The Ems Full Hybrid

The Ems Full Hybrid

_GRADUATION WORK_ by Remco van der Togt and Jonas Papenborg

‘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.

From a ‘yellow river’ to a balanced estuary. Land reclamation, the re-routeing of channels and constant dredging have put the Ems estuary out of balance. It is only by returning to a natural balance that the Ems can once again become a living estuary. Section through channel in m2 Flood volume in m3 Placement of groyne structures in the upper channel. This strategy narrows the inflow and reinstates in part the natural balance. Instead of making new groynes, the jackets of old oil platforms are dismantled in Eemshaven, cut to size and placed in the upper channel.

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.

Construction principle for groyne structures in the flood stream. By the use of abandoned oil rigs, an increasing problem of the North Sea is tackled as well.

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.

Door het gebied dat iedere vloed overstroomd te vergroten kan het natuurlijk evenwicht deels worden hersteld. In onbruik geraakt dorpssluisjes worden ingezet als inlaat voor nieuwe getijdenpolders. De dorpen krijgen zo weer een gezicht aan de Eems en nieuwe economische mogelijkheden.
Construction of tidal polders along the tidal river. The natural balance can be partially restored by increasing the area that is flooded every time. Disused village sluices are put to use again to allow in water for new tidal polders. The villages once again look confidently towards the Ems and acquire new economic potential.

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.

Groeiproces van de kribconstructies Aan de hand van groeiende kribconstructies word het herstel van de vloedgeul stapsgewijs gestuurd. Hierdoor wordt de hoofdgeul geleidelijk smaller en de nevengeul breder en dieper, met een meergeulen systeem als gevolg. Dit zorgt voor een explosie aan biodiversiteit en productiviteit.
Growing groyne structures made from obsolete oilrigs steers the recovery of the gullies step by step. The main gully slowly narrows while the secondary channel widens and deeps, resulting in a multi gully system. This results in new habitats, an explosion of biodiversity and productivity and overall a colourful estuary.
Groeiproces van de getijdepolders:  Langs de getijde rivier worden geleidelijk nieuwe getijdepolders aangelegd. Door slim gebruik te maken van getij, slib en de passages van cruisesschepen krijgt een her-verbonden dorp een reeks van mogelijkheden voor ‘hun’ polder.
To gradually increase the tidal basin, we construct new tidal polders alongside the tidal river. By making smart use of the tides, sediment and the passage of gigantic cruise ships, a re-connected river village gets a range of opportunities for ‘their’ polder.
De kribconstructies komen tot leven:  De kribconstructies vormen een nieuw speciaal habitat en leiden tot een enorme toename van de biodiversiteit. Lokale bewoners en bedrijven kunnen deze optimaal benutten voor bijvoorbeeld de kweek van mosselen, de visserij en het organiseren van speciale ‘krib-tours’.
The groyne structures come to life. These structures provide a new, special habitat and a tremendous boost to biodiversity. Local inhabitants and companies can make the most of these by, say, mussel farming, fishing and organizing special ‘groyne tours’.


De dynamiek van de getijdepolders  Doordat de polders aan de hand van de historische sluisjes te reguleren zijn, bieden ze tal van kansen voor neven activiteiten zoals aquacultuur, vruchtbare slib invang en natuurontwikkeling.
The dynamic of the tidal polders. As these can be regulated using the old sluices, they hold out countless opportunities for side activities such as aquaculture, fertile sediment capture and nature development.

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.

De getijdepolders van het Eems estuarium
The tidal polders of the Ems estuary.

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