Last night at 78 Maaskade

The first month is up.

I took a huge risk in July when I paid forward one month’s rent in an unknown city for an unknown apartment with unknown roommates. I got as lucky as lucky ducks get.

It’s been a wonderful stay in a beautiful apartment overlooking the Maas River. 78 Maaskade quickly became home and I made a few Dutch friends for life.

Berend took off today to live in Madrid for 6 months. He left me with an early birthday present, which I model here: click. Roffa is, in Berend’s own words, “the gangster name for Rotterdam that only gangsters use.” I’m glad to be awarded this token of appreciation and be deemed cool enough to represent Rotterdam as the city’s only American OG. I promised to wear it all over the streets of Amsterdam and do the ‘Ben Bruce’ dance whenever someone indicates their disgust and outrage at my sweatshirt choice. (For the #newbs: the legendary Ben Bruce move is when you put both hands on your head, bite your tongue, and move your hips around with feet still, obviously). The dance move is proven to turn water into wine.

All in all, it has been a brilliant stay and it’s sad to leave my Rotterdam home. But, nothing lasts forever and I’m glad to have great memories to look back on.

I couldn’t have written a better day today. I painted, hit the market (20 kiwis for 4 euros–yes!), skateboarded to get some coffee, and joined Marco with some other Erasmus students for a delicious home cooked meal of Nasi, a peanut-buttery Indonesian rice dish.

Playing in a rugby tournament tomorrow, then I’m crashing for the night at a teammates place. On to the Hague, Amsterdam, and adventures beyond. It’s been a while since I’ve put on my backpack.

Last night, I went out with a whole bunch of students who are doing an International Business Management masters program at Erasmus. We all got together at a house nearby for drinks before going to a club. It was pretty amazing to be in a room with students from Italy, Hungary, Greece, Poland, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Czech Republic, and so on. If you think about it, it’s geographically no different from sitting in a class at Bowdoin with kids from California, Colorado, Arizona, Florida, and so on. But the cultural differences within the small geographic area of Europe are so much more apparent than in the U.S. Very cool to witness.

As for now, going to watch a movie called ‘Mud’ with Marco, pack, then get some sleep before rugby time.

Damn it feels good to be a gansta.
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It’s a bummer sharing the only the photos of the paintings rather than the actual artifacts with you. I always get disappointed about how they look as photographs, but hey I’ll mail them to Hanover at some point so if you’re super eager you can drive on up and stay with my parents for a night!

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The Control of Nature

Crushed the whole ‘making dinner’ thing today:

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Today I had a big plan to take the waterbus up the river to explore a city called Dordrecht. I got to the station, waited for about five minutes and then proceeded to get poured on in a flash rainfall. The sky looked grey as far as I could see so I figured it would be a rainy day. I retreated back to the house and decided to spend the day working on a painting. Ironically, 40 minutes after I got back to the house and started working, the sun came out and it turned into a beautiful day.

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The Control of Nature

This is a painting of Maasvlakte 2, the man made land at the end of the Port of Rotterdam that is the same size as Rotterdam’s airport. It’s built from sand pumped up from the bed of the North Sea. On the horizon are power plants and oil refineries that power the daily requirements of the port.

This afternoon I walked over to the art store to pick up some more white paint. Through the shelves I heard a familiar American accent (much more rare in Rotterdam than Amsterdam, I suppose) and turned the corner to investigate. I met a woman named Renee van der Stelt who is an artist in residence north of Rotterdam. She is a drawing professor in Baltimore and had some great suggestions about how to visualize and diagram all the conceptual ideas I’ve got rolling around in my head. Check out her website here. It was refreshing to have a brief chat with someone from the East Coast.

Played a rugby game last night! 19-5 win.

Next week, I’m turning into a little bit more of a nomad. I’m meeting people all over the Netherlands so going to see a lot of the country and hopefully get some awesome insight from big shots in the professional world of water management.

As well as my sketchbook, I keep a  journal with super small pages. I actually have a lot more fun drawing in that journal than in the big sketchbook. It’s cool integrating drawings into the writing. Whereas the big sketchbook had so much intimidating white space that I feel obligated to fill up. I like the small pages.

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I have another bigger painting in progress. Hopefully I’ll get that to you soon.

