The High Ground

Dordrecht (NL), 2021



Exhibition on water safety as a leverage for sustainable urban development.

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.

“An evacuation route is a must-have for every riverside city. We know climate is changing, and we just found out the hard way that floods aren’t that rare. To diminish the risks, roll out a slow mobility route with new facilities along it, that serves as a connecting element in the urban fabric. Design an escape route as a recognizable day-to-day main track that will naturally and recognizably double as an evacuation route. Social, spatial and mobility challenges can be dealt with by designing for exception and rule at the same time.”
– Ton Venhoeven

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.


More info on IABR-Atelier Dordrecht

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Name: The High Ground
Location: De Staart
Program: Evacuation route
Assignment: Research by design
Period: 2021
Status: Completed
Client: IABR
Publications: Duurzaam Gebouwd


VenhoevenCS: Ton Venhoeven, Martijn Tjassens Keiser, Jos-Willem van Oorschot, Eliza Mante, Nicolò Santini, Shuxin Chi
Images: VenhoevenCS