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Water & The City


Friday 23 March 2018, 14.00 – 17.00U


For catering reasons, please register using the link below.

Climate change, increasing rainfall, sea level rise, and flood risk pose significant challenges for low-lying countries such as The Netherlands. Historically, Amsterdam has devised a number of strategies to deal with water problems in the city. In this symposium organized in the week of World Water Day, we look back to ingenious solutions and cultural practices of the past, and look forward to new forms of urban design and ‘hydrocitizenship’.

Hydrocitizenship (‘waterburgerschap’) is a new concept in international scholarly debate among environmental historians, geographers and environmental scientists which encompasses heightened awareness of the meaning and value of water among citizens and both bottom-up and top-down community engagement for sustainable water management.

Our first speaker is Petra van Dam, chair professor of Water, Culture and Environment at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and board member of the Environmental Humanities Center. She will provide a historical and cultural perspective on the ways in which Amsterdam has coped with water in the past. In her presentation she will show how, in the Golden Age, the Dutch established the NAP (Normaal Amsterdams Peil- Amsterdam Ordnance Datum) to improve measuring water levels and the height of dikes, and how this was related to coping with floods and increasing sea levels of the Zuiderzee. (More information on Petra van Dam’s book on the NAP – in Dutch)

As second speaker we will welcome Ellen Vreenegoor, senior programme manager for the priority task: ‘Cultural heritage in relation to water challenges in the Netherlands’. She works for the Cultural Heritage Agency in Amersfoort, an agency part of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (RCE) and has an academic background in history, historical-geography and archaeology at the University of Amsterdam. Vreenegoor will discuss how the Cultural Heritage Agency has researched the ways in which cultural heritage can be (re)used for modern day challenges of water management.

Our third speaker is Daniël Goedbloed, programme manager at at Amsterdam Rainproof. He will introduce the Amsterdam Rainproof initiative and will update us on different projects taking place on the household, street and neighbourhood level to protect Amsterdam from frequent downpours. The Rainproof initiative offers a network platform to promote hydrocitizenship, encouraging all Amsterdammers to take an active role in tackling the issue.

The final speaker is Ralph Lasage, senior researcher at Amsterdam Water Science and the Institute of Environmental Studies of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He will present the idea of the ‘polderdak’ and will show how the Vrije Universiteit will realise this type of green roof on the latest building under construction, the Nieuwe Universiteitsgebouw.


14.00 Welcome and introduction

14.20-14.40 Petra van Dam, The history of the NAP: continuity and change.

14.40-15.00 Ellen Vreenegoor, Water safety and historical water culture

15.00-15.30 Discussion

15.30-15.50 Tea

15.50-16.10 Daniël Goedbloed, Amsterdam Rainproof: working on a resilient city

16.10-16.30 Ralph Lasage, Green-blue roofs and the VU Polderdak

16.30-17.00 Discussion

17.00 Drinks

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