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Abstract

The development of knowledge about the mechanism in the delta has had a high dependency on projects and techniques available. During the period from 1930 to 1939, there is a consolidation of the achievements and further development of hydraulic engineering techniques, based on model-based and mathematical analyses and prognoses (Schot et al., 1998). In this time two of the physical models were built, the Waterloopbos in the Netherlands and the Mississippi River basin in the USA. Both models have been used extensively to expand knowledge and build projects, but both became out of use when computers appeared in the 1980s. Then the calculation models were favoured, as they can be done faster, and are also capable of handling complex problems. Computer technology became increasingly dominated by measurement, prognosis, calibration, verification and validation. For this project section, the current state of the two models is brought forth as a new technique in which maybe the Longue Duree of the relation between humans and nature can become evident.
Models over Time
Waterloopbos
and
Mississippi River
Basin
Baukje Kothuis
Luca Iuorio
58 — 5958 — 59
The development of knowledge about the mechanism in the
delta has had a high dependency on projects and techniques
available. During the period from 1930 to 1939, there is a
consolidation of the achievements and further development of
hydraulic engineering techniques, based on model-based and
mathematical analyses and prognoses (Schot et al., 1998). In this
time two of the physical models were built, the Waterloopbos in
the Netherlands and the Mississippi River basin in the USA. Both
models have been used extensively to expand knowledge and
build projects, but both became out of use when computers
appeared in the 1980s. Then the calculation models were
favoured, as they can be done faster, and are also capable of
handling complex problems. Computer technology became
increasingly dominated by measurement, prognosis, calibration,
verification and validation. For this project section, the current
state of the two models is brought forth as a new technique in
which maybe the Longue Duree of the relation between humans
and nature can become evident.
WATERLOOPBOS
The Waterloopbos is a waterworks park located in
Marknesse, in the Noordoostpolder. It consists of a series of
scale models built to support a new way of doing research for
fighting the Dutch ‘common water wolf’ as efficiently as pos-
sible. By testing new hydraulic engineering designs on a min-
iature situation, the knowledge has been developed basically
to make the Netherlands remain dry. The models were also
built from projects in Weipa, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Bajibo,
Bangkok, Thyborøn, Abidjan and Licata. Commissioned by
these authorities, many coasts and river systems were rec-
reated on a small scale in the Noordoostpolder to make the
Dutch engineers test the behaviour of water and the impact
of ports and other specific hydraulic infrastructures on it.
The park is owned by the Natuurmonumenten, a
Dutch nature conservation program founded by Johannes
Theodoor Thijsse who was the father of Jac Pieter; the latter
dedicated his entire life to the creation of the Waterloopbos.
It was the Dutch Nobel Prize winner H.A. Lorentz (1854-
1928) also J.T. Thijsse’s teacher, who broke through this
way of working with fundamental, theoretical research into
fluid mechanics. Johannes Theodoor worked on the clo-
sure of the Zuiderzee when to determine water levels and
wave heights one had to ‘fantasize’; in contrast, working
with scale models was a way to empirically observe how
water works. A start had already been made on this reno-
vated approach in Germany, Austria and Sweden; in Delft
they started testing in 1927 in the basement of the Civil
Engineering faculty. Thijsse, a professor at the Technical
University Delft, was given larger and larger assignments
that no longer fit in the basement.
In 1939, an order from the Stormflood Committee
was established to look into the safety of Zeeland: there
was the necessity to search for another test location. The
Voorsterbos near Kraggenburg (an old island with a light-
house) in the new Noordoostpolder, after scouting sixteen
locations, turned out to be the most appropriate. The land
was not usable for agriculture, had soil that was watertight,
and the location could intake and discharge water – by nat-
ural flow – from the Vollenhover Canal to the Zwolse Vaart.
In 1951, two years before the big flood disaster in the North
Sea, engineers started building the first model of what
would eventually become the Oosterscheldekering. What
follows is a rich history of hydraulics: the construction of
each new model is a new step in knowledge development.
MISSISSIPPI RIVER BASIN
Also in the United States – in the 1940s – a physical repro-
duction of the Mississippi River basin was envisaged to
empirically observe the reaction of possible control mea-
Models over Time Projects / 01
The model of the Water City part of Rotterdam.
On the right the Binnenhaven and on the right
Noordereiland, the middle is the river Maas (1956).
