Project booklet

2nd prize


River Landscape
Building by nature
Resilient landscapes

Marnix Vink
Michiel van Driessche
Deborah Lambert
Carlijn Klomp
Willemijn van Manen
Fabrice Wack
Jean-Francois Gauthier
Laura Spenkelink
Alexandra Merkulova
Unesco IHE
Polis University

Berat, Albania

60 ha

Landscapearchitects Network


The project centers around a group of temporal islands in the Osum River. During the driest periods, only a small stream is flowing through Berat, while during winter and spring almost the entire riverbed is covered with water.

The hydrology of the Osum River defines to a large extent Berat’s problematic position: located on elevated and steep river banks the city is well prepared to cope with high water levels; flood hazard is limited to adjacent villages and towns located within the floodplains. Yet, during periods of low flow, the city is unable to profit from the river. The marginal streamflow, the emerging sandbanks and the resulting amphibious river landscape only create an underused, low quality environment that does serve the characteristic of this UNESCO-protected city.

We develop the Berat river islands as resilient systems, able to cope with the hydrologic conditions associated to all seasons; to make the Berat islands both flood resilient and drought resilient; to be able to cope and recover from extremes but most of all to develop an active use of the river.
We create a better ‘guidance’ of the river’s hydrology by combining small interventions with the potential building capacity provided by the river’s hydrodynamic: a controlled erosion and deposition of river sediment to create a relatively stable development of sandbanks and channels. Thus, by using the river flow and the resulting flood patterns due to the introduction of small obstacles, we can shape the landscape which during dry periods will constitute the sandbanks or ‘islands’.
Manipulating the river flow patterns by a ‘building with nature’-approach provides the tools to develop a design strategy that is not only resilient to both droughts and floods, but also enhances the usability of the islands by providing a more robust basis for use. During dry periods, large islands appear with summer gardens, while the river runs along the center of the city. When water levels are raising, gardens transform into wetlands, accessible through a network of boardwalks. During peak water levels, the entire riverbed is covered, only leaving a few small islands untouched.