Infrastructure meets urban design
Waller Sand Park shows how the refurbishment and aesthetically ambitious redesign of a flood protection dike can transform infrastructure into multifunctional and ecologically enriching space for a diverse urban population. Occupying a spit of land in the Weser River, the park forms the outer boundary of Überseestadt, Bremen’s inner-city development zone. The densely built-up area replete with new housing and work spaces comes to an abrupt halt while leaving the city, upon which an expansive riverside park unfolds before an impressive ship-rotation basin and the silhouette of Bremen’s historic industrial harbour.
Wind, rain, sun – the openness of the terrain exposes the park to all weather conditions, bringing to mind the ocean that waits just downriver from Bremen. The atmosphere evoked by the location creates tension between the immediate transition to nature and the robust facilities of the surrounding harbour, which the park reflects by way of its materiality and proportion.
But the park’s purpose goes far beyond providing interface with the river. With a subtle touch, its overall design addresses the complex challenges presented by a flood protection dike while comprehensively shielding the city from the inundation of water. It is precisely this duality that makes this hybrid park unique.
Sustainable flood protection
Climate adaption is a future task that we must begin addressing today. Coastal regions across the world have already been affected by the rise of ocean levels; 86% of Bremen’s land mass is expected to be under threat of flooding in the near future. The question is not whether, but rather how the dikes should be fortified. In contrast to the former practice of creating infrastructure via exclusively technological and monofunctional considerations, we must now develop – particularly in inner-city areas – ambitious solutions that meet our progressive demands in terms of ecology, social equity and liveability.
The park’s open-use program is a targeted choice. But for two areas right on the water – one with a mud pit and the other featuring beach volleyball courts – the park comprises a giant sandbox offering gender-neutral space for free play and physical exertion.
At Waller Sand, the retaining wall was constructed underground, while its upper, visible portion acts as a concrete bench spanning the project area, which can be sat upon to face the park or the cityscape. Hence, a critical flood protection element becomes an integral, recreational facet of the expansive, open-use park. In the event that future adjustment of the dike’s highpoint becomes necessary, the bench can be raised with relative ease. Wave impact is a significant focus of flood protection. At Waller Sand, this factor is mitigated by way of a 30,000 m² beach park between the river and the retaining wall. Our concept of urban dike construction represents an alternative for the design of resilient structures that can react and respond to future demands.
Project location: Kommodore-Johnsen-Boulevard 40, 28217 Bremen, Germany
Design year: 2015 – 2019
Year Built: 2017 – 2020
Photos: © Hanns Joosten