Sponge City


Role: Conceptual Designer -  Exhibit: 2nd International Architecture Biennale, Rotterdam

In SPONGEcity, sponsored by the Dutch Ministry of Transportation, Public Works and Water Management, and designed by landscape architecture graduate students from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, floodwaters are captured by a dual sponge system both soft and structural. Elbows, or man-made oxbows, are built along the river Waal expanding the floodplain. Within each floodplain, canals are dug out to hold some of the floodwater. Cellular networks of Super Absorbent Polymers (SAP’s) are placed in these elbows and when the dikes close to the river are breached a new absorbent sponge landscape is created along the entire river. The sponges create a dramatic new terrain as they swell to a height of up to 20 meters. This sponge matrix radically re-imagines the traditional Dutch city by proposing a hybrid structure that contains water and constructs space for urbanization. Capable of holding 100 times its own weight in water, the structural sponge is realized by adding a hardening agent to the SAP, which creates a shell on the surface for development. The soft sponge is a fluctuating system of undulating hills that rise and fall according to seasonal floods. As mean water levels rise, soft sponge is converted to structural sponge and a new band of soft sponge is established on the periphery. The overall sponge matrix allows development to exist within a floodplain. The urban conditions benefit from the framework of sponge elbows by structuring newfound ground within the floodplain.

Harvard Graduate School of Design, Landscape Architecture student group led by Professor Niall Kirkwood  /  commissioned by Adriaan Geuze

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