As the novel coronavirus sends waves of distress across the world, many of you have asked how we plan to continue to produce our ateliers and the biennale program itself.
Like many other organizations, and especially because we work in an international and indeterminate setting, we are making changes to our operations.
First and most importantly, I’ve asked our team to work from home. Public health experts are telling us that social distancing saves lives, and we must listen to that, even if it requires radical readjustments to our daily routines.
You can, of course, still reach us by mail or phone.
At the same time, this moment presents us with a serious challenge, one unlike any other we've ever faced before. The question whether to adjust or even rethink IABR–2020–DOWN TO EARTH in terms of planning, approach and perspective, will be high on our agenda in the coming weeks.
We will keep you posted, but not unnecessarily – we're only a biennale, right now there are other priorities.
With best wishes for your health and safety,
As the novel coronavirus sends waves of distress across the world, many of you have asked how we plan to continue to produce our ateliers and the biennale program itself.
From Missing Link to Down to Earth
IABR–2020–DOWN TO EARTH is the sequel to IABR–2018–THE MISSING LINK, with which it forms a diptych. DOWN TO EARTH explores whether we can address the missing link which we identified and investigated in 2018, and do so very concretely, by employing recognizable urgent challenges with which we can identify, as a lever both for the comprehensive transformation of our urban landscapes and societies as well as for the democratic discourse we need to have about the nature, quality and ownership of this transformation.
Water and Energy Transition
The two that we have chosen are water and energy transition-related challenges. How can designers tackle water issues - too much, too little, too polluted - in such a way that they become also the starting point for working on resilient cities? (How) can designers help realize the energy transition so that we can simultaneously use it as a lever for socially inclusive urban planning? How can design driven responses to water and energy transition-related challenges help us to develop new approaches to inhabit the earth, in a much more balanced way, one that helps us realize the Sustainable Developments Goals?
Curator Team + Designers
To address this issue, how to take action now, from the global level to that of the urban district, a new Curator Team has been appointed.
George Brugmans, Rianne Makkink and Jurgen Bey are the curators for Water as Leverage, and Thijs van Spaandonk and Robbert de Vrieze for Energy Transition as Leverage.
Studio Makkink & Bey will design the exhibition, Roosje Klap (ARK) is responsible for all graphic design.
M4H + BoTu
The locations of IABR–2020 are the Merwe-Vierhavens area (M4H), a city harbor that is a breeding ground for the new circular economy, and Bospolder-Tussendijken (BoTu), a self-reliant and culturally very diverse but socioeconomically vulnerable Rotterdam district.
M4H + BoTu: two adjacent areas we jointly named Test Site M4H+ during the previous biennale. Together, they are representative of the many challenges facing not only the city of Rotterdam but also many other cities. The water challenge and energy transition play a part here, but here we can also explore the new circular economy, the housing challenge, accessibility, and social inequality. Here, the poor and unemployed live alongside start-ups and enterprising artists. Old and new meet, city and port, rich and poor, local and global.
M4H+BoTu is an exemplary Test Site for the transition: challenges and approaches come together in the now and how, and in a very provoking manner as well. It is an ideal location for the IABR, in and also after 2020.
The IABR has fully committed itself to contribute to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and of the objectives stated in the Paris Climate Agreement.
The IABR is a research and development institute as well as an international cultural platform. Therefore, contribute we can with the tools that we have: research by design, the power of the imagination and the potency of design.
DOWN TO EARTH's main exhibition, Water as Leverage, will be held in the new Keilezaal situated in the Keilepand in the heart of the IABR–Test Site M4H+. At the beginning of May, the IABR will also move its offices to the Keilepand. An opportune time for a big clearance sale! Until 30 April, buying several IABR books at the same time will get you a substantial discount. Visit our web shop for special offers.
Over 80% of all climate change caused urgencies and calamities are water related. That's exactly why it can be argued that water-issues offer opportunities, that tackling water related challenges can and should be used as leverage for more comprehensive change, for realizing transformative projects everywhere and on every scale.
© Cynthia van Elk
Water represents man’s most challenging and complex risk. Floods and draughts, pollution and water conflicts combine in conceivably disastrous ways with rapid urbanization, a growing demand for food and energy, migration, and climate change.
