Arts & Culture

GSD students help Netherlands plan for future

2 min read

“Arriving this morning we made our way to our home for the next six nights, the floating hotel boat, The Merlijn,” wrote Martin Zogran, assistant professor of urban design in Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD), in his blog that highlighted details of the Harvard-Netherlands Project: Climate Change, Water, Land Development, and Adaptation. “We hoisted our Harvard flag and learned the lay of the land from our hosts on board.”

The Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management of the Netherlands is contributing 150,000 euros to the project, supplemented by a 50,000 euro grant from The Netherlands Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and Environment. Deltares, a Dutch nonprofit research institute specializing in water issues, is coordinating the project in the Netherlands as well as organizing the contributions of Dutch specialists.

Zogran, along with Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design Jerold Kayden (who spearheaded the project); Dirk Sijmons, visiting professor in environmental design; Armando Carbonell, design critic in urban planning; and GSD students, traveled to the Netherlands as part of a two-and-a-half-year project, subtitled “Water is Our Enemy, Water Is Our Friend.” Their task: to examine how land planning and development strategies may best take into account the water-based impacts of climate change. Specifically, they were there to test new land development scenarios and plans for two specific areas in the Netherlands using reasonable assumptions about water level changes and their impacts on land.

Their weeklong quest found the researchers on the IJsselmeergebied, the body of water that connects Amsterdam to the North Sea, and biking around Almere, a growing city in danger due to rising seas as a result of climate change.

The participating students are from an option studio class offered by the Department of Urban Planning and Design and the Department of Landscape Architecture, a class that will be given again in spring 2010, and will focus on such areas as the Rotterdam waterfront or the Dordrecht delta.