Maasvlakte 2

You know you’re concerned about sticking to a budget when breakfast involves scavenging the fridge to find suitable ingredients to liquify in the blender. This morning I was lucky enough to make a banana-avocado smoothie but it’s been worse. Once I had to resort to partly moldy strawberries. According to Sir Alexander Fleming, mold is penicillin so it can’t be bad for me. All in all, blenders are probably on my list of favorite kitchen appliances, after the mandoline and donkey shaped cookie cutters.

It was Berend’s 22nd birthday yesterday so I got him the best present he could have imagined. I model the gift below: Photo on 8-28-13 at 2.13 PM 1. It’s camo #nuffsaid

2. He recently got new low-cut chuck taylors with some camo print on them so now he can match.

3. He already wears a Chicago White Sox hat, even though he didn’t know what the White Sox were until I got here.

4. Berend’s leaving to study abroad in Madrid…when he wears the shoes and hat together there is a 95% certainty that no spanish girls will talk to him. He’s had a serious girlfriend for about 5 years so I’m just trying to keep them together. #savioroflove.

5. Chicago!

Yesterday, I went on an extensive full day harbor tour. 10am-5pm. That’s a long ass time on a boat, but there was some fantastic opportunities for people watching. I saw some mind-blowing harbor infrastructure including some of the largest container ships in the world.

My favorite people on the boat were two english men that got as excited by tracking and recording cargo ships as an ornithologist from the prairies of North Dakota would be about being in the jungle with birds of paradise. They both carried binoculars. One guy’s binos had orange lenses which made me pretty jealous. They would scan all corners of the harbor and frantically write down the names of the boats they saw. Both men were hovering around 50, but at times they would get more excited than a school kids at the sound of an ice-cream truck. They bellowed their spottings as if they had made a nobel prize winning discovery.

The other people that baffled me were two kids, a boyfriend and a girlfriend between 14-16 that would ‘sneak away’ from the parents to go make out and smoke cigarettes. First of all, kids, the boats not that big and nobody wants to see your gross awkward-phase romance. Second, smoking kills. Get it together.

The captain gave a guided tour of the harbor, which I’m sure was brilliantly interesting and informative. I would have listened but it was entirely in Dutch. I wrote down some of the key words and did some research on the Port of Rotterdam site:

  • The harbor and its industrial sites stretch 40km
  • 34,000 sea going vessels and 100,000 barges visit the harbor annually
  • 90,000 people work in the harbor
  • Rotterdam is home of the EJT (European Juice Terminal)–16 thousand-ton stainless steel tanks for Brazilian orange juice concentrate storage.
  • The harbor has two man-made ports constructed by building an enclosing dike and filling it in with sand in the North Sea. The first was built in the 1960’s and the other was just completed this year. They are called Maasvlakte 1 and Maasvlakte 2.
  • Mississippihaven in Maasvlakte 1 is the largest dry bulk terminal in europe. 20 million tons of coal and 13 million tons of iron ore. 140,000 tons can be unloaded/day.
  • Below is the world’s most modern coal and biomass plant. It has a capacity of 800MW.

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  • The BP Refinery Rotterdam is one of Europe’s largest with a processing capacity of 63,500m^3 or 400,000 vats of crude oil a day.
There were hundreds of silos. The camera cannot capture the vastness.
There were hundreds of silos. The camera cannot capture the vastness.
  • The Euromax terminal is one of the most advanced and environmentally friendly container terminals worldwide. The automated terminal houses ships from the ‘Green Alliance’–a partnership between Cosco, “K” Line, Yan Ming and Hanjin. Look for clues in the photos that give a sense of scale. Rarely can you see something that we are used to…one of the photos has a car in it which can give you an idea.
  • The Maasvlakte 2, just completed this year makes the harbor about 20% bigger but the first container ships won’t be unloaded there until 2014. Right now it just looks like a desert or a man-made island from Dubai. It cost about 2.8 billion euros to construct.

The cruise took me back past the Maeslant Barrier.

Han Meyer

I walked into the Faculty of Architecture at TU Delft and was instantly reminded of long summer days spent at Gund Hall during my Harvard Graduate School of Design summer course in Architecture. Since the Dutch summer holiday period is wrapping up, the halls, desks, and studios weren’t as busy as I’d image they usually are. It was nice to walk through the studios and see all the workshop space where minds are usually hard at work designing and creating.

