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Exploded view of spatial framework, showing stratification of morphological, cultural historical and landscape layers.
Exploded view of spatial framework, showing stratification of morphological, cultural historical and landscape layers.

Spatial framework, combined carrier of the region's morphological, cultural historical and landscape qualities.
Spatial framework, combined carrier of the region's morphological, cultural historical and landscape qualities.

Regiekaart
Regiekaart

Coordination chart
Coordination chart

Planning map of creek, showing subsites worked up within regional system.
Planning map of creek, showing subsites worked up within regional system.

Panorama of creek.
Panorama of creek.

Typical development of creek plot
Typical development of creek plot




PROJECTINDEX
 
THE ZEELAND FRINGE
Academie voor Architectuur en Stedenbouw - Tilburg
URBAN DESIGN

united in antitheses
A design strategy that gives a socio-economic boost to Zeeuws Vlaanderen proceeding from the ground, the cultural history and the landscape.
The population of the province of Zeeland has virtually stopped growing and is expected to decline from 2025 on. In some regions and municipalities, including large parts of Zeeuws Vlaanderen, the population is shrinking already. This largely rural region in the extreme south of the province runs the risk of impoverishment and disintegration of the physical environment. If nothing is done, it will suffer a downward spiral in which inhabitants will move elsewhere, vacancy will only grow and disintegration will be all the more devastating.
This means that there is an urgent call for design strategies that offer possible solutions to the challenges facing Zeeuws Vlaanderen. The planning solutions now being presented are often targeted at combating the symptoms, with neighbouring municipalities competing with one another. There are other major changes afoot in the region besides population decline. Scaling-up and the closure of businesses are altering the agricultural landscape, new economies are arriving on the scene and tourism is increasingly geared to experiencing the small-scale and authentic, attended by the appropriate spatial forms. Systems thinking would seem a promising line of approach to an all-in design brief such as this.
The principle behind the different systems approaches is the study of phenomena based on their relationship with each other and the trade-off with their surroundings. Systems thinking is not about the component parts but about relationships, the bond between the components themselves and with their environment. It is these relationships that lend meaning to the components and the totality and are therefore often the link in solving a problem. Since the thinking proceeds from a systems approach, which by its very nature thrives on complex interactions, the separation among functions wielded until now can be less stringently adhered to in terms of occupation. Far more thought needs devoting to new innovative combinations that unite and resolve unrelated briefs.
The task at hand is to find the stability, or rather systems stability, in Zeeuws Vlaanderen. Looked at in terms of both time and scale, the ground is the only truly constant layer and therefore the most relevant in the quest for stability. In view of the largely agricultural duty fulfilled by the region, moreover, this layer is of profound influence on its functioning. That said, the briefs in Zeeuws Vlaanderen at present are disparate and the product of happenstance. This ad hoc planning combined with the various boundaries and infrastructure barriers in Zeeuws Vlaanderen mean that the ground is itself treated as an assemblage of fragments, barriers and borders. This project therefore proposes that this planning methodology gets a radical rethink. Instead of a mode of planning that steps off from the occupation (with the greatest speed of change), begin a development in Zeeuws Vlaanderen with the ground (with the least speed of change). In this case the ground with its attendant system is much more influential than the programme, creating the conditions for further development. This safeguards the continuity and allows the region to stabilize.
It brings us to the following key issue: How can the ground, the morphology and the landscape give a socio-economic boost to Zeeuws Vlaanderen?
The conditions in Zeeuws Vlaanderen have evolved around the rural, morphological and cultural-historical qualities of the region. This began with the sandy creek ridges that extend east-west throughout the region and even continue into Belgium. These higher-lying, stable creek ridges at present are the inverse of their origin and make an excellent stepping-off point to bring greater cohesion to the disintegrating region. Most other bearers of identity such as dykes and the States-Spanish Lines largely coincide with the creek ridges – not entirely by chance.
In line with this 'condition planning', besides building on the potentials present in the area the project seeks to optimize and enhance the functions that are already there. No wholesale restructuring and demolition, then, but a gradual process of optimization that builds on the potentials and conditions of ground and landscape revealed in the spatial framework. In no longer regarding the ground as a generic layer but instead expanding on the received local morphological differentiation, the existing agriculture can hold its own without conflicting with other issues such as nature and recreation. In some areas this new context will even encourage new carriers of economic development.
The alignment in terms of existing networks and the already ongoing decline in population, capital and estate are the basis for further bundling and optimizing flows of supplies within the region. In optimizing the various networks and having them converge at existing nodes in the region, a more robust and regionally comprehensive network emerges for transporting people, goods and energy. This 'mobile smart grid' provides a continuous distribution or redistribution of raw materials, food and capital for the same reasons of robustness and stability.