RIVERSCAPE BASEL REGION, Category A-conceptual project

When we look to the relation between humans and nature, we can see that during time humans have trying to control the natural environment in order to get protection from the strong forces that its elements have and to take advantage of its sources. During the past decades and centuries humans have achieved a power over some elements of the natural environment such as the rivers. We have used the rivers as a way of transportation from the beginning of our times until nowadays, they have also been used as sewage system; situation which is changing from some years ago and we have reclaimed terrain from the flood areas for agriculture development.

All these new ways of using the rivers have transformed this element. When we talk about the rivers we not only refer to the stream of water, we refer to the stream and the areas surround by it, which is known as the riparian zone. This zone is interconnected to the river stream in many ways so they both protect and evolve together. Over time, the control of the rivers by humans, took us to modify the riparian zones and by extension the streams of the rivers. Based on the case of the Rhine River we see how the river had changed by humans interventions and focus on the region of Basel we have an example of how the river borders have been transformed leading us to adjust our view over the way we treat the river.With the establishment and growth of the cities, humans search for a better way of developing their environment. With all the transformations made, the natural river system was broken causing devastations to the ecological qualities. But this permitted new types of spatial relations along the river, which benefited the built environment. Industries and their installations settled along the river edge for an effective distribution of goods, this reduced the accessibility from the people to the riverbanks leaving the river as an isolated space.

This imbalance between the two environments keeps on growing in such a way that the built environment is using all the resources and therefore the natural environment is diminished. To recover the balance of the natural and the built environment we should not dig into the past and erase all the human interventions made on the last centuries. We should think on creating a next phase based on the current situation. Then, this new phase will be defined on the understanding that is neither the natural environment nor the built environment is both and it will benefit each environment. Then our responsibility is to find a proper way to return the balance between the natural and the built environment through improved relation of the space. This should be based on a positive interpretation of the widely diverse overlapping of different functions like industry, agriculture, living and recreation.

So the question will center on: How can we provide a spatial balance where opportunities for people and nature can develop in the Rhine, reinforcing the relation of the river with its surroundings through the river borders in the region of Basel?

The projects follows an intervention based on two main objects: ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION and ACCESSIBILITY TO THE RIVER. For the first objective we look to: Create a functional river and riparian zone that provides habitats for plant communities, birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates and fish, reduce the flow velocity by opportunities for selective expansions for the river and opportunities of water storage adjacent or connected to the river and connect the river with other significant habitats. To accomplish these objectives some modifications on the river edges should be made. Space for an easy adaptation of the species and more places where small habitats and biotopes can develop. Modifying the artificial edge can provide more opportunities. At the same time the CONNECTION – RIPARIAN ZONE SETTINGS needs to be seen within the new uses found in the riparian zone to create an emerging green space system. For these new system the countryside, industrial areas and the river should be a functional unity, where we can strengthen the existing ecological potentials and develop new scenes;including recreational spaces throughout the river and the built elements to provide a green and built arterial connection with the river.

For the second objective (Accessibility to the river)the project will reshape the river corridor to create open spaces with public amenities:Increase visual and pedestrian accesses to the river, improve public awareness of the river and increase recreation related with the river. Some of the solutions to provide more space for people along the river are: Promenades, observation points and platforms.
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