Water-Smart Green Roofs and Plazas Make a Splash in Rotterdam

Sourced from The National

A decade ago, Rotterdam's rundown inner-city Zomerhofkwartier district was slated for redevelopment - a project that was shelved when a global economic crisis hit.

Today, however, the "ZoHo" district is home to young entrepreneurs, a rain garden blooming with flowers, and - like other central neighbourhoods of this Dutch port city - a new sense of green purpose.

Companies, including design firm Studio Bas Sala, teamed up to restore a formerly dilapidated office building in the district as their workspace.

And, across the street, they collaborated with local people to turn a concrete car park into a public garden with meadow-like plants, trees and seating.

The space has a function beyond looking pretty and offering the community a place to gather: it helps prevent flooding in the local area, with the garden acting as a rain sponge.

"There is a problem when the rains are really heavy and the roads around here get blocked, and the emergency services can't come in," said designer Bas Sala.

His studio came up with a funky idea - a water storage system housed in tall black wood lettering spelling out the district's ZoHo nickname.

The letters sit at one end of the park and collect rainwater from a disused 2 km-long rail viaduct snaking above.

When wet weather is on the way or the garden is dry, a pipe at the bottom corner of the letters is opened with an app and water gushes out.

The ZoHo rain garden is one example of a growing number of projects sprouting across Rotterdam - about 80 per cent of which lies below sea-level - that aim to keep communities safer from climate extremes, while bringing them closer together.

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