Monolab was asked, along with three other offices (John Körmeling, Must, Post L30), to develop a long-term view of the A12 highway. This highway is supposed to be a test case. It runs east west through Holland, connecting Germany to the Dutch coast. In this project we proved that infra can no longer behave autonomously. We think infra should be interlaced with its context as much as possible. Its context should be served, which is contradictory to present policy, as where infra is considered autonomous.
1. to think that our present notion and phenomenon of the highway are still valid (they should be redefined and evolve).
2. to think that master plans are still viable (most master plans in Holland have been shipwrecked).
3. to think that the appearance of highways should have consistency (in our time nothing is more appreciated than variety).
4. to think that architecture or design can solve real infrastructural issues (architecture is too small scaled, design is a by-product).
5. to think that planning arrangements in a zone of 137-km length is possible (impossible and too costly).
In this research we applied cross vision, we looked across the infra bundle, north to south and south to north. We imposed a new hierarchy: first is soil (our origins), second is nature & landscape (enclaves with a strong coherence), third is urbanism (a u-turn from expansion to compression) and fourth is infra (evolution of its inherent potencies).
SEPARATION AND EVOLUTION
Holland has become a victim of its highway system. This system has not been changed since the last 50 years of its existence. Lack of investment and capacity problems play the key role. Our society and the world around us have changed dramatically during this period. The highway decreased in competence in the meantime. During these fifty years we have already spoiled lots of potential spin-off. Highways are obstructed by local traffic. In urban regions 60% of all traffic is local and it occupies the highways for only 8-km (average). Spread of traffic by time management has not proven to be successful. In this vision we were using two tools: separation and evolution. We proposed to apply a freeway system to the urban enclaves of the A12 zone. We made a shift: the present highway becomes freeway and a parallel system on both sides is added. The freeway accepts transit traffic (120 km/h) with only on/off links at cloverleaves. The national Government should manage this freeway system. The parallel system on the other hand accepts regional traffic (80 km/h) with as many on/off links to its context as possible. Local government should manage this. The old highway evolves into a freeway with higher capacity and less obstruction and its parallel system obtains two qualities: capacity and reachability. We designed ‘flippers’; short links for 80 km/h speed. Flippers can work horizontally as well as vertically. Zones with a higher density of vertical flippers can evolve into ‘Infra Decks’, sites with dramatic potential.
Unfortunately in Holland it is still a practice for Governmental Ministries to commission architectural and urban firms to make schemes on short notice. This has at least one fatal consequence: the results are bought, not mastered. As a result, these Ministries lack development and their design methods do not track the cultural speed and development of our society. We think this A12 vision is a perfect opportunity to test an incubator, a kind of guerrilla group within the Ministry of V&W. The best way is to achieve real co-operation of analysts and designers of the Ministry and nine design teams (architecture and urban firms) of the second phase. Not by workshops, these are not powerful, but during the complete process of about six to eight weeks. The incubator would be a studio, a window to show interactions and results by discussions and presentations supervised by the Minister and the Government Architect. It should lead to real schemes, put into effect by legal force.
In our research the A12-zone consists of six urban and three natural parts. We researched the nine enclaves, in order to enforce their identities. The four directives (soil, nature & landscape, urbanism, infra) all have variable input.
1. Randstad-enclaves (nature & landscape triggered). We are on the verge. By expansion, the Randstad is no longer an open landscape with islands of urban matter, but a sea of urban substance with ‘green islands’. Small ‘doors’ connect these ‘voids with landscape’. The issue for the A12, crossing this system, is how to deal with these ‘masses’, ‘voids’ and ‘doors’.
2. Infra Delta The Hague (infra triggered). The linking of the City of The Hague to the infrastructural system is dramatic. The city has a grid system already, perfect as a network, but most of these links do not exist. We propose a ‘delta of links’, as a series of connections from the A12-A4-A13 combination. A growing reservoir of links develops at +1 level.
3. Infra Deck Zoetermeer (urban triggered). The City of Zoetermeer is split by the A12 and is encapsulated by the green heart of the Randstad. We propose an inward growth and development of the A12 passage. The inward growth can be developed along the three infra systems: railway track, ringroad and the north-south road connections. Flippers, parking facilities, station, transferium and commercial programs will trigger the Infra Deck.
4. Gouwe Node (infra triggered). If we succeed in realizing the still missing highway link The Hague – Rotterdam and include the Rijn-Gouwe railroad we obtain an infrastructural mold to accept all future expansion of the Zuidplaspolder. Consequently, the Zuidplaspolder can remain an open landscape.
5. Polder Laminate (soil triggered). The landscape between the Cities of Gouda and Utrecht is part of the Green Heart of the Randstad which has marvelous qualities: it can be considered a Dutch Venice. The soil is not land but water, not a landscape interlaced by water, but water covered by thousands of islands. We propose to dig out series of laminates and use the water as a defense against threatening urbanism and to reprogram a certain percentage of laminates to accept natural and recreational program. We disentangled the highway in four separate tracks. Here a transparent highway deck can develop the passage of the A12 at its present +1 dike-level. The passage over the laminates -water and land- are thrilling.
6. Infra Deck Utrecht (urban triggered). The present infra bundle between Node Oudenrijn and Lunetten is a perfect breeder for creating an Infra Deck. It already developed a parallel system. The city of Utrecht can embrace its infrastructure at last. The deck consists of a sheet at +1 level. It serves as interface for vehicles that enter and leave by vertical flippers to the parallel system. A second sheet serves pedestrians. City quarters on both sides are connected.
7. New Heuvelrug (soil triggered). The Heuvelrug, a hill of sand (moraine) shaped by glaciers and covered by forest during the last ice age, crosses the A12. The A12 traces the profile of the moraine, passing over and thus obstructing the forest. We propose to make the Heuvelrug a national park, to reconnect the hill over the A12, to puncture the A12 and the railroad through the hill by tubes and to construct a visitor center, as a void, in the hilltop. Flippers and a train stop connect the visitor center to its infra. We gave the center a ‘crater’. The partly glazed slopes give access to the park.
8. Werv City (urban triggered). This is a new city with a real green heart. The clustered towns of Wageningen, Ede, Rhenen and Veenendaal create a symbiosis of urbanism, landscape and infra. Four passages of the National Eco-System connect through its green heart, shifting green over red program. The parallel system oscillates between landscape and urban conditions. A bicycle ring road connects the four parts. The present functional qualities of this cluster (recreation, knowhow and education) can be boosted.
9. Veluwe Moraines (soil triggered). Like the Heuvelrug, the Veluwe consists of a glacier-shaped landscape. The A12 divides the Veluwe as well. We propose here to restore the initial condition by inserting seven moraines. Also we program at least the western one. Moraines are much bigger than our current so-called ‘ecoducts’. The passages of infra through the moraines need attention as well.