Source: Beeldbank
60 — 61
sures on the riverine system. Here, only after the Great
Flood of 1927, a new awareness started, and laid the basis
for developing experimental scientific tools.
The Mississippi watershed is the third largest river basin in
the world after the ones of the Amazon and the Congo and
occupies more than forty percent of the United States con-
tinental surface: from Canada to Mexico, from the Rocky
Mountains to the Appalachians. It is one of the most engi-
neered rivers on the planet: its beds, meanders, banks,
and natural dynamics have been constantly modified to
control water movements. Since the 17th century, a series
of levees, gates, dams, canals, jetties have been created
to prevent nearby territories from floods.
The Mississippi watershed is the third largest river
basin in the world after the ones of the Amazon and the
Congo and occupies more than forty percent of the United
States continental surface: from Canada to Mexico, from
the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians. It is one of the
most engineered rivers on the planet: its beds, meanders,
banks, and natural dynamics have been constantly modi-
fied to control water movements. Since the 17th century, a
series of levees, gates, dams, canals, jetties have been cre-
ated to prevent nearby territories from floods.
The Mississippi River has also been the object of
many historic explorations; early surveyors’ maps high-
lighted the complexity of the flows of the river and the
perpetually changing landscape of its tributaries. In the
second half of the 19th century, the first scientific study on
the river was published. The “Delta Survey” (1861) aimed
to decode the governing rules of the river with the aim of
understanding its internal dynamics, expressing them into
specific formulae and then applying these for functional
operations. After the Report, in 1879, the Mississippi River
Commission was authorized by the U.S. Congress to carry
out technical experiments and improvement plans in order
to reduce extreme flooding: the river became part of the
race to modernity by stabilizing the banks, dredging the
beds, developing navigability, channelling for agriculture
(Mathur, Da Cunha, 2001: 18).
In 1927 the Great Flood hit the hundreds of miles of
levees that had previously been built to protect against
flooding; it constrained the Mississippi river to the point
where the system collapsed: water inundated more than
twenty thousand square miles of valleys. The disaster laid
the basis for a new approach to river management: the
need for more space for water and plains was evident. The
“Project Flood” – as part of the Flood Control Act (1936) –
was initiated; the project aimed to create more room for
the river by building knowledge of the “dynamic system of
interconnected waterways” (Cheramie, 2011). Innovative
typologies of dikes, spillways, safety valves and also new
Baukje Kothuis and Luca Iuorio
Mississippi Basin Model (vertical scale 1:100; horizontal scale 1:2000)
looking upstream on the Ohio River from Evansville.
In foreground the Kentucky and Barkley Dams (early 1970s).
Source: US Army Corps of Engineers.
60 — 61
Models over Time Projects / 01
Waterloopbos
Photography by Luca Iuorio
62 — 63
Baukje Kothuis and Luca Iuorio
Waterloopbos
Photography by Luca Iuorio
62 — 63
Models over Time Projects / 01
Mississippi River Basin Model
Photography by Baukje Kothuis
64 — 65
Baukje Kothuis and Luca Iuorio
Mississippi River Basin Model
Photography by Baukje Kothuis
64 — 65
research tools were needed. During the 1940s, indeed, the
Army Corporation of Engineers established the Mississippi
Basin Model. It was built in Clinton, Mississippi; German
prisoners of war deployed to move more than a billion cubic
yards of earth to shape the river’s geomorphology to scale:
its tributaries, branches, channels, and bridges. In 1952,
the Missouri River branch was operational and in use; in
1959, the entire model was completed, and the overall test-
ing started. The engineers conducted trials to monitor and
precast water levels and safety levels in the Mississippi
basin for the purpose of further engineering projects, such
as dams, flumes, pumps and reservoirs (Usace, 1971).
OUT OF ORDER: TWO PAIN POINTS
The Waterloopbos operated as a water laboratory for Dutch
engineers until the 1990s; the Mississippi Basin Model was
last used in the 1970s when a flood occurred in the Lower
Mississippi and final empirical tests were done. Today, both
are abandoned due to the digital modelling outbreak.
