2018 Rotterdam-Maaskant Prize awarded to the Room for the River collective

Published: 16 October 2018

The Room for the River collective, which includes Deltares, has won the 2018 Maaskant Prize. The jury described Room for the River as a unique collaboration that has made the river area of the Netherlands both safer and more attractive. The prize, which is awarded every two years, is also worth 25,000 euros.

The prize-winning Room for the River collective consists of twelve ‘makers’:  representatives of the business community, research institutes, national and regional government authorities, residents and other project stakeholders.  ‘Maker’ Jos Dijkman (a former Deltares employee) was the Room for the River project leader between 1995 and 2005 at the Waterloopkundig Laboratorium, which is now part of Deltares.

Safety and spatial quality

A crucial factor in the jury’s decision was that Room for the River is based on two objectives: safety and quality.  ‘The approach is an example of how different interests and opportunities have worked in each other’s favour, allowing safety to be combined with spatial quality and living conditions’, explained the jury report.

‘River engineering and spatial quality really did go hand in hand in this project’, says Jos Dijkman on behalf of Deltares. ‘At the time, we studied more than seven hundred different [1] options for enlarging our rivers and we put those measures into a program, the Toolbox. Policymakers, the public and other stakeholders could adjust the buttons in the Toolbox to show the effect of the measures. As a result, everybody obtained a clear picture of the benefits and drawbacks of specific measures. This eventually resulted in a preferred alternative that not only enjoyed wide support but also showed clearly how water behaves.’

New approach due to floods in 1993 and 1995

The research began in response to the floods in 1993 and 1995. Initially, the research was confined to river engineering. The functions of the Rhine, its branches and the use of the river area were determined to establish a solid basis for decisions about the future. The Room for the River project built on those foundations with the aim of making the river area not only safer but also more attractive.

Four million inhabitants in the area now enjoy better protection from flooding and they live and work in an excellent living environment. Measures have now been implemented in more than thirty locations on the branches of the Rhine – such as the IJssel, Waal, Lower Rhine and Lek rivers – and the rivers have been given more room. After ten years, all the interventions have now been completed and the project is almost over.

The Big Maaskant Prize is awarded every two years to one or more persons who have made exceptional contributions to the field of architecture, urban design and landscape architecture. The other prize winners in the Room for the River collective are Ina Adema, Roelof Bleker, Ingwer de Boer, Jorien Douma, Regina Havinga, Nol Hooijmaijers, Robbert de Koning, Niko Poolen, David van Raalten, Dirk Sijmons and Gert Verzijl.