Climate changes are bringing about more intense rain showers (so-called cluster showers). One of the consequences of this phenomenon is that sewage systems are often incapable of coping with subsequent flooding. One of the consequences of this is that the paved surfaces in built-up urban areas often cause flooding in the cities. Tunnels, streets and basements can become flooded very quickly. One creative solution to this problem is to hold the water back before allowing it to flow off via the sewage system. This is exactly how the problem was tackled on Benthemplein in Rotterdam. The square has been converted into a skating basin and a sunken sports field. The surface and underground reservoirs (water storage) prevent flooding in the streets due to extreme rain showers. Benthemplein is the largest European water square with a multifunctional character: water storage, sports, recreation and relaxation all come together in a single urban square.
The first step was to conduct a stakeholder analysis and to actively engage the different interest groups in the planning phase. Local residents united under the name, ‘urbanists’, and collectively thought out the design and layout of the square in collaboration with the architect and the Rotterdam municipality. We also engaged other parties (over and above this sweeping form of civilian participation), including a number of high schools, a sports school and a church. We did this by marking and organising special moments: at the launch, during the process (to show the work progress) and in the form of an opening party at the end of the project. We also handled the press and representation: the whole project was covered in many trade journals and magazines, as well as on national and regional TV. To crown it all, we also got coverage on CNN..
The result of the project is a beautiful urban square that represents a unique combination of recreation and water storage, and which is actively enjoyed by many people. This was possible to achieve because everyone concerned supported the project from the very beginning. It was not only the local residents that committed to the plan; all the stakeholders, including the city council and aldermen, also became enthusiastically involved in the square.