- Water Square Benthemplein, design 2011-2012, completed 2013
- Rotterdam, NL
- Rotterdam Climate Initiative, City of Rotterdam supported by the Waterboard Schieland & Krimpenerwaard
- Final design, built
- City of Rotterdam Engineering Bureau. Baptistry: Anouk Vogel. Color advice: Annet Posthumus. Social feedback: Arnold Reijndorp & Machiel van Dorst. Construction/coordination and concrete works: Wallaard. Steel gutters: ACO
Urban flood resilience in Rotterdam – the Benthemplein Water Plaza, the first large-scale multifunctional water plaza in the world. Visitors can sit and relax, play sports or skateboard in the sunken interior, which also doubles as flood storage, collecting runoff from the surrounding streets and discharging it back into the system when drier weather resumes.
The water square combines water storage with the improvement of the quality of urban public space. The water square can be understood as a twofold strategy. It makes money invested in water storage facilities visible and enjoyable plus generates opportunities to create environmental quality and identity to central spaces in neighborhoods.
Most of the time the water square will be dry and in use as a recreational space. The exemplary design for the watersquare is divided into two main parts: a sports area and a hilly playground. The space is captured by a green frame of grass and trees. When heavy rains occur, rainwater that is collected from the neighborhood will flow visibly and audibly into the water square. Short cloudbursts will only fill parts of the square. When the rain continues, more and more parts of the water square will gradually be filled with water. The rainwater is filtered before running into the square.
The rainwater will be held in the square until the water system in the city has enough capacity again. Then the water can run off to the nearest open water. The water square is therefore also a measure to improve the quality of the open water in urban environments. After it has been in use as buffering space, the water square is cleaned. Therefore the design is made with fluent slopes.
A typological research and design on water squares was carried out in 2006-2007. The water square became official policy on an urban scale in the “Rotterdam Waterplan 2” in 2007. A pilot study was carried out in 2008-2009. In 2010 the graphic novel “De Urbanisten and the Wondrous Water square” was published by 010, Rotterdam. The Rotterdam Waterplan 2 stated that,
Rotterdam is working on a strong economy and an attractive residential environment. Water is an important aspect of an attractive city, certainly one that profiles itself as ‘water city’. The vision of Rotterdam for the future plays an important role in all the plans. In addition, there are three crucial developments with which we will, or might be, faced in the period ahead:
- Higher water level due to the rise in sea level. There is a risk of flooding in areas outside the dykes. Flood defences will simply have to be reinforced.
- Flooding caused by increasing rainfall. Due to the changing climate, a lot of rain can fall in a short space of time. In order to process that water, provisions are needed for collection and storage. At the moment, there is already a shortage of around 600,000 m3 of storage. At least 80 hectares of extra lakes and canals would be needed to cope with this shortage by means of open water.
- Stringent demands on the quality of water. Rotterdam wants to be an attractive water city, with clean, clear and plant-rich water. The city must also meet European requirements (the European Framework Directive on Water). So-called quality profiles, based on these requirements, are in the process of being drawn up for all stretches of water in the city.
The masterplan document sets out ‘decisions of crucial importance’ to tackle the above problems citing the attractiveness of Rotterdam as perhaps the most important decision: how can the city be made even more attractive as a place to live, work, study and spend leisure time, and can the water problems be solved at the same time? In the city centre and the old neighbourhoods, for example, it isn’t possible to tackle the problems of water storage by digging extra facilities. The costs are exorbitant and existing buildings can’t simply be demolished. Innovations such as green roofs, ‘water squares’, alternative forms of water storage and the like are therefore essential for the further development of the city.