In the mid-20th century, the construction of these two
waterwork laboratories reflect a renewed need to approach
hydraulic engineering by empirical experimentation; they
are also the physical outcome of a new sensitivity towards
the rivers that could thus be displayed to the public. In 1964,
for instance, guided tours started in the Mississippi model;
even an observation tower and elevated platforms were
added to the site for reasons of tourist accessibility. In 2017,
Ronald and Erik Rietveld with Atelier de Lyon transformed
the 1977 model for the Delta Works into a monument to
commemorate the long-lasting battle of the Dutch peo-
ple against water. The Waterloopbos and the Mississippi
Basin Model not only have been hydraulic experimental
stations but also means of propaganda of the engineers’
grandeur: their ability to understand nature and therefore
take control of it (McPhee, 1989). A 1948 article defined the
Mississippi model as a “colossal effigy of Old Man River
[that] will make little floods to help America protect herself
against big ones” (Popular Science, 1948: 115). They were,
for the Netherlands and for the United States, parts of a
larger narrative of the modernistic technological enthusi-
asm that characterized the western world’s relations with
nature especially during the last 20th century.
Furthermore, these two stories – perhaps unintention-
ally – expose two pain points of our current time. Firstly, the
fact that there is now a much larger gap between academics
and practice than then. As Han Vrijling, emeritus professor of
TU Delft in Hydraulic engineering, once explained that he was
taught by people such as Thijsse who introduced the anec-
dotes of what went right and what went wrong in practice;
the next generation of professors soon became managers
and with that education lost the wisdom of the cold ground.
Models over Time Projects / 01
Waterloopbos
Plan. Scale 1:8000
66 — 67
This leads to the next pain point: the art of engineering has
to change. A Dutch dijkgraaf (Dike count) traditionally prays:
‘Lord give us daily bread and the occasional flood’. He prays
to legitimize his problem. Unfortunately, we have become too
used to technical solutions to take natural disasters seriously.
The natural system must again be looked at more
closely and then the application of technical interventions
must be geared to it. This is already happening on a realistic
scale (with the numerous development of marshlands and
wetlands, reconstruction of dunes, experimental typologies
of dikes, the Sand Motor on the Delfland coast, and many
demolitions of dams in the US), but a new watercourse for-
est in which technical solutions that better relate to natural
disasters, as envisaged in the Building with Nature concept,
would certainly not be a superfluous luxury.
The designers of the artwork that was made out of the
big flume in the Waterloopbos call their approach Hardcore
Heritage. It opposes the simple preservation of monuments
and sees their work as a cultural experiment. The Deltawerk
1:1 is a manifesto that is represented by the deconstruction
of the flume and the radical change of the context, i.e. the
excavation. The manifesto deals with the field of tension
between past, present and future and asks: “what the Delta
Works of the future should be?” Because the Delta Works of
the past may turn out to be worthless due to climate change
and new works of art will be needed. Keeping the gutter
as a monument will not give it new meaning. The rede-
sign not only gives a spatially new experience of concrete,
light, shadow, water and reflection but also a new meaning
because the concrete will be overgrown by nature – and it
is currently happening in both the Waterloopbos and the
Mississippi Basin Model. Nature is the Longue Duree and
in creating a sustainable future the design of Deltas need
to take this as a fundamental starting point.
Baukje Kothuis and Luca Iuorio
Mississippi Basin Model
Plan. Scale 1:8000
66 — 67
Models over Time Projects / 01
Brick structures, Waterloopbos, 2021.
The figure shows the current status of a series of gates used during the
last century to perform hydraulic experiments in the Waterloopbos. These
structures – built with bricks – were parts of a complex system to divert
water in the models’ channels and study the impact of flows on specific
engineering constructions. Both, water and bricks recall a long-lasting
Dutch imaginary; the word brick(e) itself has Middle Dutch origin. Water and
bricks are the elemental materials the urbanscape in the Netherlands has
been shaped with; in the axonometric projection, they materialize – blended
with nature – as the extant outcome of an outdated engineering attitude of
doing hydraulic tests with physical models.
Baukje Kothuis and Luca Iuorio
Cement dynamics, Mississippi Basin Model, 2021.
The figure shows the current status of a river branch of the Mississippi
Basin Model. Here, tests were executed by hydraulic engineers to study the
effects of the potential construction of dams, reservoirs, and levees on the
larger inhabited territory. The morphology of the watershed was molded in
detail in order to recreate the paleo-dynamics of the river water flows. But
the cement panels of the model were a fixed impermeable surface that
didn’t meet the complexity of mixed earth, clay, rocks, sand of the original
riverbanks. The engineers, then, resolved the issue adding, to the riverbeds,
a series of metal plugs and, to the banks, rows of metal folded screens to
simulate vegetation. Today, as shown in the axonometric projection, nature
is taking its space creating – by contrast – living organic dynamics.