But while the water challenges carry with them the risk of disruptive transitions they also offer us the opportunity to use water as leverage for transformative impact. Only a better understanding of the complex risks will allow us to de-risk the world effectively. Recognizing that water can also be used as leverage helps us find opportunities for real change, for transformative projects everywhere and on every scale.
Water as Leverage
To identify and initiate such projects, in 2016 George Brugmans, the president of the IABR, and Henk Ovink, the Dutch Water Envoy, signed a Memorandum of Understanding. Subsequently they launched the Water as Leverage initiative. which became an important guideline for the design research projects that the IABR (co)started from 2017, such as Water as Leverage for Resilient Cities: Asia and the IABR – Ateliers Dordrecht and Drought in the Delta. In 2018 IABR opted for Water as Leverage as one of the two main theme's of IABR–2020–DOWN TO EARTH.
These research processes are the main elements with which curators George Brugmans, Rianne Makkink and Jurgen Bey will work. Together with other forward looking projects, including the new Delta Plan Rotterdam, a 2.0 version of The Geography of Future Water Challenges by PBL, the World Water Atlas by Deltares, PBL and IABR, the Water School 2.0 by Studio Makkink & Bey and the projects selected from the entries of our globally launched Open Call, they are the building blocks for the main exhibition of DOWN TO EARTH.
Water as Leverage takes place in the Merwe-Vierhavens area, M4H. The exhibition opens its doors at the beginning of September in the Keilezaal in the Keilepand, where IABR is moving its office in the Spring of 2020.
Makkink and Bey will also develop a program for the entire area, the IABR – TEST SITE M4H+.
Energy transition is both a goal and a means to an end. The goal is to realize a CO2-free living environment, but it can also be used as a lever to achieve a way of living together, a community, that is sustainable in every respect: economically, ecologically and socially.
IABR–Atelier Rotterdam © Ooze
From petroculture to postfossil culture
The energy transition affects every aspect of our lives: housing, working, mobility, nutrition, comfort, and culture. We are moving from a petroculture to a postfossil culture and this requires a new paradigm, new philosophies, and new ways of doing things. It’s clear that the transition cannot be made on the basis of the thinking and the doing that got us into trouble in the first place. It requires a new narrative of who we are and what we want, what we can want. More and more writers, thinkers, designers, and scientists are working on that new narrative. They are outlining a new paradigm, a different relationship with nature and the world, an economy based on other, more sustainable values that takes nature and society into account and an energy system that exists for the benefit ofthe community, that belongs to the community rather than prevails at its expense. In short, a paradigm that enables us to re-establish ourselves in the territory, and in good balance with nature: Down to Earth.
How then can we use the energy transition as a lever to work on this alternative future? Can we make such a paradigm change conceivable at the level of the neighborhood, for example, where the community can play a key role?
We think we can and we know why we ought to: rising temperatures and sea levels, loss of biodiversity and the depletion of resources, food shortages, floods and droughts, surging migrant flows, increasingly extreme weather conditions – and the list gets longer.
And we also know what to do: switch to the sustainable energy generated by the sun, the wind and the earth as quickly as possible, to circular material flows, to smarter mobility, and to more plant-based food, to equal sharing and to more inclusivity.
But as yet, we don’t have enough knowhow.
This is why curator Thijs van Spaandonk and co-curator Robbert de Vrieze will use IABR–2020–DOWN TO EARTH to launch a Workshop for Energy Transition as a Lever for Socially Inclusive City Making.
We are going to build, learn from each other, and practice and experiment together. We are going to get to work, using the power of imagination and research by design to make connections between the generation, storage and distribution of new forms of sustainable energy; the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, on the basis of an integrated approach; and the development of local energy-ownership and the building of a new commons.
From Local Energy Action Plan to Workshop BoTu
Since 2018 the IABR–Atelier Rotterdam, together with residents, entrepreneurs, social organizations, housing associations, and the City of Rotterdam, has been exploring how implementing the energy transition in the Rotterdam district Bospolder Tussendijken (BoTu) can also be used here as a lever for achieving an inclusive social agenda. In 2020 the results of the Atelier’s research will be presented in the form of a concrete Local Energy Action Plan. Subsequently, during the Biennale, BoTu will turn into a Workshop in both the metaphorical and the physical sense. Local knowledge and relevant lessons learned in other neighborhoods and communities in the Netherlands and abroad conjoin as instruments for the work on the next steps, in BoTu and elsewhere.
