Thesis Thursday: Leon van der Westhuizen

Hydro-GEN: Regenerating the Boet Erasmus Stadium through the design of a biological water treatment and research facility

© Leon van der Westhuizen

The treatise seeks to make a valuable contribution to a current discussion in architecture and urbanism regarding the perception and re-conceptualisation of what in previous paradigms was left-over, unassigned space between developments. These in-between servitude spaces inevitably ended up as poorly considered negative wastelands in the urban landscape. Understanding these spaces not as isolated entities but as integral parts of a larger urban eco-system facilitates their reconsideration as positive contributors to this ecosystem.

© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen

This understanding unlocks their innate natures and facilitates their re-scripting as positive, “productive landscapes”. Such productive landscapes contribute positively by ensuring better-functioning natural ecosystems while unlocking economic opportunities and enhancing the sensual qualities of public urban space.

© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen

This way of thinking is applied to a disregarded part of the Humewood Happy Valley located in Port Elizabeth. The derelict Boet Erasmus Stadium (abandoned in 2010) forms part of the Shark River Valley and sits as a hindrance to an important valley water system whilst providing a desolate termination to the upper end of a nature based leisure zone that connects to the beachfront through “ Happy Valley”.

© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen

By visualizing the site as a filter for the greater ecological context the project seeks to create an interlinked ecosystem between eight neighbouring valley systems to allow Port Elizabeth to become an integrated ecosystem city where citizens can utilize unique ecosystem services. The vision thus provides an alternative to conventional development modes and presents an ultimately more sustainable and broadly beneficial option for development – An option where the valley’s innate value as a water system is understood and the derelict, historically significant, ruin of the old Boet Erasmus Rugby Stadium is architecturally regenerated as a biological filter to this water system.

© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen

The old stadium becomes a micro-catchment area where wetlands, algae ponds and water lily treatment zones filter polluted and contaminated water. The water is treated by these treatment zones to remove heavy metals, nutrients and carbon dioxide. These zones are made up of anoxic tanks, wetland systems, water lily and algae ponds, and aerated lagoons with fish, snails and aquatic plants.

© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen

The waterlilies are harvested and used with the algae to allow bio-leaching to extract the heavy metals from the plants. The ecological status of the valley is monitored by a research component and provides laboratories to extract and recover the heavy metals from the water lilies. These metals are then crafted into saleable jewellery pieces. Digester systems turn the algae and water lilies into bio-gas and organic fertilizer to be used by the facility. Clean water ends up in a natural swimming area which can be enjoyed by the public before it exits the treatment dam as a new meandering river along where various water leisure activities takes place.

© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen

As the facility filters the water along the valley it provides a reconfigured public realm that makes new places for people to enjoy by extending and integrating the natural recreation space of the beachfront through natural swimming pools, walkways, cycling routes and picnic areas.

© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen
© Leon van der Westhuizen