I meandered through the halls of the west wing of the building looking for the Urbanism department and the desk of Professor Meyer. Because I hardly know Han Meyer, here is a brief biography from the back of one of his books: Han Meyer is a professor of urban design theory and methods at TU Delft’s Faculty of Architecture. His research focuses on the fundaments of urbanism and on comparative analysis of urbanization and urbanism in delta regions. 

Han Meyer spoke to me for a little less than an hour sharing some of his professional insights on urban planning in delta regions. He left me with a great suggestion for my visual journal and recommended two titles to pick up at the faculty book store as I left.

Here are some bullet points from our conversation:

  • Flipping through my sketchbook, Professor Meyer encouraged me to draw plans and sections to compliment my current drawings of city ‘perspectives.’ He explained that the essence of urbanist drawings use the combination of the three type of illustrations to describe a built environment or a space in greater detail. Up to this point, I have been focusing entirely on scenes in perspective. He encouraged me not to forget about the informative power of the other two types of plans and sections.
  • The Netherlands has been managing water since the 13th and 14th century. The landscape has developed into a patchwork of dikes, canals, and polders over a period of centuries. Still, there are always new delta plans and changes to their Dutch water management strategy. A country facing up to the challenges of sea level rise now cannot expect ‘Dutch’ results after a decade or so. The management strategies in the Netherlands are as old as the nation itself.
  • In the U.S. today, there is a debate about whether to retreat from certain coastlines. What’s worth saving? Where are the costs too steep? I asked Professor Meyer if he had one recommendation for what the U.S. should do in the next fifty years, what would he suggest? His major recommendation for the U.S. is to stop building on the coast. It is unwise for private investors and public policy should change to prevent future coastal development.
  • Meyer referred to a project he is involved with in New Orleans called the Dutch Dialogues (he actually happens to work closely with David Waggonner, an architect from New Orleans that I talked to in January of 2013 and really helped me organize my thoughts and strengthen my application for the fellowship). New Orleans as a ‘delta city’ is similar to parts of the Netherlands. But really, Meyer explained, there are more differences than similarities especially because of the cultural underpinnings behind the two countries. One major difference between the Netherlands and the United States is the ability to buy flood insurance. In the Netherlands, the damage from dikes breaking and the country flooding would be so great that insurance companies could not cover it. It is impossible to buy flood insurance in the Netherlands. Also, the Netherlands bans coastal development and leaves the sand dunes and beaches as a primary and natural line of defense. Professor Meyer explained that the power of Hurricane Katrina would have been buffered slightly by the wetlands of the Mississippi had they not be paved over and developed.  The other major difference between the Netherlands and the United States is that the fate of the nation is on the hands of the water defense in the Netherlands, whereas in the United States it is only cities. If the Netherlands floods, the country, the culture, the history is wiped out.
  • Planning in delta regions seeks a balance between ecology, economy, and the built environment. For example, in building the Oosterschelde Barrier, there were detrimental effects on the ecology, and the dam beheaded the shipping channels between the smaller port towns north of Antwerp but south of Rotterdam. The benefits of the dam were that it provided flood protection and reduced the exposed coastline. How can you find a balance between competing interests?
  • A new initiative in the Netherlands is to pump sand into beaches and let natural features of the landscape work in the defense of the lowlands. How can we look to use the processes of nature rather than control nature. Why attempt to control something that is in such a constant flux? Employ the natural function of the landscape.
  • Sea level rise in the Dutch context means something different from other parts of the world, because of the subsidence of the land due to draining polders for agriculture, the land behind the dikes is actually sinking while the sea is still rising. Therefore SLR for the Dutch is the net difference of the sea rising and the land subsiding. The Dutch are looking to the Mekong delta in Vietnam, where the fields still flood and don’t have the problem of subsiding land caused from draining. Yet, the Vietnamese are looking to the Dutch for the ‘Dutch expertise.’ As the developing countries grow and people get richer, they look to change their standards of living. For example in Vietnam, as GDP grows, they may not want to deal with the annual flooding of the agricultural plains, however it is this natural function that maintains the solidarity of the land.
  • There is no universal solution to planning for rising seas. A ‘solution’ is so tightly bound and so heavily defined by the cultural, economic, and environmental context of the city, region, and nation in of itself. There is absolutely no way to find cookie-cutter solutions to these intricate and complex problems presented to cities at sea.
  • Under Professor Meyer’s recommendation I picked up two books at the book store:
  • Delta Urbanism: The Netherlands Edited by Han Meyer, Inge Bobbink, and Steffen Nijhuis: Delta Urbanism is a major APA intiative that explores the growth, development, and management of deltaic cities, toward balancing various and often competing goals in a sustainable manner: urbanization, port commerce, industrial development, flood defense, public safety, ecology, tourism, and recreation. Delta Urbanism contemplates the policies, tools, technology, coordinated planning, public outreach, and international cooperation–both current and emerging–needed to save deltaic cities. 
  • Atlas of Dutch Water Cities: ed. Fransje Hooimeijer, Han Meyer, and Arjan Neinhius: The Dutch have a rich and internationally renowned tradition when it comes to the intense relationship between urban development and water engineering. Their expertise and knowledge of the laws of water and ingenuous technology have helped them successfully transfer a wet and marshland type of area into an area for agricultural and urban use. However, water is a surprising and dynamic element of nature, whilst the use and perception of water have also been subject to change throughout the years. This is why the relationship between city and water is dynamic; it constantly needs to be determined, designed, and devised. Since the last decade of the twentieth century we are confronted with new and surprising effects of water: a rising sea level, increasingly intense rainfall, and greater differences in the volumes of water produced by rivers. Urban development forces us to consider a new relationship between city and water. 