IABR–2020–DOWN TO EARTH will land at various locations in Bospolder Tussendijken, both as Workshop pop-ups and as interventions in public space, leaving as much added value as possible once the IABR’s public program has been completed. This way, the postfossil district becomes more imaginable and tangible to not only its 14,000 inhabitants, but also to designers, architects, urban designers, policymakers, politicians, developers, and the general public – everyone who wants to know how the energy transition can be used as a lever for a future that we can want.
Towards an Action Plan
In the summer of 2019, the IABR–Atelier Rotterdam carried out two parallel studies into local energy in the Bospolder-Tussendijken (BoTu) neighborhood under the heading ‘Building Blocks for a Cooperative Approach.’ They constituted an investigation into the spatial-energetic building blocks that are required and a mainly anthropological exploration of BoTu’s established and as yet uncharted invisible social networks. The results of these two exploratory studies are employed to take the next step: a LEAP, a Local Energy Action Plan.
IABR–Atelier Rotterdam - PosadMaxwan & Generation.Energy
Spatial-Energetic Building Blocks
The research into conceivable spatial-energetic building blocks was commissioned by the IABR and carried out by PosadMaxwan & Generation.Energy. It charted the potential for generating, saving, storing, and exchanging energy; identified costs and benefits and ways to create cohesion; and studied the extent to which our efforts to achieve the goal of being CO2-neutral by 2050 is likely to bear fruit.
The outcome is a package of possible measures that can be assessed by assigning each so-called Spatial-Energetic Building Block a ‘value’ based on questions such as: How does this building block perform in terms of sustainability and on what scale? Does the building block require the involvement of individuals or that of the collective? Can we develop a business case for this building block or does it require public funding?
The investigation into the role that both established and as yet invisible social networks in the neighborhood can play in the energy transition was carried out by four local parties that know BoTu well and worked closely together: Transformers, Beekhuizen Bindt, Eliza Works, and Steps2Inspiration. The research was also an anthropological exploration of BoTu’s self-image, of the needs and challenges of today, and the requirements and wants for the future with which the residents identify.
IABR–Atelier Rotterdam - Transformers, Beekhuizen Bindt, Eliza Works, Steps2Inspiration
In the autumn of 2019, the IABR–Atelier employs the results of the two exploratory studies to take a next step: a LEAP, a Local Energy Action Plan. This involves a new approach to the energy transition. Considering the potential of the Spatial-Energetic Building Blocks, we will explore which trajectories and projects to design and implement a transition path to 2050 that is supported by the district can be realized in collaboration with active and activated local networks.
IABR–Atelier Rotterdam © Ooze
With LEAP, which is being researched and advanced by Rotterdam-based OOZE Architects and Urbanists, the IABR–Atelier Rotterdam delves deeply into BoTu to (be able to) explore how the energy transition can serve as a lever for a broader qualitative leap toward the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals on the scale level of the neighborhood.
Consequently, BoTu is also a Test Site that can provide new insights and different approaches to realizing the energy transition in other districts in Rotterdam and beyond. This role of BoTu as a social-spatial-energetic laboratory will of course be highlighted during the IABR–2020, which will be programmed partly in and together with the neighborhood, with BoTu itself becoming a biennial exhibition.
The results of the explorations of building blocks and networks can be downloaded at the bottom of this page (only in Dutch).
The IABR–Atelier Rotterdam: Energy Transition as Leverage for Socially Inclusive City Making is a collaboration of IABR en the Municipality of Rotterdam (Department of Urban Development and Resilient Rotterdam).
What was once one of the most extraordinary and balanced water cities in the world, Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire, is now Mexico City, a metropolis where 20 million people have enormous water problems.
In 2018, creative producers George Brugmans (iabr/UP) and Hans de Wolf (Doxy) presented Mexico City: The Thirsty City, a film directed by Alexander Oey and commissioned by the World Water Atlas.
Watch the complete film here:
Tenochtitlan was located on a small island in a valley full of lakes. Since the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, the city has grown step by step without proper water management while the drainage of the lakes has continued unceasingly.
How can the city learn to live with water again?
The World Water Atlas is an initiative of the Dutch Special Envoy for Water Affairs, Henk Ovink, the founding partners are the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Deltares, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and IABR.
