Floating and self-sufficient city De Grote Rug

Is living on water the answer to rising sea levels and flooding rivers? Building on water fits very well into the Dutch tradition. After hundreds of years of making land out of water, building on water is a logical next step in line with today's challenges. In addition, there is enough water in the Netherlands, while land, especially in the Randstad, is scarce. For the 9th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam we designed a floating and self-sufficient city on the De Grote Rug reservoir in Dordrecht.

The IABR and the municipality of Dordrecht investigated together with design offices West8, VenhoevenCS, EGM, studio Donna van Milligen Bielke en PosadMaxwan how flood risk management can act as a lever for sustainable area development. By providing insight into the opportunities for sustainable development and the qualities of living on water, we show how the former Grote Rug reservoir and similar locations can contribute to flood risk management and urbanization challenges in the Netherlands. The design researches have been presented at the IABR exhibition The High Ground in Dordrecht.

Our design in Eenvandaag

The news program @EenVandaag visited the Municipality of Dordrecht to discuss the results of the IABR research and their vision on climate adaptation. Our model for a floating city on De Grote Rug on #deStaart is shown as an example. Watch the broadcast of EenVandaag below (item starts on 14.19").

Watch the broadcast

High Density Water City

Like most other cities, Dordrecht has a severe housing shortage. The current plans account for building 4000 homes, but another 6000 homes will have to be added in the coming years. The development of less logical locations, such as on the water, is also urgently needed because of the scarce land. The floating city has about 2500 homes, plus workplaces and associated facilities, and thus contributes significantly to the housing demand. Most water districts are monofunctional, only accessible to residents and have a low density. The floating city of Grote Rug distinguishes itself from these neighborhoods thanks to a high-density mixed urban environment and the presence of public functions and outdoor spaces.

Contribution to water safety

Due to its location in the transition area from sea to rivers, Dordrecht is vulnerable to flooding. The floating city moves with the tides of the river Wantij and with the water level in the event of flooding: the district thus remains functional and safe regardless of the water level. At the same time, it serves as an evacuation destination for refugees in case of flooding of the inner-dike parts of Dordrecht.

© Merel Corduwener

Making the living environment more sustainable

The transition to a CO2-neutral, circular, green and climate-adaptive future requires a different design of the urban environment. The integration of sustainability has been included from the start of the design on the basis of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. These SDGs focus on sustainability across the board: from social, to ecological, to energetic, to economic sustainability. Applying the SDGs has resulted in a water city full of nature, with room for (interaction between) different population groups and powered by sustainable energy.

Living with water

Diversity, interaction, good public space and greenery form the basis of the design for the floating city of Grote Rug. The city has a high density, consists of different housing types, workplaces and facilities for residents and visitors from outside the city. The public space is attractive and diverse: from narrow canals, as we know them from Venice, to floating green parks with a lot of attention for ecology and biodiversity. There is a wide range of transitions between water and land: ecological banks, recreational jetties, private gardens and communal parks.

With our plan we have designed a structure that can also be applied at other locations, where urbanization, flood risk management and sustainability are urgent challenges. We look forward to further developing the water city in other cities.