For those who want it, the Netherlands is willing to share the fruits of its centuries-long relationship with the unruly seas. In Rotterdam, lots of local urban solutions are also on display.
With a good portion of its urban population living below sea level, the Netherlands has a lot to offer when it comes to rising seas. While certain national governments may be disinclined to listen, there are plenty of lessons on hand for cities.
Michael Kimmelman covers a Dutch export that's rapidly gaining international currency: climate change expertise. Regarding flood management, the modern Dutch strategy "is, in essence, to let water in, where possible, not hope to subdue Mother Nature: to live with the water, rather than struggle to defeat it. The Dutch devise lakes, garages, parks and plazas that are a boon to daily life but also double as enormous reservoirs for when the seas and rivers spill over."
Kimmelman discusses the port city of Rotterdam and its current campaign to "cast itself as a model of inventive urbanism." While the city faces social and ethnic challenges, it seems to have the threat of flooding well in hand. Strategies include the Maeslantkering, "a monumental gate with two arms, resting on either side of the canal, each arm as tall and twice as heavy as the Eiffel Tower, " as well as hybrid structures like the Dakpark, a dike that "has a shopping center, which the neighborhood needed, and a park on the roof."
The piece closes with some observations on New York City from a Dutch expert. "To the Dutch, what's truly incomprehensible [...] is New York after Hurricane Sandy, where too little has been done to prepare for the next disaster. People in the Netherlands believe that the places with the most people and the most to lose economically should get the most protection."
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This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.