The canal as a climate-adaptive carrier

Utrecht the Netherlands

Climate change in the city
If nothing changes, cities will experience flooding several times a year due to extreme precipitation alternating with prolonged periods of severe drought and heat. In historical inner cities, space for common climate adaptation interventions is limited due to high density and the presence of cultural heritage. This is also the case in the inner city of Utrecht, known for its canals and churches. As a result of the increase in buildings and surfacing, the city has become sensitive to heat stress and increasing peaks in precipitation, among other things.

The canal as a climate-adaptive carrier
Together with local authorities and experts in heritage and ecology, OKRA has developed an integrated strategy and climate adaptation toolbox that builds on the workings of underlying cultural-historical structures, including the canal. On the one hand, the canal is a green-blue ‘lifeline’ for Utrecht. On the other hand, it is a ‘corset’ within which an ‘inverse’ landscape with subtle height differences has been created. Intelligent use of this layered historical landscape creates a new framework for a climate-adaptive inner city.

Cultural heritage and climate-adaptation
Church squares as cooling elements for the city, forts as water buffers and water collection above the wharfs of the Oudegracht are a few examples of tools that have been tested in three case studies in the city centre. The tools were assessed according to public space typologies and provided a handle for climate-adaptive solutions in similar cities.