LODEWIJK BALJON landscape architects: ‘Landscape architecture is constructed from craftsmanship, theory and artistic sense.’
Tradition, as a combination of knowledge and experience, offers inspiration, but also makes us critical and creative. Tradition makes the design familiar and comfortable. Innovation makes it fresh, dynamic and challenging. We make use of both currents. Landscape architecture as we practice it, combines diverse goals and merges the input from various fields. We see the landscape architect as an ingenious planner and astute integrator in complex processes. By drawing, the given situation and program are analyzed, the context and its potential are researched, and the consequences of the chosen starting points and conditions are sketched for the client. This design technique results in an integral plan, where all aspects converge. This analysis driven design method enables us as landscape architects to fully develop sustainable designs.
Good design should address three major qualities:
Context – Continuity of time and place is about ecology, cultural history and expressing the character of the region. The aim is cohesion in the landscape fabric (or in the urban fabric). By embedding design in a broader cultural context, landscape architecture can give a sense of place and a sense of time. Comfort – By providing shelter, and making the organization of space clear and readable, people can really enjoy a place. Condition – A space is in a good ‘shape’ when it is sustainable and flexible. This is created by means of a Loose Fit: a not a too tight relation between function and form. Spaces should serve more than one purpose and objects should be usable in more than one way.
Public space is all about people. Therefor we combine vitality with calm, and balance the familiar and the challenging. Our general attitude towards design is best expressed as: Optimistic Realism. As inspired landscape architects we see problems as an opportunity to do things better. Reality is not an obstacle, but rather a point of departure.
The town of Domburg in Zeeland is close to the sea. It is an area that performs several functions. The dunes form the seawall and act as a landscape buffer between the town and the coast, while still allowing access from the seaside resort to the beach. Between the beach and town, there are several access points that allow people to move between the beach, shops, and emergency services.
This particular section of dunes, which is very important for Domburg, was under great pressure. The strip of dunes between the town and the beach is narrow and crowded. In the summer season, the volume of pedestrians and cyclists is often very high. Through the dune a path meanders seemingly carelessly: The Boulevard of Schagen. The furnishings were worn out and had insufficient capacity for the many walkers and beach guests.
The redesign of the dune boulevard, the route through the narrow strip of dunes between town and beach, is a combination of a narrow-looking dune path with alternating views of the sea, town, dunes, villas and water tower, and sturdy entrances leading to Domburg. Along the route there are generous Sea Balconies, each with its own unique relationship to the dune: from the top of the dune, to a sunken spot within the dune.
The redesign is a subtle integration of various functional and ecological requirements, the atmosphere of a natural dune landscape and does justice to the character of Domburg as a stylish, small-scale seaside resort.
The City Garden in Groningen is part of a Government Office Complex, and is an important addition to the outdoor space of the city. It is a public garden, where the richness of plant life is combined with a public meeting space: coupling vitality with calm.
The main crossing is marked by a special light object, inspired by courting birds as metaphor for the interaction between city life and nature, between office workers and the public. The lines of the paths are fluent and effortlessly find their continuation in the architecture.
The location of the garden, at the base of a 90-meter high building and on top of an underground car park, called for a design that creates shelter from winds. Three meter high screens, lightly curved and covered with ivy, form a radial pattern. Together with multi-stemmed trees, chosen because of their wind resistance in roof garden situations, they keep the wind off the ground and contribute to a pleasant environment.
Rainwater is retained and re-used through a substrate drainage system. A series of ponds is created along the main route for buffering and purification. The sound of streaming water is pleasant, and the granite edges invite visitors to linger.
The City Garden is characterized by a sheltered atmosphere, where one is surrounded by a rich vegetation. The roof garden is planted with 55,000 perennials in 200 species. The planting has exuberant colours and forms, changing with the seasons. The rest of the site is covered with a flower meadow and woodland vegetation. The garden is a nature-rich place that suits the ecology of the adjacent historical urban forest.
The new station square is the gateway to Apeldoorn, a city proud of its relationship with the surrounding landscape. Sand-coloured paving and pine trees are a reference to this regional identity. Legibility of spatial organization and comfort for travellers are integral to the success of this square.
The urban shape is a crescent, accommodating shops, housing and office buildings. At the centre, an underpass for bikes and pedestrians is combined with a large bicycle parking.
Spanning the length of the square, a glass wall forms a dynamic visual frame, with 1.3 million LED lights continuously changing, depicting a landscape: ‘travelling sand’.
The shell-shaped floor radiates calm and simplicity. Yellow granite continues throughout in a craquelure-like pattern that integrates line drains, tree grates, and light poles. The unique tree grates are a culmination of the characteristic paving pattern.
Large elements offer room for specific use, or invite visitors to rest and watch the everyday ballet of people coming and going. The horizontal planes contrast with the gentle slope of the shell-shaped square. There is a space for skaters, which provides liveliness; a water table made of granite; a red metal protective covering the roots of the existing Platanus tree, and a number of robust sitting elements: all following the irregular craquelure pattern.
Pines stand in a loose arrangement that moves with the Crescent, denser along the edge of the square and giving way to openness towards the centre.
The task was to combine demand of the polder water management, traffic requirements diverging from main car flow and bus routing to bicycle and pedestrian. The Undulating Bridge establishes a 46-meter long connection for pedestrians and cyclists between the train and bus station of Hoofddorp and the Office Park Beukenhorst. From the station, the bridge enables two possible routes, and therefore has a flared shape, strengthened by a vertical motion. The arc for cyclists is enhanced by a slight bulge, while pedestrians are brought closer to the water.
The railing of the bridge gives a specific expression to the setting: perforations in the steel walls show a pattern of tree branches, a characteristic image of a row of the trees silhouetted against the sky polder. These Poplar trees are planted along a dike that is part of the historic defense line around Amsterdam (Unesco site). During the day the pattern of dots make a black graphic image in contrast to the silver-grey, while in the evening LED lights create a magical inversion of the image. The combination of direct and indirect light, integrated into the railing, eliminates the necessity of light poles.
The construction is the result of extensive research: scale of the perforation pattern in the stainless steel, different sizes of the punch holes, type light fixtures, and intensity and colour of the light.
The development of the Office park is according to the highest standards of sustainability, and is build based on the Cradle to Cradle principles. The design of the bridge follows these principles such as demountable construction and stainless steel.
Za’atari camp is a large refugee camp in Northern Jordan, close to the Syrian border. The camp has been in existence for more than 5 years, and in that time it evolved from a collection of tents to an urban settlement with about 80,000 Syrian refugees as inhabitants. Together with a team from the Municipality of Amsterdam and commissioned by the VNG International, LODEWIJK BALJON landschapsarchitecten drew up a development framework that provides guidance for further urban development. Sample and pilot projects show on a large and small scale how public space can be created in the camp. Despite the arid climate, floods in the winter months cause a lot of inconvenience. The example projects show how floods are prevented by capturing rainwater in good time, and using it to make green public space.
An example of the pilot project design is the Wadi Park between Za’atari camp and Al Za’atari village.
Situated around a wadi between camp and village it will offer both refugees and inhabitants a pleasant green public space in the hot and dry desert. The park reduces risk of flooding and mudflows due to heavy rainfall during the winter months, while water in the wadi is retained for use in the dry season.
To increase the capacity of the wadi, side channels are dug: shallow watercourses flanked by clay dams that collect and retain water. Trees will be planted in these ‘green rivers’. A system of paths connects the park to both the camp and the village, making it a meeting place.