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Paradise Regained

Part 2 Project 2010
Ilmar Hurkxkens
Delft University of Technology Delft The Netherlands
The current coastal protection in the Netherlands is based on the hermetic closure of the hinterland from the sea. The total control of this landscape artefact resulted in one unified defence line. With external forces completely eliminated behind that line, the hinterland is left to unrestrained and indiscriminate urbanization. In my project I re-imagine the coastal protection of the Netherlands: zones of absorption instead of one unified defence line and, instead of a detached dike infrastructure, an architecture where means and ends for construction merge.

The base of the sea wall (Hondsbossche Zeewering) is the foundation for a new city, striking architecture and a new (old) landscape. The modification of the sea wall into a zone of coastal protection reinstates the historical three dikes present: The Watchman, The Sleeper and The Dreamer. This modification enables the construction of a new city. The village of Petten, in history often washed away by the sea, will find its final destination on the dike.

The new city superimposes all programs onto the dike in a linear succession of artefacts, maximizing the relation between infrastructure and architecture. Metropolitan density is combined with the proximity of landscape in a scheme of linear congestion. The city combines a morphological system and a functional one. The first consists of the found form of the dike, modified in plan and section; the second consists of artefacts that are modelled within the specific constraints left by the first, thus belonging to the spirit of the site. The dike becomes city by manipulating the linear proximity of urban artefacts, each of these the synthesis of the restraints imposed by the site and their formal individuality. Now, dike and city form a continuous artefact, not with a singular centre, but with a continuous centrality between sea and land.

The endpoints of the city feature The Lab (Rijkswaterstaat, the National Directorate General of Public Works and Water Management) and The Panorama, articulating respectively the technological and the poetic premises framing the project as a whole. The Panorama depicts an image of Mesolithic Doggerland, confirming the presence of the primordial wetland reality outside.

Ilmar Hurkxkens

Paradise Regained – The Watchman, The Sleeper, The Dreamer, and the City
The Hondsbossche Zeewering at Petten Architecturally Reconsidered

The project ‘Paradise Regained’ by Ilmar Hurkxkens dwells upon different levels: a landscape level, an urban level, an architectural level and last but not least the level of the project as representation. The brief for the project ‘Paradise Regained’ almost naturally emerged from the predicament made evident by the research on the Dutch coastal dunes: a city for the Hondsbossche Zeewering (sea wall). What kind of city? How to piggyback on the technical necessity of upgrading this problematic sea wall by en-passant reinventing it as a city? The project enters the ambiguous territory between survey and actual modification: with a technique that is both technocratic and poetic, but above all precisely framing a possible reality.

For this project the city is a conclusion, not a starting point: a new city is founded, different from the cities we know. The project is not about the ‘architecture of the city’ that we find, but about making a different kind of city on a new frontier – in close proximity. Hurkxkens’ project truly fulfils the studio’s objectives, contesting that project and the territorial reality are mutually exclusive concerns. Instead he proposes reality in the making. In his project the territory is both the ‘whole’ in which he operates and the material at hand.

A last observation regards the panorama building. With the panorama the project (conceptually) splits; it doubles its significance proposing the inversion and the paradox between architecture and its image. The choice of this particular ‘function’ is not an accessory one. It is part of the narrative, its conclusive moment. At the same time, as architectural theme, it can absorb thematically the entire elements previously investigated in the form of a spectacle, in a ‘form’ for the spectacle of an ideal relationship between the landscape and the manmade.


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