I am very grateful to have met Professor Meyer and had the opportunity to sit down with him. I look forward to reading his work and being able to organize some thoughts about delta urbanism in a structure that’s more organized than bullet points.

Before meeting with Professor Meyer, I had the chance to bike through Delft, a very nice town that’s architecturally a huge contrast to Rotterdam. Rotterdam is unlike any other city in Europe. Its dominated by reflective glass and ‘experimental’ architecture. After the entire city was bombed by the Germans in WWII, Rotterdammers rebuilt the city anew in the 50s and 60s. It lacks the traditional ‘european’ architecture: buildings from the 14th century, cobbled streets, and central squares. My roommate Berend describes it as the New York City of the Netherlands. Rotterdammers take pride in the skyscrapers and the urban development. They are also eternally bitter that Amsterdam is known by the rest of the world as the iconic Dutch city. But to me, Rotterdam can’t touch New York. It feels only slightly bigger than Portland, Maine.

The literal highlight of my day trip to Delft was climbing the steeple of the parish church through a claustrophobically tight spiral staircase that felt as if it never ended. It was a dizzying climb up the slippery triangular stone stairs, but the view and the breeze from the top was rewarding. It was a clear day so I could see all the way across the horizon. Skyscrapers from Rotterdam to the Hague pierced the skyline and I could see wind turbines and industrial cranes towards the port. My perch had seen this modern world grow up around it. It’s been standing there since 1381.

Here’s a drawing of the Delft central square:

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Tomorrow I’m going on a 6 hour cruise to see the Maasvlakte 2, an extension of the harbor so that Rotterdam can upgrade and accommodate the largest container ships in the world. They are dredging sand and extending the coastline into the sea. I’m looking forward to checking it out.

HAAGSE RUGBY DAGEN and amphibious housing

Den Haaaaag, The Hague, has the biggest rugby club in the Netherlands. I traveled Northwest with the Erasmus team to play two friendly 40 minute games (two halves) against The Hague’s 2nd XV and Delft.

I played fly-half, the position I played at Bowdoin, for the entire 80 minutes. The pitch was wet and the grass was long so the games were slow and defense-heavy with a lot of scrums and knock-ons. It was not the style of game tailored to my strengths as a player. I prefer a faster pace with running, slick passing, and fancy moves.  However, the guys on the team were pumped to have me and seem to want me to stick around and play for them for as long as possible.

I noticed quite a few professional photographers around the pitch so hopefully I can provide photo evidence later on in the week.

After the game, we drove back to Rotterdam to go to the Irish pub and watch the South Africa-Argentina match. I took the train to the match with 3 of the other guys but I was offered a ride back in someone’s car. Frank, a 6’6” lock (the biggest guy on the team) hopped in the trunk to make room for me. Of course this is illegal, but he ‘disappeared’ after he rolled the baggage curtain over his head. Perfectly concealed from the 5.0.

I left my bike at Centraal Station for the day. There are usually thefts and lots of vandalism in the giant parking lot of bikes, especially late at night. I was very happy to find my baby intact with both wheels still on! I’ve grown very fond of that bike. It’s definitely the most useful tool you can have in the Netherlands.

