Antwerp – Two pilot projects
‘Reconnecting the Schijn and Scheldt rivers’
Back in the 18th century, the river Schijn was part of the large Scheldt estuary. The river’s discharge and corresponding ecology were dependant on tidal influences. Centuries of urban expansion and building docks for Antwerp’s old port pushed the river north and underground. Nowadays, the river is being pumped artificially into the docks.
A feasibility study is currently being conducted to restore the historical connection between both rivers. The overall Antwerp Green Plan, Climate Plan and Heat Plan -as well as several flood studies- identified key drivers for this reconnection project, among which are a shortage of recreational green space close to the city centre, the need for more ecological connectivity, allowing fish migration, protection against heat stress, resilience to urban flooding caused by heavy rains and climate change, and the need for independency of pumping stations. Reconnecting both rivers can be part of the climate adaptation strategy for Antwerp, as the new river would act as a buffer for urban storm water retention. Moreover, the benefits of linking the new river to large green areas are threefold; it can offer protection against heat stress, it can act as a new ecological connection and it can solve green shortages in certain parts of the city.
In this feasibility study, different spatial models are being designed and technically evaluated on a variety of parameters, such as the proposed ambitions, its impact in terms of direct and indirect costs and benefits, and the impact on ongoing projects, spatial quality and the extent to which they can be embedded in existing projects.
‘Re-designing the left river bank’
The second pilot project in Antwerp aims to reshape the natural banks and dykes of the river Scheldt and renew or construct adjacent parks and squares. These interventions will increase the amount of additionally harvested rainwater and therefore reduce the mean radiant temperature in the city. The social purpose of this project is to raise citizen’s participation in public spaces, enabling them to reconnect with the waterfront and escape the heat. The strength of the project is that the planning of the design is performed through a participatory process.The concept is to re-design the left river bank in order to create a recreational, open, residential and sustainable landscape, by developing the landscape as a open, continuously evolving structuring figure. The recreational and residential development is geared towards creating an attractive and vivid neighborhood. The design takes into account sustainable mobility by enabling optimal accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists and by linking the left and right river banks with water taxi´s.
You can find more information about the urban development in Antwerp here.