteams’ will be established who together with the inhabitants and entrepreneurs will make a vision for the street or a cluster of streets. Together with parties who already have position in the area a strategy to buy property has been set up. This property gets another function. Successful is to attract the creative industry. This sector feels at home within urban and ‘rawer’ conditions and are not scared off by the dubious industry which is just around the corner. The 1012 project already added several interesting creative spaces to the Red Light District like Ultra de La Rue Creative Space on the picture below. In the Rua General Jardim in São Paulo a similar strategy upgraded a  prostitution street with the addition of a school for architecture, the Escola de Cidade and the Instituto de Arquitetos do Brasil. This resulted in a weird mix of functions and people on the street, but above all it established a safer and more attractive street in downtown São Paulo.

Light, color and sound for safety

A recent Dutch study researched the impact of atmosperic variables on the experience of safety among others. Safety in cities is regarded often from the ‘objective’ point of perspective. The subjective side of the matter is just as important. Many ‘objective’ safe neighbourhoods are being experienced as ‘unsafe’. Light, color and sound can add to the feeling of safety. Since many years underground parking is often well-lit and plays music at night. Although lightdesign will not prevent you from being robbed, it could make underground cityscapes much more attractive during day- and nighttime. Furthermore dedicated well-lit bikepaths could offer attractive ‘safe’ nightlanes in the city.

lightdesign: Herman Kuier