I had a wobbly ride home and then fell asleep as soon as I plopped down on my pillow. Long day.

Tomorrow, I’m meeting Han Meyer, the director of the Urban Planning faculty at Delft Technical University, the premier engineering and design school in the Netherlands. One of his projects (Project Delta-Urbanism focuses on the way territorial conditions in delta- areas have to be taken into account in  urban design and urban planning. The research pays especially attention to the borders of land and water and to the question how the infrastructure of water-management can be integrated in the urban fabric.)

Should be especially interesting to hear about.

He was very nice to offer me a time to meet him. I first heard about Mr. Meyer after reading an introduction to a book called Waterwonen in Nederland (Amphibious Housing in the Netherlands). I just dropped him an email cold and he got back to me with a time. Cool beans.

Here’s an excerpt:

Within a short period the relationship between urban development and water in the Netherlands has been completely reversed. Just a few decades ago urban development and urban regeneration almost always involved the filling in or draining of lakes, canals, waterways, and harbors, annexing and impoldering areas adjacent to the rivers, repositioning and raising dykes and reclaiming river beds. Now the opposite is true. The new consensus is that we need more space for rivers, for surface water in cities and for the temporary storage of ever-larger volumes of rain water to limit further subsidence and saline seepage. 

What exactly does this mean for the city? Widespread concern about urban and rural clutter has made it a hot topic in the world of professional designers and in public debate in the media and at meetings organized by local architecture centres.

It is absolutely vital that we explore how solutions to the matter of water in the city can contribute to the development of meaningful new urban structures. 

Amphibious housing has received a great deal of attention in competitions and small-scale experiemnts, much of it dominated by futuristic vistas of floating cities…But such experiments have tended to emphasize technical solutions to matters like stability and connections to onshore facilities. (or G-WAVE?) The latter is certainly important, but what has been missing so far is exactly what this book is all about, a systematic approach to the question of how water-based housing can contribute to a new, durable and meaningful form of urban design.

Amphibious housing is less a problem that needs a solution than a springboard for new qualities and connections that can provide cities with entirely new perspectives.

Krimpen aan den Ijssell

This morning I rolled out of bed kind of sore and beat up from rugby practice last night, fed myself some eggs, brushed (but didn’t floss) my teeth, crushed a can of Spinach pop-eye style, and hopped on a bus.

A waterbus, infact.

It’s pronounced the vwahterboose in Dutch and it’s awesome.

The main line is on the River between Rotterdam and Dordrecht, Holland’s oldest city. The waterbus is a motorized catamaran and it cruises up to 40kph. The waterbus traveled a distance equivalent to the Lower Manhatten to 125th street in only 10 minutes. No traffic lights, bike accessible, and there are 3 buses each hour.

If the water’s there…use it. Waterways used to be the major highways in the world, why change that?

The waterbus is used a lot by commuters who work in central rotterdam. It quick, cheap, and fun.

A side note:

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Perhaps a bike-friendly watery world will be advantageous for the future…considering everybody is beginning to live so much longer with advancements in healthcare there will be a booming elderly population. Bike and boat infrastructure seems to go hand in hand for old people in buggies. There are ramps and paths everywhere, and the waterbuses have lots of storage room. This form of vehicular transportation is surprisingly abundant in the Netherlands…But honestly, lets hope we never get to that!

I traveled to a stop called Stormpolder. Then biked to a town called Krimpen aan den Ijssell, a suburban sprawl. I came to this painfully plain town to see a specific storm barrier, one of the delta works projects. It was nothing particularly life changing. There was a large steel wall that can be lowered like a guillotine into the river in order as the first line of dense for river floods. It would be disastrous if the water slipped over the dikes and flooded neighborhood like a bathtub.

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I took advantage of being alongside a river on a beautiful summer day and biked along the banks for a bit. I stumbled up on a sports store where I picked up a better pair of cleats for a rugby game in Den Haaaaaaaaggg tomorrow (The Hague). I’ve been wearing a pair of old soccer cleats that were ripped open at the toe and kept together with medical tape. The studs were small and I’d slip all around the field. Sometimes it felt like rugby on ice. I figured I’d pick up something slightly more put together for some ass-kicking on the pitch tomorrow.

I biked back to Rotterdam and didn’t get lost once! I’m really starting to figure this place out!

Here are two more recents:

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