Heavy rainfall is a matter of concern for Rotterdam as many parts of the city are at risk of flooding. The city however does not have the space to create more room for water, especially in the inner-city area. This situation led to the idea of a “water square” – a square that retains water during rainfall, and that can be used as a recreational space the rest of the time. Such a square contributes to improve the resilience of the city to extreme weather phenomena by easing the stress on sewage systems and preventing floods, while at the same time improving the liveability and spatial quality of urban public space.
Officially opened in December 2013, Rotterdam’s Benthemplein is the first full-scale water square in the world. The project is the result of an intensive participative process with the local community, which was consulted on the possible uses, desired atmospheres and how the rainwater can influence the square.
Three pools were built, that fill up when it rains. Two shallow basins collect rainwater from the immediate surroundings; another deeper basin at the centre of the square collects water from a larger area and in case of heavy rains. When this latter basin is empty it is used as a playing area for football, basketball or volleyball. Two rows of tiered seating allow matches to be watched.
Large stainless steel gutters embedded in the pavement channel rainwater to the pools. They were deliberately oversized so that skateboarders can use them.
The colour scheme emphasises the function of the water square: all that can flood is painted in shades of blue and everything that transports water is shiny stainless steel.