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Oberlander Prize Forums - Soak it Up: Designing with and for Flooding

LecturerKongjian Yu
April 30
Soak it Up: Designing with and for Flooding

A conversation with Kongjian Yu, 2023 Oberlander Prize laureate, and Pieter Schengenga, director of H+N+S Landscape Architects, the Netherlands, moderated by Elizabeth K. Meyer, FASLA, University of Virginia. 

Climate change is accelerating the already formidable problems of managing stormwater, especially in major river systems around the world. This cross-cultural dialogue explored different strategies for designing with and for flooding, turning a challenge into an opportunity to serve social and ecological needs. Yu and Schengenga each gave a brief presentation on their design projects, then dialogued together about working in different cultural, geographic, regulatory, and political contexts.

Kongjian Yu, the current Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize Laureate is founder and principal designer at the landscape architecture firm Turnescape in Beijing, is internationally known for championing the idea of the “sponge city”—addressing climate-change-accelerated urban flooding with large-scale nature-based infrastructure, including constructed wetlands, greenways, parks, canopy tree and woodland protection, rain gardens, green roofs, permeable pavements, bioswales, other measures, all of which act as sponges soaking up and storing rainfall instead of relying exclusively on traditional concrete reinforced riverbanks, dams, pipes, drains, and other conventional engineering solutions. Since being adopted as national policy in 2013, the “sponge city” concept has been implemented in more than 70 cities in China, with the goal that by the year 2030, 80% of the cities would be able to absorb 70% of their rainfall.

Benjakitti Forest Park, Bangkok, Thailand - Photo courtesy Turenscape

Pieter Schengenga is closely associated with his firm’s “Room for the River” projects, intended to address flood protection, enhanced landscape design, and the improvement of environmental conditions in the areas surrounding the Netherlands’ rivers. Measures include moving dykes back from the rivers; creating and increasing the depth of flood channels, removing obstacles, and constructing a "green river" to serve as a flood bypass. Schengenga was involved in the planning and implementation of Room for the Waal in Nijmegen and the dyke improvements along the Lower Rhine; he has also exported his landscape approach to water issues in New Orleans. Schengenga takes full advantage of the myriad roles that landscape architects can play within such long-term complex projects: on the side of the initiator, but also on the side of contractors during implementation. He can therefore empathize with various interests and knows how to safeguard design ambitions.

Dijkversterking Arcen: dike reinforcement project, Netherlands - Image courtesy H+N+S

The discussion was moderated by Elizabeth Meyer, noted author and educator, Merrill D. Peterson Professor of Landscape Architecture and former dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia and Faculty Director of the UVA/Morven Sustainability Lab.

More Details: https://www.tclf.org/soak-it-designing-and-flooding

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