Click here for a version with Spanish subtitles
In the summer of 2018, the climate crisis made itself felt in the Netherlands. Not only by an excess of water, but also by freshwater shortages. To many, this came as a surprise. Our entire delta has been designed to discharge water as quickly and efficiently as possible with an eye to water safety.
In 2018, it took a great deal of effort to keep the Dutch water machine up and running: to this day, some areas have not recovered from the drought, and there is likely to be permanent damage, both to urban and to wildlife and agricultural areas.
More hot and dry summers are likely to follow. Unfortunately, the Dutch delta has not been designed to retain water in times of drought. This presents a new challenge, which the IABR–Atelier Drought in the Delta wants to map out.
As in many other places in the world, there is plenty of water in the Netherlands, but not always at the right time. The country has an annual precipitation surplus, but the water that falls in wet periods is often no longer available in times of drought. Sometimes large quantities of fresh water are transported directly to the sea; at other times there is a water shortage in some places. This mismatch between water demand and surplus precipitation as a result of the climate crisis is expected to become more frequent and to increase, not only because of changing weather conditions, but also because glaciers are melting and seawater levels are rising. The circumstances call for alternative ways of thinking and acting: from a naturally wet delta that has to discharge its water as quickly as possible for its inhabitants to survive, to one that retains freshwater and makes it accessible when necessary.
Shortage of Space
Like deltas elsewhere in the world, the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt Delta is a densely urbanized and economically and ecologically crucial area. That means that space aboveground is scarce, but underground there’s still room, where there have always been major reserves of freshwater, all over the world. This seems to be the most logical place to temporarily store freshwater.
But the subsurface is a vulnerable system that faces its own challenges. In many places in the world, underground freshwater lakes, the aquifers, are under threat, and being drained for irrigation or industrial purposes. This does not happen often in the Netherlands, but the freshwater supply in our delta is also under pressure, mainly as a result of salinization.
In addition, the subsurface is already being intensively used. There are more claims to the space than just that of water storage, for example those of the energy transition and of CO2 storage. And because of the climate crisis, all of these claims are equally urgent. In the future, claimants will either get in each other's way or will have to share the available space.
All of this is reason for the IABR to investigate the opportunities and frameworks for the large-scale aboveground and underground storage of freshwater. This must be done with an eye for other domains – to see where the various transitions meet and influence each other, but above all to find out where they can help each other. How can the large-scale storage of freshwater act as a lever for the creation of alternative approaches and social added value? How can the underground storage of freshwater contribute to the creation of a resilient delta that can cope with the major transitions that lie ahead?
image: Studio Marco Vermeulen
Journey to the Center of the Earth
The IABR–Atelier Drought in the Delta, which is led by Marco Vermeulen (Studio Marco Vermeulen), is nothing short of a ‘journey to the center of the earth’. Although we are not likely to get that far, we will look at all the knowledge that is already available to map out the surface and the subsurface purposefully and as best we can – a precondition for designing there. This will clarify the opportunities and possibilities for the large-scale aboveground and underground storage of freshwater and explain how and where this affects other transitions and their space claims to begin with and, next, show how transitions underground are fundamentally linked to major transitions aboveground.
The final outcome of this Atelier will consist of a concrete strategy for 2050 and identify possible pilot projects. These have to be specifically designed on location and explicitly represented at eye level to ensure that their (positive!) impact on the living environment is clearly visible. The pilot projects must be designed to collect proof that will allow the further development and accentuation of the strategy. The results will provide a stimulating picture of the future, but it is at least as important that local or regional governments will be able to use them to work on their own challenges.
The IABR–Atelier Drought in the Delta is a study by the IABR that is being conducted by Studio Marco Vermeulen under the direction of Marco Vermeulen.
Water safety as leverage for sustainable urban development
But the higher-situated district De Staart, which lies outside the dikes, may provide a better and safer alternative – if it is converted into a large-scale temporary shelter.
What is the best way to set up De Staart to function as a safe haven in the event of flooding? And how can the city use the resources this takes as sensibly as possible? Not just for the exception, but also for other problems Dordrecht needs to solve?
In IABR–Atelier Dordrecht, the IABR and the city of Dordrecht examine ways to use water safety as a leverage for a new and widely supported sustainable urban development strategy. They look for possibilities to turn De Staart into a safe haven in case Dordrecht needs one, as well as a location in which both (part of) the city’s housing challenge is met and truly sustainable urban development is realized in the best possible manner.
