International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam gathers over one hundred models of water cities

The International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam will bring together more than a hundred models of waterside towns in the Netherlands and elsewhere in the exhibition The Water City. Never before has such an extensive survey of the tradition of building alongside water been compiled. Included in the exhibition are 39 specially constructed models of, among others, the 17th-century towns of Rotterdam, Venice and Batavia, 18th-century Rio de Janeiro, 19th-century New York, and 21st-century Los Angeles. Moreover, twelve new designs for Dutch waterside towns in the future will be presented.

The Water City will be opened on Thursday, May 26 by His Royal Highness Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and Her Royal Highness Princess Mxima of the Netherlands. It is just one of the exhibitions on show during the second International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, entitled The Flood, which takes place from May 26 to June 26 in Las Palmas and the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAI) in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Dutch tradition
The Dutch people are famed for their tradition of building with water. The Water City exhibition presents the history, current situation, and future of waterside towns. The history of these towns, both in the Netherlands and elsewhere, forms an important source of knowledge for the development of new strategies in response to the current conflict between rising water levels and the need to expand our cities.

From early medieval Friesian villages like Sloten that sprang up around sluices, 17th-century fortified towns like Naarden and Breda, Hanseatic towns like Zwolle and Zutphen, Zuiderzee towns like Enkhuizen, trading posts in deltas, settlements on rivers and canals like Zierikzee, Zaltbommel and Gouda, all the way to early 19th-century bathing resorts, and the ramparts, canals and islands of Amsterdam. Also featured are recent developments such as the areas that stretch along the banks of the IJ in Amsterdam and the Kop van Zuid in Rotterdam.

Models of waterside towns around the world will highlight the differences and similarities in how towns have overcome the threat of water. Among the highlights are: 17th-century Copenhagen, Saint Petersburg and Recife; 19th-century Oostende; 20th-century Rgen, Barcelona, Baltimore, Valencia; and 21st-century Oslo and Hamburg.

Also on display in the exhibition will be models made as part of twelve studies of new Dutch waterside towns. Specially commissioned for the Biennale by Dutch as well as international architects, these studies will contribute to discussions on how to deal with water. Some designers propose major works of hydraulic engineering that result in new forms of urban development such as housing located in areas prone to regular flooding or on artificial islands. Other designers explore scenarios for different ways of living with water: from a new town in the catchment basin of the Biesbosch wetlands and “wet urbanization” in the town of Kampen, to a temporary “catamaran town” on a sandbank off the coast and new burial rituals in Amsterdam.

Atlas Dutch Water Cities
Accompanying The Water City exhibition is the Atlas Dutch Water Cities, SUN Publishers. This publication traces the relation between urban development and hydraulic engineering.

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