Rhine cities - urban flood integration (UFI) : German and Dutch adaptation and mitigation strategies

Abstract: Flood Risk Management along the Rhine today combines river expanding measures and adaptive strategies with the existing defensive system to cope with the risk increase as a consequence of previous interventions and developments and fluctuations in water levels due to climate change. Differences in landscapes and urgencies and differences in planning cultures between the Upper and Lower Rhine and the Delta have also led to different strategic approaches. Within this research the innovative capacity of the adaptive and anticipatory water-based approach in the Netherlands provides lessons to be learned specifically regarding spatial quality as a strategic component of water-related projects.While agglomerations along the Rhine are confronted with the uncertainties of an increasing flood risk due to climate change, different programs are claiming urban river front sites. Simultaneously, urban development, flood management, as well as navigation and environmental protection are negotiating the border between the river and the urban realm. This produces complex spatial constellations between the river system and the urban realm with a diverse set of interdependencies, where programs have to synergize while adapting to dynamic water levels. Based on an expanding area at risk and the reliance on flood levels to remain within an acceptable spectrum for adaptive measures to be effective, Urban Flood Integration (UFI) involves border negotiations between the river and the urban realm where adaptation and mitigation ideally synergize. In summary, differences in landscape, threat and political structures have produced different planning cultures in Germany and the Netherlands in terms of flood management. Both Dutch and German mitigation measures remain path dependent on the defensive system. Yet, whereas the Dutch approach to flood mitigation is holistic in an extended ecological sense and specifically includes spatial quality, in Germany, planning flood-related issues remains part of a sectoral approach where spatial quality is not initially included, bit remains an additional layer towards the end of the project. Confronted with a strong ecological lobby, the focus is to restore the former alluvial forest in niches. Of the six programs defined in the ICPR Atlas, forestry seems the only one capable of taking on river dynamics and transforming accordingly over time. All other programs (settlements, industries, traffic infrastructure, and to some degree agriculture, specifically when ecological flooding is taken into account) remain reliant on defensive measures, and in case of their failure, infrastructural support and adaptation measures. They are, however, not included in a design strategy that explores potentialities. Part I serves as a narrative for the case study analysis and for the final conclusions and recommendations in Part II. It is made up of three chapters, where Urban Flood Integration is framed historically, theoretically and strategically within the specific geographic context of the navigable Rhine.Directly adressing the design practice, this research proposes to move from a spatial to a strategic design approach byinvolving architects, landscape architects, urban designers from the initial stage to enable their engagement also in the strategic design of a project;enabling design to become part of a systemic approach that aims for capacity building and therefore includes ecological, economic and cultural conditions through a transdisciplinary approach;making the invisible layers visible: Visualize systems/expert information to make them accessible and to enable communication between disciplines;hosting design competitions in cooperation with local stakeholders bringing people and ideas together to trigger emergence;applying back-casting strategies to move beyond existing conceptions: design may thus becomes “telescopic” and allow a challenge of existing givens, the visualization of concepts again playing a central role.

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