5.2.1 “Beyond the edge” - Deconstructing the conventional notion of a site
Reflecting on the Kanten/The Edge competition brief, the judging process and the winning entries, a central theme kept repeating itself throughout, namely the importance of going beyond the edge to a zone. The issue of scale is key to the definition and how designers define the geographic and spatial extent of a site and understand the context of their work (Kahn and Burns, 2021). For instance, the multi-scalar mapping study revealed that the coastal urban sites in the land-sea continuum partake in many differently scaled networks simultaneously and at different timeframes. Therefore, engaging as a singular and limited understanding of a site obscures and simplifies the reality of the entangled complex spatial interrelations (Kahn and Burns, 2021). Departing from the definition of what constitutes a site by Kahn and Burns (2021), they argue that there are three distinct viewpoints and territories. First is called the “area of control”, which designers are most familiar with as “the site”, defined by often linear lines of property, assigning the legal boundaries in which designers can exercise the most agency. Second, the areas outside the control are called the “area of influence”, which includes the surrounding forces that act on the site beyond the assigned plot. The last is called the “area of effect”, the areas impacted by the design action/intervention (ibid.). Kahn and Burns (2021) argue that while all three areas can exist within the domain of design concerns, the “area of influence” and “area of effect” conventionally lie outside of direct design control but situate design actions in relation to wider processes. The research findings reinforce the view that these three areas overlap, despite their varying geographies and temporalities when working with water networks.
The research, therefore, argues that there is a need to engage beyond the “area of control” (as defined by the two zones in Kanten/The Edge brief) to include the “area of influence”. This is due to the current dependence on improving the current poor ecological condition of the fjord when considering marine NbS. Going beyond the current notion of a site means acknowledging water’s networks, including wetlands next to rivers and protected forests near the coast (Natura2000 area) that play an important role in filtering agricultural runoffs. Moreover, the need to think from a watershed/catchment scale to limit the sources of pollutants that travel through these water networks crisscrossing artificial legislative borders challenges the notion of intra-municipal to inter-municipal collaboration. These upstream-downstream networks emphasise that the proposal of Kanten/The Edge do not exist in isolation but is dependent on the success of these other nature restoration projects (such as Sund Vejle Fjord), which mitigate water pollution. This means that the “area of control” (site) expands to include Vejle Fjord as a holistic entity, including its connection to the river valleys (refer to Figure 175 and Figure 168).
Furthermore, the need to expand the “area of control” (site) is supported by the need for a larger-scale intervention when addressing more complex and time-pressing issues like climate change and meeting climate goals. To be able to make a significant impact on the carbon sequestration and water filtration capacity of NbS, especially when considering seaweed (kelp) as a soft approach to coastal protection via wave attenuation (and coastal erosion mitigation), requires engaging with the mid-outer fjord (see Figure 175 and Figure 168). While there is an importance in the edge conditions to demonstrate how waterfront/harbourfront development can integrate marine nature as part of the spatial and aesthetic experience of a coastal city, it also needs to go beyond an aesthetic approach to ensure that it contributes more significantly to improving the conditions of the Fjord towards a more equitable multispecies coexistence. Providing more space beyond the edge for water in these contested zones opens up more possibilities to envision how to live not just by the water but with the water in the future.
Figure 175. (Top Left to Bottom Right) A progression of how Kanten/The Edge expands out, starting from the importance of the shallows in addressing the need for access to sunlight for seaweed, which is impeded due to various anthropogenic activities. Kanten/The Edge site represents two edge conditions (urban and nature) and sees a “zone” as an area that expands out from the edge in the near vicinity. While the winning entry expanded this notion of a zone to include the entire Fjordbyen (The Membrane), the zone also should encompass the four major river valleys that all join and connects to Vejle Fjord. Furthermore, when considering seaweed as part of the coastal protection strategy, the site (area of control) expands to a mid-outer fjord area where kelp can be grown. Finally, in order for marine NbS to be successful, the main source of pollution needs to be addressed within the watershed/catchment area.
Image credit: Vejle Municipality, Teis Boderskov and Team Membrane: Josephine Philipsen, Luisa Brando, and Andres Hernandez.
The notion of a site is also relevant to notions of ownership and responsibilities, its arbitrariness challenged by the fluid medium of water. For instance, a fixed understanding of boundaries currently excludes farmers’ responsibilities for the degradation of the fjord, which can be considered a common “good”. Moreover, issues of sea level rise and storm surge through Vejle fjord (and its ecological degradation) concern not only Vejle Municipality but also its interconnected surrounding municipalities. This meant the responsibility of financing and needed regulations for decision-making needed to be shared, requiring collaboration beyond land borders. The numerous property lines that demarcate private ownership of lands that all face the same fate from increasing risks from water (and coastal erosion), therefore, require a unanimous, collective and holistic decision on a remedial solution.
Lastly, the 90-degree concrete hard edges delineate the boundary where the city stops and the water begins is being challenged by future SLR/SS. Climate phenomena are not only putting in question the shifting boundaries between the city and the sea but also whom these boundaries are serving. Should the meeting place between the city and the sea in the form of waterfront and harbourfront remain largely inaccessible and the seaview privatised for the privileged few? And if this is the continual urban development model into the future (i.e. the increasing size of ports and high-rise, high-end apartments), should public funds be used to protect the interest of the few in these risk areas in the future?
 For coastal cities where the source of water pollution is due to untreated sewage, then the solutions do not need to include the watershed. Nevertheless, the watershed has a role in determining flood defence from cloudburst events.
 The city architect of Vejle reiterated that Vejle is not just the city centre next to the water, but it also consists of many clusters of suburbs on the hills and in the hinterlands. Therefore, there are plans to develop and invest in these higher areas as the bottom of the river valley becomes more vulnerable (refer to Table 16 Appendix 12).
 Vejle Municipality is currently working on how we can reduce CO2 emissions. By 2030, Vejle must have reduced its emissions by 70%. Kanten/The Edge must be considered as part of this vision (Vejle Municipality, 2020a).