68 — 69
Models over Time Projects / 01
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Bosscher, F., Maljaars M., Werkman E., 2017,
Het Waterloopbos. Wageningen:
Blauwdruk.
Cheramie K., 2011, “The scale of nature.
Modeling the Mississippi River”, in Place
Journal, March.
Mathur A., Da Cunha F., 2001, Mississippi
Floods: designing a shifting landscape,
Yale University Press, New Haven.
McPhee J., 1989, The control of nature,
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York.
Popular Science, 1948, Vol. 152, No. 4,
April.
Schot, J.W., H.W. Lintsen, A. Rip and A.A.
Albert de la Bruhèze (eds.), 1998,
Geschiedenis van de techniek in
Nederland in de twintigste eeuw. Vol. I,
Techniek in ontwikkeling, Waterstaat,
kantoor- en informatietechnologie.
Zutphen: Walburg Press
USACE, 1971, Army Engineer waterways
experiment station Vicksburg. History and
description of the Mississippi Basin Model,
U.S. Army Corporation of Engineers.
JDU
Journal of Delta Urbanism
JDU is a project by Delta Urbanism Research Group
and DIMI Del Deltas, Infrastructure and Mobility Initiative
Del University of Technology
Chief Editors
Baukje Kothuis, Fransje Hooimeijer, Taneha Kuzniecow Bacchin,
Del University of Technology.
Advisory Board
Stefan Aarninkhof, TU Del, Faculty of Civil Engineering
& Geosciences
Richard M. Ashley, University of Sheeld, Department of Civil
and Structural Engineering
Inge Bobbink, TU Del, Faculty of Architecture &
the Built Environment
Carola Hein, TU Del, Faculty of Architecture &
the Built Environment
Marcel Hertogh, TU Del, Faculty of Civil Engineering
& Geosciences
Bas Jonkman, TU Del, Faculty of Civil Engineering
& Geosciences
Nina-Marie Lister, Ryerson University, School of Urban
& Regional Planning
Han Meyer, TU Del, Faculty of Architecture &
the Built Environment
AnneLoes Nillesen, DEFACTO Architecture & Urbanism,
Rotterdam
Henk Ovink, Special Envoy of Water Aairs at Kingdom
of the Netherlands
Bas Roels, World Wildlife Fund Netherlands
Diego Sepulveda,TUDel, Faculty of Architecture &
the Built Environment
Dirk Sijmons, H+N+S Landscape Architects; TU Del
Faculty of Architecture & the Built Environment
Paola Viganò, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne;
IUAV University of Venice
Chris Zevenbergen, TU Del Faculty of Civil Engineering
& Geosciences/ Faculty of Architecture and the Built
Environment; IHE-Del
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the Built Environment
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the Built Environment
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for Texas Beaches & Shores
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the Built Environment
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& the Built Environment
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Geological Sciences
Liz Sharp, University of Sheeld, UK
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JJannon, François Rappo, 2019
N.2 | Longue Durée | Project | 01
Fall | Winter 2021
Authors
Baukje L.M. Kothuis, Del University of Technology, the Netherlands /
NBSO-Texas, USA
Luca Iuorio, Del University of Technology, the Netherlands
Citation
Kothuis, B.L. M., Iuorio, L., Models over time: Waterloopbos and
Mississippi River Basin, J. Delta Urbanism 2(2021),
doi.org/10.7480/jdu.2.2021.6232
Type of license
Copyright @ 2021 Baukje L.M. Kothuis and Luca Iuorio
All published contributions are submitted to a Blind Peer
Review process except for the sections Dialogues and Dictionary.
ISSN: 2666-7851
p-ISSN 2667-3487
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
  • F Bosscher
  • M Maljaars
  • E Werkman
Bosscher, F., Maljaars M., Werkman E., 2017, Het Waterloopbos. Wageningen: Blauwdruk.
The control of nature, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • J Mcphee
McPhee J., 1989, The control of nature, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York. Popular Science, 1948, Vol. 152, No. 4, April.