The High Ground: Exhibition on water safety as leverage for sustainable urban development
5 July 2021
Dordrecht is extremely vulnerable to flooding. The city is located between the sea and major rivers, so its water safety strategy must consider the unlikely possibility of dikes breaking and the city flooding.
VenhoevenCS was invited to join IABR–Atelier Dordrecht, led by West8, to examine ways to use water safety as a leverage for a new and widely supported sustainable urban development strategy. We looked for possibilities to turn the higher-situated district De Staart into a safe haven in case Dordrecht needs one. Furthermore, we explored the possibility to roll out a new micro-mobility route as a recognizable day-to-day main route between De Staart and the city center that will naturally and recognizably double as the evacuation route to the safety of De Staart. In the event of a calamity, new facilities along this route (such as a theater or a mobility hub) function as the first shelter for evacuees, while, on a daily basis, they serve as a connecting element in the urban fabric.
The Atelier models and films on show display that the water-safety-as-a-lever approach emphasized the need for good connections, because De Staart must always be easily accessible. In ingraining a future escape route into the collective consciousness through daily use, without confronting people with a possible disaster day in and day out, we took on the task together with experts from the City of Dordrecht and an external safety advisor in the field of escaping and escape behavior. Our research by design aims to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals as tools to design not just for the exception, but also for other social, spatial and mobility problems Dordrecht is solving.