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Future Relics: About Doel's de-polderisation and eventual destruction in the Post-Anthropocene era

  • Parlangeli, Luca (author)
Publication Date
Nov 03, 2020
TU Delft Repository
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Within the main geographical contexts of the North Sea and the Scheldt estuary, the Doelpolder area stands out for the conflictual relationships between human settlements, environmental crisis, and man-made infrastructures, which are all paradigms of the so-called Anthropocene era. The site comprises the village of Doel, the natural reserve of Saeftinghe, the nuclear power plant of Doel and the largest dock of the Port of Antwerp in a 2 km long prone-to-flooding area, which is currently facing some anthropic phenomena such as pollution, infrastructural expansion of the harbor and dismantlement of the nuclear power plant. In its process of northbound expansion at the expense of the estuarine territory and the polder-land, the Port of Antwerp has turned Doel into a ghost town by means of expropriation and economic pressure, while the flora and fauna of Saeftinghe are endangered by the alteration of their brackish habitat caused by pollution and water level rise due to both infrastructural growth and climate change. This everlasting dichotomy between natural and anthropized processes poses here the dualistic problem of extinction/preservation and if/how can architecture depict a self-healing survival scenario for this specific site in the Post-Anthropocene, attempting at climate change mitigation and nature metabolism at the same time. The project first addresses the aforementioned issues within a regional strategic and energetic plan which foresees the “de-polderization” of the area, its transformation into a controlled tidal zone for soil and water recovery and the simultaneous expansion of the natural reserve. Moreover, the thesis wants to takes a position regarding the future re-use of (parts of) the nuclear power station starting from 2025 (the date Belgium is supposed to start the phase out of nuclear energy). On the architectural scale, the building here implemented is a “knowledge ark” with laboratories and academic-related spaces, a facility which can exploit not only the world-level Port infrastructure for an optimized logistic (coldchain) but also the proximity of the natural reserve and the former agricultural vocation of the area. This repository building consists of a seed vault and a frozen zoo for the conservation of species through cryopreservation technique, but most importantly is an architectural object designed to resist or accommodate time and territorial transformations, for guaranteeing a possible rebirth of both nature and culture. To do so, the architecture imagined for the Doel site is physically linked to the water-level-rise process. When/if the level of the Scheldt rises above 2 meters (worst case scenario), the whole area will be flooded and any human survival unlikely. In these circumstances, the water will trigger the self-destruction of the facility, spreading the seeds contained in the vault all over the area and thus favouring the rebirth of nature in unpredictable climatic conditions. In the end, the Seed Vault/Frozen Zoo constitutes, like Doel, the nemesis of the Port but, also like Doel, will eventually evolve into a ruin in case of loss in the fight against, pollution and climate change. / Architecture, Urbanism and Building Sciences | Transitional Territories

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