Design 4 Public Value @ Sea – Marine Multifunctional Landscape Infrastructures’ (MMLI) are multifunctional infrastructures at sea that can provide a multi-functional, integrated response to the climate and resource challenges that we are facing. These landscape infrastructures are difficult to get built. This is not only due to economic and technical challenges but also because too little attention is paid to social support and spatial integration. The D4PV project is therefore in addition to a conceptual masterplan for MMLIs in the North Sea, it is a generic toolbox that can be used co-creatively for the creation of multifunctional marine landscape infrastructures around the world.
Architizer chatted with Alexander D’Hooghe, Managing Partner and Chief Strategic Officer at ORG Permanent Modernity, to learn more about this project.
Architizer: What inspired the initial concept for your design?
Alexander D’Hooghe: We were inspired by the frontier of the North Sea as a place for sustainable planning. While the North Sea is already heavily exploited and occupied, it’s new territory for exploring resiliency practices. We need food, renewable energy, and environmental support from our seas. How we go about this is an important question and our designs and research for the D4PV project look to accomplish this task while supporting biodiversity and public engagement. This is a drastic departure from the technocratic, closed-door development of the existing infrastructures at sea.
What do you believe is the most unique or ‘standout’ component of the project?
D4PV is a process and model for making environmentally, socially and economically beneficial infrastructures at sea. We believe there is a way to extract the energy and food we need from the ocean while fostering a rich ecosystem. We’ve developed a process that makes getting these immense landscape infrastructures built in a way that builds community engagement and stakeholder support.
What was the greatest design challenge you faced during the project, and how did you navigate it?
Regulations for developing infrastructure is a rigid, bureaucratic process that makes it difficult to insert the flexibility necessary for participatory planning. Additionally, the natural conditions of the North Sea are much more dynamic and fluctuate constantly, compared to the much more consistent conditions on land. To tackle these two challenges, we brought together many different expert collaborators from marine specialists to legal advisors. It was also necessary to consider all stakeholders affected by the development of such projects, all participants in sea traffic, other industries, fishermen, tourist activities, but also the environment, nature, and animals. Combining the many streams of expert research was the art of developing this plan.
How did the context of your project — environmental, social or cultural — influence your design?
We studied the complicated network of stakeholders that could be affected by an ocean-based project. Also, it was necessary to analyze the interconnection and the benefits and negative consequences that such development can have on stakeholders. Our attention was focused on combining environmental and social realities to develop a design that would be mutually beneficial. For example, the project can boost biodiversity and affect the development of the coastal (and regional) economy.
What drove the selection of materials used in the project?
We used the principle of building with nature, we used sand and we used hard materials to build up hard surfaces. This was very important and necessary since with offshore artificial islands it is important to have a buffer against waves, storms and tides that can be significant in strength further offshore. Therefore, while planning the island and materials we paid special attention that the structure is built to endure harsh conditions offshore.
What is your favorite detail in the project and why?
The project has a process guide or generic toolbox that is adaptive to different geographies. Additionally, the finished island has the capacity to function independently, but also to be part of a wider energy strategy in the form of an interconnector in the future. This means that it can act alone as renewable energy infrastructure and also act as part of an infrastructure cluster that can act as a large source of renewable energy.
How important was sustainability as a design criteria as you worked on this project?
Sustainability is the central purpose of the project. The MMLI supports the energy transition to renewables, the blue sustainable economy, biodiversity and coastal resiliency. Even as a potential tourist location it will support a model of ecological tourism that supports environmental education.
In what ways did you collaborate with others, and how did that add value to the project?
This is a complex project and a lot of expertise is needed to deliver successful solutions. Experts of various expertise: designers, economists, sociologists, experts in ecosystem services, marine biologists, offshore engineers, experts in marine morphology, geologists and many others all contributed to the work.
How do you believe this project represents you or your firm as a whole?
This project is a continuation of our activities in the field of maritime systems. It is part of our vision to address various challenges through complex projects to impact systemic benefits.
How do you imagine this project influencing your work in the future?
ORG is very focused and active in maritime systems projects. Our areas of expertise are repurposing existing infrastructures, manufactured islands, coastal planning & protection, and ports. This project is a representation of this focus.
ORG: Alexander D’Hooghe, Timothy Vanagt, Mae Emerick, Yannick Vanhaelen, Caterina Dubini, Ivana Vukelic, Jonas Högner, Elena Kasselouri, Basil Descheemaeker, Heinrich Altenmueller; DEME N.V., Jan De Nul N.V., Econopolis Strategy, Tractabel
For more on Design 4 Public Value @ Sea, please visit the in-depth project page on Architizer.