‘The Ems Full Hybrid’ is a growing strategy that, aided by discarded oil platforms and new tidal polders, offers a solution to the economic and ecological problems of the Ems estuary. Introducing these polders and platforms restores the balance in the natural system and holds out new economic opportunities for the depopulating region. The outcome is a hybrid landscape: a spectacular mix of platforms, polders and mud flats, where seals and waders are unable to exist without oil rigs and ocean liners.
Jonas Papenborg and Remco van der Togt won with their MSc thesis ‘The Ems Full Hybrid’ the Archiprix 2014. Read below what they want to do with the Ems and get inspired .
The past thirty years have seen the Ems estuary become a lifeless and turbid system as a result of unnatural human activity. From as early as 1500, areas of land around the Ems and the Dollard have been reclaimed, gradually reducing the size of the estuary. This has only had dramatic consequences since 1970, when the channel was straightened and deepened to allow through immense industrial vessels and cruise ships. This has thrown the natural system off balance, bringing in large quantities of sediment resulting in oxygen deficiency and exponentially growing dredging costs. The situation in the Ems is exemplary for mankind’s centuries-long struggle against the vagaries of nature. Since time immemorial, we have been devising technical interventions to control the natural system, to guarantee our safety or for increased economic gain. The static quality of the new system runs counter to the dynamic nature of the natural system in its constant search for a natural balance. This countering effect causes unforeseen ecological problems and requires constant maintenance. To ease this strained relationship between mankind and nature, it is essential for mankind to accept the natural dynamic rather than work against it, and evolve in tandem with nature.
Taking the natural system as our starting-point, we developed a solution for the Ems estuary in which nature and economy are mutually strengthening instead of counterproductive. Nature can evolve into a new equilibrium, guaranteeing naturally the depth necessary for the cruise ships. By narrowing the channel upstream in stages and restoring natural meanders in the mouth of the estuary, the amount of sediment imported will decrease. At the same time, enlarging the hinterland downstream gives the sediment room to settle, so that the estuary can breathe freely again.
To enlarge the tidal basin we have introduced new ‘tidal polders’ in the desolate Rheiderland area. These polders are hitched to abandoned sluices that once connected the former fishing villages to the Ems. The polders can support fertile sediment capture, nature development or aquaculture at the inhabitants’ discretion. This self-regulation turns the villages of Rheiderland into a colourful landscape of polders for nature and production, driven by the power of the colossal cruise ships passing through.
Upstream, the channel is pinched using longitudinal dams, thereby reducing the import of sediment. These dams are constructed from the supporting jackets of abandoned North Sea oil platforms. Introducing these platforms gives the region a gigantic economic boost and also generates ecological profit. The jackets are positioned on sandbars to guide the single channel system back to a narrowed, multiple channel system. The longitudinal dams lay the foundations for an iconic landscape that can accept new habitats with perfect places for cultivating seaweeds and shellfish.
So the proposed design interventions provide not only a solution to the sediment problem, they also carry the vitality of the entire Ems region to a higher level.
More information about the Archiprix: www.archiprix.nl