De Zeeheldentuin is definitely designed – This week a group of volunteer students and professionals of Landscape Architecture under my guidance as a teacher and practitioner finished the definitive design of De Zeeheldentuin. For the last six months we met almost every Monday in our studio DGJ Architects & Landscapes in The Hague, around the corner from our future community garden ( http://www.dgj.nl/project-types/zeeheldentuin.nl.html ).
De Zeeheldentuin is an urban garden initiated by inhabitants of the Zeehelden neighbourhood. It is closed to the centre of The Hague, between the Royal Palace Noordeinde and the International Peace Palace. After a fire at the Mariaschool in Tasmanstraat a large plot of land here was empty for years. The local housing cooperation Haag Wonen had made plans to build a larger project called Tasmanhof across the whole terrain.
In years of standstill residents of the current dense ‘stony’ neighbourhood came up with other ideas though. One day two mothers and a child became the core of a quickly growing group of inhabitants that imagined a ‘green oasis’ for them to play with friends, grow plants, meet each other and enjoy ‘nature’ or ‘a green hart’ in the centre of this dense, colourful and popular urban area.
Not everybody was evenly happy about the initiative to build a garden, but the 2008 credit crunch came to help in reducing the potential investment and number of social housing units needed at the Tasmanhof. It took long and persisting negotiations, many afternoons of standing on local markets, a petition, the support of the a city councillor and a whole range of sponsors to get hold of the land and a construction budget.
Large numbers of inhabitants, local entrepreneurs, NGO’s and politicians and officials of The City of The Hague embraced the project and carried the hardheaded few Zeehelden gardeners with large support. At the crucial phase in 2012, when the cooperation agreed to sell the land partially to the initiative a concrete project was needed to bring together ideas of all parties interests of the current and future inhabitants and owners of the surrounding.
While the program was quite clear the plan needed a form and many concrete questions and frictions between parties had to find a convergence.
Together with designers and garden lovers in the group DGJ entered, designing and working out in with small groups of volunteer students form TU Delft. At first I proposed the initiative to organise a design competition, but the fear was that a signature design would be more in the interest of a designer than for the locals. So an old crumbled sketch from a kitchen table was modified and worked out in a sketch design in 2012.
The garden consists of a fruit orchard, vegetable gardens, a decorative garden and an adventure playground. Little sea heroes can play, while their parents get their hands dirty in the vegetables of watch the children while chilling in between perennial flowerbeds. Plantings are biologically nursed and attractive for all kinds of insects and other animals.
DGJ and the team members have contributed their design work on a voluntary basis. Regular meetings where held with the client side, luckily consisting of the future users and professionals in urban renewal and design. Haag Wonen was and is regularly informed and negotiated all interfaces and various aspects of usability of housing and garden. The city checked the design in a hearing at a special commission for public space under presidency of the chief city planner of The Hague. The studio was open to public every Monday and dozens of children have contributed their drawings of their dream playground.
In the end the pride is to have been able to bring together so many interests and firmly join together a project with partners that started out in a clear conflict of interests. Meanwhile construction of Tasmanhof started and will be finished before the summer holiday. ( http://www.haagwonen.nl/tasmanhof )
The student volunteers could enrich their experience with a real project and experience the dynamics of real interests in public space. One of the volunteers will take over control of the execution under DGJ’s legal responsibly as Landscape Architect. Garden Enthusiast and potential builders can now sign op on the website ( http://www.zeeheldentuin.nl ) to build the garden in September 2014. Dozens of people already opted for having a small allotment garden shared with other neighbours.
Another volunteer will start a plant nursery ‘Stadskweekerij Groene Helden’ on the roof of Parking garage “De Zeeheld” just behind the Zeeheldentuin with my ‘silent’ partnership. We will introduce a fine collection of biologically grown perennial garden plants with the support of the renowned nursery “De Hessenhof’ ( http://www.hessenhof.nl ). Clippings of the stock in the ornamental flowerbeds of De Zeeheldentuin will be nursed to a take-away product for hopefully hundreds of gardens to grow in the backyards, balconies, rooftops and walkways of the inspired neighbours.
After we could gather so many interests and enjoy the dynamics and gardening enthusiasm of our neighbours we are looking forward to a great 2014. The garden we will plant hopefully will carry a transformation off our entire neighbourhood and inspire many others to be as persistent and keen as us on improving sustainability of their urban community from bottom up.
January 22nd 2014
Presentation (in Dutch, questions can be answered in English)
Doors Opening 20h30
Zorghotel Residence Haganum, Tasmanstraat 188-1, The Hague
As places are limited RSVP wit Event link on
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