1. Built environment
October 20, 2016updated 20 Jul 2021 3:03pm

How a new playground is helping Rotterdam deal with its flooding problem

By Arnoud Molenaar

Rotterdam is no stranger to water: 80 per cent of our city sits below sea level and we face the effects of climate change on a daily basis. As subsidence and urbanisation increase, our risk of flooding continues to grow.

As one of the first cities in the world to release a comprehensive Resilience Strategy, Rotterdam is keenly aware of how solutions and interventions can yield multiple benefits, addressing multiple resilience challenges simultaneously.

A new water square Frederiksplein, which opened last week in Rotterdam, is one such solution. Under normal circumstances, the water plaza functions as a playground, with seating areas, green space, and a football pitch. Planned in consultation with nearby residents, the water square also features art from the students of the Oscar Romero School. In more extreme conditions, the plaza collects storm water from the vicinity, relieving pressure from the city’s sewer system and mitigating flooding risk to the neighbourhood.

The water square. Image: 100 Resilient Cities.

Perhaps as important, the water plaza helps build social cohesion in the surrounding community of Crooswijk. It helps to beautify the neighbourhood, providing neighbours a place to mingle and spend time with one another, making the community stronger in both good times and bad.

The water square in Frederiksplein is the 4th water square in this city and the Benthemplein water square, the first of its kind, was a key initiative in the city’s Resilience Strategy. And while Rotterdam has been a pioneer in developing this concept as a viable flood mitigation tactic, we can also help cities around the world think differently about their flooding challenges and learn from how others around the world approach theirs.

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Multi-functional and multi-benefit solutions are key to building resilience in our city, but also in every city. With limited resources and time, cities must do more with what they have to build on their inherent advantages and learn from their challenges.

Arnoud Molenaar is the chief resilience officer for the city of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. You can hear him talk about the city’s flood protection plans on a recent episode of Skylines, the CityMetric podcast.

This post was previously published on the 100 Resilient Cities website, and appears here with permission.

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