The Atelier is led by landscape designer Adriaan Geuze (West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture), who curated the second IABR, The Flood, in 2005. Geuze was born in Dordrecht.
Because the island of Dordrecht is vulnerable to flooding, the authorities have been working on the development of a so-called ‘multilayer safety strategy’ for many years. This may also involve evacuation in the event of extreme storms, which can only be predicted a short time in advance. In the worst-case scenario, it is estimated that only 20,000 of Dordrecht’s 120,000 inhabitants will be able to flee the island on time. The people left behind in the flooded area are advised to take refuge on the upper floors of buildings, which the safety strategy calls ‘vertical evacuation’. But it is hard for that many people to survive in the city’s attics for any serious amount of time and evacuating them from the tops of buildings is also relatively complicated.
Evacuation to Areas Outside the Dikes
Fortunately, there is a possible alternative – one that involves better conditions that reduce the risk of casualties – and that is to evacuate people to higher ground outside the dikes. De Staart, the district east of Dordrecht’s historical city center, between the Wantij waterwayand the Beneden-MerwedeRiver, meets these conditions. And because the area is easily accessible from the water, it is ideal for the next step of the evacuation: getting people to safety at other locations in the country. However, this alternative has not yet been sufficiently researched. It is as yet unknown how many people De Staart can accommodate. And people are not eager to evacuate to areas outside the dike, either: intuitively, it feels unsafe – running towards the water rather than away from it.
Connection with Other Challenges
Due to its location, De Staart is eminently suitable as a large-scale shelter in the event of flooding. But it’s a complicated area. Half of De Staart is currently residential – a socially vulnerable residential area partly located on a former illegal dump – and the other half is an industrial zone, with many chemical companies. There is a waste incineration plant that supplies heat to the heat network, a water company, a major reservoir and a penitentiary. And this in a unique location, between two rivers, near the historical city center and with national park De Biesbosch just around the corner.
Therefore, anyone that considers the future setup of De Staart cannot but wonder about the future prospects of this unique but complex area. And this is best done against the background of the major housing challenge Dordrecht faces – space for at least 6,000 more homes must be found within the existing city – and the need to create new jobs in manufacturing industry as well as room for all of the interventions needed for the energy transition. Only looking at all of this in conjunction will allow us to get to grips with the real challenge.
Water Safety as Leverage
The IABR–Atelier Dordrecht investigates how to set up De Staart as a safe, self-sufficient shelter to use in the event of imminent flooding, in such a way that the approach can serve as leverage for the initiation of truly sustainable urban development that will help to meet the housing challenge the city faces, that will make room for the next economy after the energy transition, that will ensure good accessibility, and that will reconnect the city of Dordrecht with water and nature.
The IABR–Atelier Dordrecht is a collaboration of the IABR and the city of Dordrecht. The lead designer is Adriaan Geuze ((West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture).
The Dutch government, the City of Rotterdam and the Creative Industries Fund NL are IABR's main partners.
The IABR is a lead partner of the Dutch government in implementing the Action Agenda for Spatial Design (ARO) 2017 - 2020 of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. The IABR is funded in the Culture Plan 2017 - 2020 Budget of the City of Rotterdam and subsidized as part of the Grant Scheme for Multi-Year Architecture, Design and E-Culture Programs of the Creative Industries Fund NL (SCI).
As part of its multiyear policy plan 2017-2020, Towards a Resilient City, the IABR has entered into two action-oriented collaboration agreements.
One is with the Special Envoy for International Water Affairs of the Kingdom of The Netherlands (Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management). The aim is to globally explore potentially viable projects for which "water" can be the key to finding integrated and innovative solutions to existing challenges. One focus is on South East Asia where water related problems are most urgent. In partnership with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Global Center on Adaptation and 100 Resilient Cities, IABR, the Special Envoy and AWB have initiated the project Water as Leverage for Resilient Cities: Asia. The Special Envoy and the IABR, together with Deltares and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, have also initiated the World Water Atlas.
The second agreement is with Resilient Rotterdam (Department of Urban Development, City of Rotterdam), resulting in the IABR–Atelier Rotterdam 2017 - 2020, in which other active partners are the Port Authority of Rotterdam, Delfshaven Cooperation and others.