Article 2- The Hovenring

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INTRODUCTION

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The Hovenring is a suspended bicycle path roundabout on the border between Eindhoven and Veldhoven, above the Heerbaan/Meerenakkerweg intersection. It’s located  in the Netherlands, so it’s not strange that this a solution made entirely for bicycles. It is the first suspended bicycle roundabout in the world. (officially is not a roundabout, but a circular suspension brigde). It was built in 2008, when the housing nearby increased and dealing with the high traffic on it was a necessity.

The Hovenring means literally “The ring of the Hovens” (how people from Eindhoven and Veldhoven is named). This is something that can make us understand the importance for the people there.

ABOUT THE PROJECT

 -About the place

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Eindhoven is a city located in the province of North Brabant in the south of the Netherlands, The city had 220,000 inhabitants (as of September 2013) and 265,000 if adjacent Veldhoven is included, making it the fifth-largest city of the Netherlands and the largest of North Brabant.

Neighbouring cities and towns include Son en Breugel, Nuenen, Geldrop-Mierlo, Heeze-Leende, Waalre, Veldhoven, Eersel, Oirschot and Best. The agglomeration has some 440,000 inhabitants. The metropolitan area (which includes Helmond) has nearly 750,000 inhabitants.

This huge growth is mostly due to the industry development. It started in the 19th century, with the tobacco and textile industries, and shot up thanks to the lighting and electronics business Philips, founded as light bulb manufacturing company. Nowadays the factory is closed, but it’s still an emblem for the city.

The early 20th century saw additions in technical industry with the advent of car and truck manufacturing companies. The 1970s, 1980s and 1990s saw large-scale housing developments, which brought the huge increase of the metropolitan area, already said. In the 2000s decade, Eindhoven emerged as the capital of Dutch industrial design, lead by the Design Academy Eindhoven.

Due to its high-tech environment, Eindhoven is part of several initiatives to develop, promote  and increase a knowledge economy, such us the Brainport Top Technology Region: A cooperative initiave of local government, industry and the Eindhoven University of Technology. In 2011, Eindhoven was named also world’s most intelligent community by Intelligent Community Forum.

And this is the environment in which the Hovenring was born. It can be now understood how suitable is the high-quality design and innovative solution given to the roundabout.

 

-Agents involved.

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Eindhoven City Council: The Eindhoven City Council is the organization that asks, promotes and pays for this new solution. They realized about the problem in the area and decided to solve it. They didn’t want a cyclist underpass neither a level crossing again. In order to achieve that they ask the IPV Delft group to look at possible solutions.

IPV Delft: IPV Delft is a Dutch design and engineering office which focuses on bridges, lighting and street furniture. Street furniture projects range from specially made benches to waste receptacles and bus stops. Prove of the Dutch tradition of light, they have illuminated several churches and buildings and light is always an important part of all their projects. Their designs stand out for their high-tech design, combined with simplicity. Effective results with simple solutions and materials, as can be shown in the Hovenring.

Citizens, “The Hovens”: As it has been said, the name of this brigde means “the ring of the Hovens”. This is a clue of who is this project made for. Actually the name was chosen through a competition held among the population of Eindhoven and Veldhoven.

 

-Controversies.

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(!) INITIAL SITUATION:

One of the things to take into account in the birth of the Hovenring is the initial situation of the area. As it’s better explain in the historiography of the article, several changes have occurred in the intersection: first a level crossing, then it changed into a roundabout, and finally came The Hovenring. All these changes were caused by a change in the area: the new housing nearby ask for a safer and better solution. A solution that the previous ones didn’t give.

 (¿) WHAT CAN WE DO?

Having this in mind, the question that the City Council ask to IPV Delft was:

What can we do, if…? First, we want to improve the safety of the intersection and the way of controlling the traffic; then, we want an eye-catching project that fits with the technological environment of the city; and last, since we are in the Netherlands we can’t forget about bicycles and how important is that they need to be separate of the motorized traffic.

IPV Delft thought in these 3 topics and made their solution, that joins the answers to each of these topics.

 

HISTORIOGRAPHY

-Timeline of events

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PAST:  The place was a level crossing.

2000’s: The surroundings were filled with housing, what caused the placement of a roundabout.

2008: The development in the area continued and the traffic flow increased with it. The regulation of the traffic with the roundabout didn’t work as expected. That threw the question: is the roundabout really needed? They realized that the answer was no. That’s when they began to search for another solution.

2011: In February the construction of the Hovenring started and in December of the same year it was finished. Due to technical problems had to be closed a few weeks later.

2012: Once the problem was solved, in June, the Hovenring was definetly opened to public until nowadays.

 

-Strategies developed.

Why is the Hovenring a landmark? Why has it accomplished its goals? This is due to the two strategies it follows: an impressive form and smart use of lighting.

FORM:

The Hovenring is basically a suspended bridge. It is composed by a 72 metres diameter deck and is suspended from a 70 metres tall central pylon by 24 cables. The entire construction is made of steel. To ensure stability, concrete was added to sections of the bridge deck as well.

One of the challenges of the design process was the spacial integration. The existing infrastructure and buildings set the boundaries for the grades of the slopes leading up to the roundabout. As space was limited, it was decided to lower the ground level of the intersection underneath by a metre and a half, allowing for a comfortable slope for pedestrians and cyclists. This can be shown in this diagram:

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LIGHT:

As has been already said,  the light is an important part  of the project. Light also refers Eindhovens unofficial designation of “city of lights”. IPV knew that, and they included that in the project. This enhance the idea of becoming a symbol for the Hovens.

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-Difficulties found

The Hovenring had to be closed almost immediately after delivery in December 2011 due to unexpected vibrations in the cables caused by the wind. An investigation of the problem was undertaken during the next  weeks by professors of civil and mechanical engineering from the Eindhoven University of TechnologyDelft University of Technology.

It was finally determined that the problem was vortices of wind forming in the cables, causing heavier vibrations than expected during design. Once this problem was solved, in June 2012, the bridge was definitely opened to public. Its working has been the proper one so far, and nothing has occurred since that.

 

-Successes & failures

Can really an element like the Hovenring become into a symbol of a place? Can it identify the Hovens? And, does it really work? The answer to all these questions is yes. The Hovenring is used exactly as it was design, and it serves perfectly to the Hovens.

This way of managing traffic flows has really worked, because it’s been exported to another cities. For example, the Hovenring was the first and the only suspended bycicle path, until the construction of the Tjensvollkrysset in Stavanger (Norway), with the same size and use.

Another examples, but only for pedestrians, have been built all around the world. Like the Pedestrian rings in Shanghai (China) or in Rzeszowie (Poland).

As we see, the idea has been so used, and that’s because the two ingredients it has: the practicity and the intention of becoming a landmark and symbol for the place where it’s located.

 

CONCLUSION:  Why is this a good example and what we should learn about it.

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What we can take from this reference:

-How it’s possible to design a new concept of roundabout, if the tradicional one doesn’t work.

-How this “re-design” is caused by the changes in the surroundings (in this case, the growing amount of housing and the bad traffic)

-How it’s possible to solve a problem with a good solution.

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