Purifying park de Ceuvel
- by DELVA Landscape Architects
Former Ship Wharf ‘Ceuvel Volharding’
The area of ‘Ceuvel Volharding’ is a former ship wharf in Amsterdam. An abandoned and polluted site in the industrial and harbour area of Buiksloterham, in the north of Amsterdam. A plot located at the water with a special history, near the city centre of Amsterdam. In an economically better time this place would be cleaned up mechanically and built upon. The current era, in which planned urban developments come to a halt and many areas await development, provides opportunities for an alternative, less capital-intensive way of developing.
The area of ‘De Ceuvel’ does not remain abandoned. DELVA Landscape Architects developed the winning plan for the area in close collaboration with the entrepreneurs that will be using it. The site will be used as a breeding ground for creative entrepreneurs for the next ten years.
The starting point for the realization of the new creative hub ‘De Ceuvel’ is the pollution of soil and water. By filling the area with polluted dredge and the polluting activities of the ship wharf the site is heavily polluted with organic as well as inorganic pollutants. Current techniques that are used for purification of soil and water are costly, unsustainable and are often limited to hiding or moving the pollution to another site. The technique of phytoremediation, in which plants are used to stabilize, take-up or extract contamination from the soil, offers an alternative. On the site of ‘De Ceuvel’ this organic way of cleaning the soil results in a working landscape cleaning the soil and producing low-impact biomass. After ten years, the entire site is returned to the municipality of Amsterdam cleaner than we got it.
Unnecessary houseboats are put on land and transformed into 17 sustainable ateliers. At every step in the development process the highest level of sustainability that is financially viable, is pursued.
The boats are insulated and equipped with a sustainable heat system, green roofs and solar cells. Wastewater from the site is purified in bio-filters and nutrients from the waste are re-used for the production of food. Organic waste (from toilets) of visitors and tenants of the boats is converted into energy. A standard connection to the municipal sewer is therefore unnecessary.
The purifying park consists of an undulating green plain of grasses, perennials, short rotation coppice and mature trees for the uptake and degradation of pollution. The plant species are specifically selected for this area; plants that suit the rugged nature of the industrial terrain of Buiksloterham. A raised wooden jetty ensures that there is no direct contact with the polluted soil. The trail winds through the planting and connects the different houseboats. The pruning of the park is not transported elsewhere but remains on the property and is used to create products from biomass. A biomass digester converts biomass into energy that is used in the area. The particular combination of plants represents a new layer in the landscape, which remained hidden before. An alternative approach to pollution transforms the negative history of a place into a positive perspective. Aesthetic quality, that does not arise from a pictorial, static landscape but is the result of a direct experience of the transformation of this area. Residents and visitors are drawn to the history of the place while they continuously defining future use.
We are working on an alternative way of redevelopment for which the involvement of residents and users is crucial. In the case of the Ceuvel the end users already involved at an early stage. They are, after all, developer, (landscape) architects and user at the same time and are organized in the Association de Ceuvel.
This association has created a plan in which a basic set of rules and regulations is defined. This provides a strong framework with enough room for individual initiative and new ideas. This form of an efficiently organized bottom-up initiative differs from traditional project development and excludes inefficient participation processes.
Research and interaction
Research on the purification and low-impact biomass production at ‘De Ceuvel’ is conducted by the University of Ghent (Belgium). ‘De Ceuvel’ will serve as a test site and pilot project for graduate and doctoral study programs. A ‘knowledge route’ through the area shows the results of these studies and informs visitors about the sustainable principles of the organic purification and low-impact biomass production at the park. ‘De Ceuvel’ will be a place where researchers, designers, residents, governments, businesses, farmers and students get together to define the future use of the area.
The soil contamination is no longer the problem of this place but it is the catalyst of innovative concepts and initiatives in the field of (cultural) sustainability. Purification of soil and water, education, biomass production, innovation, research, ecology, art and culture come together.
With the knowledge gained during the development of the Ceuvel, we continue to work on other projects. The innovative way of redevelopment that is applied to the Ceuvel can be an example for many abandoned, derelict and contaminated areas. Transformation into ecologically, economically and socially interesting areas instead of inaccessible and polluted sites. The many vacant lots and underutilized parts of the city offer the opportunity to create spaces that are an addition to the current range of public space in the city.
The challenge is to stimulate commercial and social appropriation and create value on both. Activation of areas ensures that underutilized spaces come to the attention again. Through proper interventions wastelands can be valuable for nature, recreation, housing and industry. Activation leads to the creation of financial and social value.
This calls for a new, more strategic approach in which time is of great importance. Another way of designing that is aimed at giving meaning to a place. In a time of uncertainty regarding urban development, temporary interventions often provide viable. But what is temporary? Everything has its time. Each physical part of a place or area has its own lifespan. Not designs for temporary use, but the right mix of temporary and permanent, intensive and extensive use makes a place fascinating and versatile. By using time as a tool, a resilient and suitable plan can be developed. This results in an area that provides solutions instantly and can easily handle changes in the future.