Adaptation by Design – Exhibition and Seminar Delta Interventions Studio 2016-2017

Delta Interventions – Interdisciplinary Graduation Studio 2016-2017
Delta Urbanism Research Program


— See pictures here

27th – 30th June 2017
Model Hall, Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment

Exhibition Design
D-i 2016-2017 Graduate Students with Taneha K. Bacchin, Daniele Cannatella, ir. Filippo laFleur and Thuy-Trang

D-i Studio Mentors Han Meyer, Urbanism Taneha K. Bacchin, Architecture & Urbanism
ir. Stefan de Koning, Architecture
ir. Sjap Holst, Building Technology
dr. Fransje Hooimeijer, Urbanism
dr. Diego Sepulveda, Urbanism
ir. Kristel Aalbers, Urbanism
D-i Teaching Assistant
ir. Filippo laFleur


29th June 2017
09:30 – 12:30
Room BG West 030, Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment­­ Han Meyer (Delta Urbanism) Taneha K. Bacchin (Urban Compositions/ Delta Urbanism)

Panel reflection Frist Palmboom
van Eesteren Chair/ Palmbout Urban Landscapes Peter van Veelen
DIMI Urban Deltas
Marcel van der Meijs
Palmbout Urban Landscapes
Pieter Schengenga
H+N+S Landscape Archtiects

Delta Interventions studio will present the research developed jointly with UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design and a synthesis of Architecture and Urbanism Thesis projects in San Francisco Bay, California for the academic year 2016-2017. Parallel to the exhibition, the studio will host a seminar with invited experts to critically reflect on the question of designing adaptation in the North American context and not only.

Delta Interventions Studio 2016-2017 topic was a precursor to the design competition launched in May 2017 San Francisco Bay Area, Resilience by Design by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), California Coastal Conservancy (CCC), San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI), San Francisco Bay Area Urban Planning and Research Association (SPUR), City of San Francisco Planning Department and the Resiliency Offices of the Cities of San Francisco and Oakland. Inspired by ‘New York’s Rebuild by Design’ the design competition aims at addressing challenges affecting the resiliency of San Francisco Bay Area neighbourhoods, environment, and infrastructure in an era of climate uncertainty. In collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley, College of Environmental Design, Delta Interventions Studio focused on innovative projects to increase Bay Area’s adaptive capacity and local area performance in response to future uncertainty in climate and urbanisation patterns.

System Thinking – Working with Layers, Times and Scales
Landscape Dynamics, Narratives and Values
Urban Morphology, Performance and Affordances
Landscape Infrastructure Design (Building with Nature – Green/Blue Infrastructures)
Adaptation Pathways
Cultural Heritage and Adaptive Reuse

Delta Interventions Graduation Studio has a strong emphasis on the agency of spatial interventions in the production of territories. The studio investigates the possibilities to combine flood protection and water management strategies with urban design, landscape design and spatial planning, aiming at improving spatial forms and structures in urban and metropolitan delta regions. Part of Delta Urbanism Interdisciplinary Research Group, the studio develops design and planning approaches and methods which contribute to make urban delta landscapes more sustainable, attractive and adaptive.

Joint Design Studio Concept
Text by
Prof. Peter Bosselmann
College of Environmental Design/ University of California at Berkeley/ Master Program in the Design of Urban Places/ Urban Places Advanced Studio

San Francisco Bay is a tidal estuary of the Pacific Ocean connected to the inland delta of the Sacramento and San Joachim Rivers. The landform in which the Bay resides has a roughly 500,000 year history. Here estuaries existed 7 times, each time during interglacial periods. In its current form the Bay existed for approximately 8.000 years. Tidal estuaries form a water to land transition zone. By the mid 1800’s the Bay had formed an estuarine to terrestrial transition zone of over 250,000 acres or 110,000 ha. This large area is referred to as the baylands. Prior to urbanisation this transition zone was primarily made up of tidal marshes and tidal mud flats. The use of the baylands changed greatly in the 200 years of urbanisation. Approximately 50.000 acres of reclaimed land were added.  In the year 2000 only 60,000 acres of tidal marshes and tidal flats remained. The baylands in their changed condition still exist at roughly at the same low elevations. It is this transition zone that is most precious as society confronts sea level rise. Here design decisions have to be made. Some designs include tidal marsh restoration that also protects upland conditions from sea level rise. These restorations are referred to as soft edge solutions. Approximately 9,000 acres of restored tidal marshes have been added since 1999. In other areas decisions still have to be made with a current emphasis on restoring the transition zone. That leaves around 84,000 acres where urbanisation has occupied lands close to the water’s edge and where hard edge solutions will be necessary. For the landscape ecologist these 84,000 acres are degraded ecosystems or patches. For an urban designer the design of such patches needs to include human activities, sometimes intensely human, allowing people, sometimes in great numbers, access right up to the water’s edge. It is the design of such places that is most challenging. Residing in proximity to water, overlooking water, stepping down to water, sensing water on approach to the shoreline—these are profoundly human experiences that sustain human life in cities; especially the life of those who live in cities near water. The dichotomy implied in these words between designing in support of natural processes and designing for human needs and values will be reflected in our studio work.

The discussion about the design of the transition zone between water and land has been discussed since 1965, when the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission was established. A more current discussion about the future of the transition zone is only in the beginning stages as the sciences about the consequences of climate change have become better known. The design of the transition zone requires a balance between engineering solutions that protect the functions of communities, and the repair or reconstruction of ecological systems. Cities around San Francisco Bay are discussing adaptation strategies with built-in redundancies. Such strategies introduce multiple and overlapping designs to create redundancy in the defense against flooding. Wherever available space permits, redundancy is preferred over a single line of defense. Redundancy increases safety in the long run.

The danger is that the maps showing projected inundations of the transition zone by some date in the distant or not so distant future will scare society into making major mistakes that would have otherwise never been considered.   I would consider it a mistake, if for example infrastructure funding to improve bridges and highways would make large coastal engineering protection measures feasible without examining more benign interventions. A moveable barrier at the Golden Gate between San Francisco and Marin County would be such a mistake.  Mistakes will be made; an approach to design is necessary that is incremental and allows us to repair mistakes. Much more frequently than in the past, the context of climate change forces designers to ask, how do we repair our designs, if they fail?

To start our work we will travel to different locations around San Francisco Bay. We will draw a transect over the baylands to select locations that are representative of the transition zone between land and water. From such a survey we will select 10 sites that will potentially become the sites for the actual 2017 competition. Individually, or in small groups we will produce “tentative designs”. I have borrowed the term tentative design from Giancarlo di Carlo, the Italian architect and educator who coined the term to clarify that spatial design is like any other form of decision making effort. To approach a decision in the context of many interrelated variables a designer works on spatial solutions to test the implications of decisions made.  Such a process can only be tentative at first, done by a designer who keeps an open mind about initial solutions and understands that revisions and changes will become necessary.