Subsurface Equilibrium

Transformation towards synergy in construction of urban systems

Placing the management of soil health first in urban design leads to innovative redesigns of public space. This is an opportunity to respond to global challenges like urbanisation, climate change, and energy transition. We explore how a circular use of soil can improve three urban designs in history of Dutch urban planning.
Half of each of our cities is underground. This is a hybrid space where the natural ecosystem of soil and water intertwines with human-made constructions like foundations, tunnels, cables, pipes, and cellars. This ‘engine room’ of the city has a crucial role in facing issues such as flooding,
drought, the transition to renewable energy, and local food production. Soil quality is critical to making cities healthy. Polluted and degraded soils should be rehabilitated and the space available for self-sustaining natural processes increased. In this project we test four methods: gentle remediation (cleaning with plants), fertilisation maintenance, restoring the original (Dutch peat) landscape, and using a Maya-inspired soil and water rehabilitation concept.

To find a new balance between the surface and subsurface, we applied a research process consisting of five steps to three urban types common to the Netherlands (residential districts from the 1950s, 1970s and 1990s). These steps achieve a restoration of the balance between surface and subsurface and anticipate the major challenges of climate change, energy transition and circular use of materials and soil in public space.

The series of illustrations shows the transition of the ‘1950s’ urban type. The first illustration (1) shows the original situation of this type. Based on mobility, energy and climate challenges, this typology was redesigned (2); the material flows necessitated by this design were then investigated, as represented diagram 3. The redesign was then adapted in order to make the material flows as circular as possible; this second design is shown in the cross section (4). In diagram 5 you can see how the flows of construction material, sandand water are kept within the area as much as possible (5).

These two videos are the result of the research project SUBSURFACE EQUILIBRIUM, Transformation towards synergy in construction of urban systems which was executed as part of the larger research project FUTURE CITIES initiated by the DIMI (Delta Infrastructure and Mobility Initiative) and BNA (Dutch Chamber of Architects). This research was a continuation of the research RESILIENT INFRASTRUCTURE which was part of the HIGHWAY and CITY project, also initiated by DIMI and BNA.


Subsurface Equilibrium

Subsurface Equilibrium Animation

The material was also part of an exhibition DUST TO DUST: REDESIGNING URBAN LIFE IN HEALTHY SOILS
30 November 2018 - 17 February 2019 in Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich, England.

Fransje Hooimeijer (TUD)
Francesca Rizzetto (UN Lab)
Wouter ter Heijden (TU Delft)
Ian Acheilas (TUD)
Leyden Durand Lopéz (UN Lab)
Kees de Vette (Gemeente Rotterdam)
Loretta von der Tann (University College London)