The Wasemer Project by Ilse Mathijssen, second quarterly winner of 2016 is making good process. An update and follow-up on the project on fluctuating water levels and the Meuse is up for reading down below.
Alluvial plains are in a constant state of flux. Melting ice from the Alps and the heavy rainfalls that characterize this country turn these grasslands into muddy fields or wild rivers. The flood plains provide extra room for rivers to manoeuvre and ensure a natural cleansing of the landscape. Such fluctuating water levels have marked the history and culture of northeast Brabant and, over the centuries, various flora and fauna have made this region home, too.
Over the years, the dykes, the flood plains and their channels – once shaped by people – have become an important part of our natural heritage. A new man-made intervention that visualizes the effects of the alluvial lands, can contribute to the special character of this beautiful area on the Meuse.
De Wasemer is a site-specific project that translates the variability of the land into molecular elements and makes these visible in a glass object. Its essence is not in the design, materials or construction, but in the fluctuating water levels that this pavilion will make apparent. The sun, as well as human and animal activity, will warm the moist air under the glass shell. This humid air will condense against cool glass, creating a wet white cover over the whole of the pavilion. The object changes and responds to the fluctuating circumstances of its environment and offers complete visibility into the nature of working waters. The variations between the condensation and transparency of its shell give visitors insight – in a poetic and innovative way – into the different shapes water can take and the rich history of this spot.
Analyses of how condensation usually forms was the first line of research for this project. It is known that condensation takes place when warm air, when at its dew point (so when a relative humidity of 100% has been reached), begins to cool or meets a cool surface. In order to sustain this mist the humidity must not be too low, nor too high, because then water droplets will form on the glass and the misty effect is lost. A misty effect is desirable for De Wasemer, but fluctuation is also a core feature.
In a trial set-up various different conditions were tested. It transpired that an internal source of heat combined with moist greenery generated the most condensation. This is probably because plants – moss was used in this case – release moisture at a regular rate, meaning water droplets are less likely to form on the glass and the result is a most consistent mist effect.
The trials showed the following hypothesis in relation to De Wasemer to be true: “The desired effect (a total sheen of condensation on the glass without turning watery) is best achieved when the moist ground under De Wasemer warms and the air vaporizes onto the glass and when any excess humidity is avoided by way of (natural) ventilation and a consistently cool glass surface.”
The following are questions and issues to be tackled in order for De Wasemer to be a success:
- How can the moisture be regulated (in a natural way) to avoid formation of water droplets but keeping the condensation intact. In other words, how to preserve a constant state of fluctuation?
- What kind of formal design will ensure that the glazed surface of De Wasemer only minimally warms under the heat of the sun, so the condensation doesn’t evaporate, or so the interior climate can be controlled in some way?
- Which uses are best suited to De Wasemer; what is the optimal experience of fluctuating condensation for visitors; what are the design and technical requirements to achieve this?
Fleur Groenendijk Foundation quarterly prize
One year ago Mint//Namelok won the Fleur Groenendijk Foundation quarterly prize with their project ‘De Wasemer’. The design duo consists of Mint Urban Planning Studio and Namelok, both based in Rotterdam. They have worked hard on making De Wasemer a reality, and with the FGF prize, they have already achieved a lot. By studying the workings of condensation on glass Mint//Namelok came into contact with scientists and semi-governmental organizations. These talks were such a success that the actual realization of De Wasemer has become the logical next step. De Wasemer may become a visitor centre combined with research centre set in an alluvial landscape. FGF’s financial prize proved essential for the deeper research that was needed to support talks with serious partners.
In order to make the pavilion happen, more research is necessary. Site-specific issues like building design, size, the relationship with the surroundings, and the impact of visitors are crucial, but it is also necessary to study and work out things like functionality, landscape integration and flexibility. Mint//Namelok will do this in collaboration with the governmental and non-governmental organizations, entrepreneurs and scientists they have developed relationships with so far.