Voor een prijsvraag hebben we een plan ingediend waarin we de energietransitie van aardgas naar duurzaam opgewekte energie combineren met aspecten van leefbaarheid (o.a. gerelateerd aan krimp). De locatie is in Noord-Oost-Groningen. Bij het vormgeven van de energietransitie benaderen we de provincie niet als een wingewest, maar we streven naar een lokaal energiecollectief waarbij de energieopwekking de bestaande landschappelijke kwaliteiten versterkt. Hieronder is de oorspronkelijke engelstalige tekst van onze prijsvraaginzending opgenomen.
Op dit moment zijn we bezig om, in samenspraak met bewoners, ons voorstel op geschiktheid voor de plek te beoordelen. Als architecten willen we altijd weten of onze ontwerpoplossingen passen bij de wensen van bewoners en directe belanghebbenden. Onze doelstelling is om met andere betrokken partijen erbij te onderzoeken of een pilotproject kan worden opgezet.


For centuries the north of The Netherlands has been a very profitable area. From the seventeenth century onwards it produced fossil fuel in the form of peat that was used for heating. At first production went mainly to the city of Groningen, later it was exported to the rest of the country and even to foreign markets. Just when the western world was moving away from peat and into oil and natural gas, both were discovered in the north of The Netherlands. Natural gas resoures around Slochteren remain an important source of income for the Dutch government today.
The idea of being a province to be exploited, first by the city of Groningen, and later on for the Randstad, has become part of the psyche of the northerner. The increase in seismic activity as a result of the extraction of natural gas and the inadequate response by the authorities has deepened this sentiment.
Regardless of the earthquakes, a transition from fossil into renewable energy is pressing and imminent. For people in Groningen however it can also be a matter of principle to just refrain from using natural gas, even if it is replaced by a wood burning stove. Changing the way we produce energy will have profound impact on our landscapes. It has been suggested that Groningen is in a perfect position to initiate this transition on a national level.
Ganzedijk and Hongerige Wolf are not part of the earthquake area; the Oldambt is not strictly speaking an energy landscape in transition. The Oldambt does however have a somewhat troubled history with the authorities in The Hague that is also rooted in a perceived inequality that has become part of the northern psyche.
The characteristic linear settlement along the dike are composed of large monumental farms and groups of worker's houses. Added to these are some post-war neighbourhoods that protrude into the surrounding fields.
In 2008, residents of one of these neighbourhoods in Ganzedijk were confronted with a study that proposed the demolition of all the houses there. Deferred maintenance, social problems and abandoned lots in a more broader context of a shrinking population in the region led to the advice to demolish that part of Ganzedijk that was not part of the original (pre-war) linear settlement. Residents started a campaign to keep their neighbourhood. In the end the municipality conceded, empty lots were sold and turned into collective green, the remaining houses were improved and overal quality of life was increased, at least for now.
The distinction between 'a place where everyone wants to live' and Ganzedijk and Hongerige Wolf is false; residents of Ganzedijk succesfully challenged the local and provincial authorities to keep their homes, many residents of Hongerige Wolf specifically chose to live there. The distinction is also harmful: it (implicitly) devalues an area and (again: implicitly) tells people the place they call home is somehow inferior to some other place. This is added to the historical sentiment in Groningen that the region is being exploited.

Vital village
Village life is often surrounded with myths: everybody knowing each other, people living there all their lives, working and shopping and spending their leisure time in the village. This idea of an autonomous village is outdated. Nowadays, most villages in The Netherlands are woondorpen. To have good quality of life there, social vitality is key. Social vitality can only exist if there is an actual place to meet. These places exist, but sidewalk life is very limited, simply because there is no (continuous) sidewalk along the dike.
In a recent survey, residents of Hongerige Wolf indicated that sometimes interaction between new and existing residents falters. Also, the accessibility for seniors can be a problem, as are safe walkways for children. Finally, public transport leaves much to be desired, both in frequency and quality of the connections, although this is not considered a big problem by present residents. In response to the above we propose to create a sidewalk along the dike. We envisage it as a platform to make physical and social connections in the neighbourhood, but also as a conceptual point of departure and arrival. In spite of the rhetoric surrounding krimp, decreasing and increasing populations have been part of the Ommelanden for some time.

Local profit
The sidewalk will tap into an already existing movement towards forms of energy self-reliance and make this into a collective effort. To realize this the sidewalk surface will be made of solar panels that can be treaded upon. Succesful tests have been done on a bicycle path and one set of panels was recently installed in Blauwestad as a charging point for phones and bicycles.
The length of the sidewalk has the potential to provide power to all households in Ganzedijk and Hongerige Wolf and allows the community to completely do away with natural gas.
After an initial subsidized investment, residents become the beneficiaries of the generated electricity. Should they choose to lower their energy consumption (e.g. by insulating their home), the surplus in production will be returned to the grid and both the subsidizer and the local resident will be reimbursed. If the number of households decreases, the profit of the surplus production will be used by the community on local improvements. It becomes a form of insurance against krimp. This creates a feasible financial model to deal with decreasing population over time, while also involving the community in efforts to maintain a reasonable quality of life.

A grand gesture
The sidewalk measures a generous 3,5m in width. It consists of modular elements that can start as something small and can - in theory - be extended infinitely. It strengthens the linear elements that characterize this particular landscape, in this case specifically the built up dike between Ganzedijk and Hongerige Wolf. The proposed product was designed and tested to be integrated in the surface of the road; we propose to slightly lift the elements, thus creating a sidewalk separate from the main road while also making the sidewalk a visible addition to the existing landscape.

landschappelijke visie      



De Warle Kempers Architecten | Kleiburg 14A | 1104 EA Amsterdam |