Steven Slabbers led the Workplace Southwest Delta for four years, commissioned by the Delta program Southwest Delta, with BoschSlabbers as essential back office for the further development of workshop findings.
The workshop was located in the grand former city hall of Goes, a rococo gem at the head of the Markt (market place), and quickly grew into a ‘Salon for Delta Thinkers’. Every two weeks, it functioned as an open meeting place for ‘whoever has a commitment to the past, present and possible futures of the Southwest Delta’.
The workshop blended education, research, engineering, policy and design. Each session, a different theme was taken on, approaching it from different angles, with the purpose of shared discovery. The workshop aimed to take down barriers between different disciplines, organisations and institutions, by highlighting the uniting factor: the area of the Southwest Delta.
Shared motivator was to create a Southwest Delta that is not only safe and secure, but also an ecologically resilient and infinitely more interesting place to live and work in. To match that ambition, for four years the workshop searched for interventions that work and add value. Interventions that ensure that water security meets all safety norms, but without losing anything whatsoever in terms of seductive force.
In the workshop, various directions were sketched, from the awareness that long-term security, ecological resilience and economic viability are intricately connected. Safety and environmental quality are conditional to sustainable economic development. After all, when water security is insufficiently guaranteed and environmental quality not up to scratch, interested parties will put on hold their long-term investments in regional development.
Central element in the workshop was design-based research. Sketching was used as lingua franca between people participating in the sessions from widely different backgrounds. It brought focus to the debate and accelerated thought processes. By sketching, people tend towards thinking in opportunities instead of limitations, and the chance of discovering surprise connections and unsuspected opportunities is substantially higher.
The workshops generally worked from big to small, but frequently, we zoomed in from the larger system to a specific case, and zoomed out again to study what the case solution would mean for the larger constellation.
Roughly, the surface of the Southwest Delta is evenly divided into land and water, and includes a number of tidal areas that are both: land at certain hours, water at others.
The Netherlands is a country of spatial planning. This concerns first and foremost the spatial planning of activities on land. Spatial planning of water lags far behind. This is no surprise: it is also much more complex, because it involves a third, and even a fourth dimension. The first and second dimension concern the traditional geographical planning of the earth’s surface. The third dimension is about organisation of the utilisation of the water column (from the underwater soil life up to everything that takes place in the water column and on the water surface). And the fourth dimension is about the potential of seasonal conditions and user preferences.
The ultimate challenge for the future is to treat spatial planning of water and land not as separate, but as two processes in continuous exchange.
Title: Workshop Southwest Delta
Location: Zuidwestelijke Delta, NL
Size: 400.000 ha
Client: Delta program Southwest Delta
Type: Workshop management, process guidance
Image credits: BoschSlabbers, Loes de Jong, Dirk Oomen
Project code: HO 11-01