Trenches for Peace

Oirschot, Netherlands

War and peace on the Oirschot Heath

The Dutch armed forces are committed to peace. Almost nowhere this paradox can be witnessed clearer than on the Oirschotse Heide, where spectacular military exercises take place above publicly accessible moors. The Trenches of Peace by Studio Marco Vermeulen emphasizes this paradox by offering a view of the military spectacle from a trench in the shape of a peace sign.

The peace sign is located in the vicinity of the Green Corridor, but is hidden from view by bushes, and is also separated by a moorland. Visitors reach the trench through the forest and the heath. The trench is in a place that offers a view of the Oirschotse Heide and the spectacular military exercises that take place there.
The contrast between war and peace is further deepened by giving walls of the trench the same rough, earthy texture as those of the trenches in wartime. Ideally, the texture and color of the soil remain tangible and visible.
If these walls were to be made of concrete in the traditional way, it would be very difficult to achieve precisely this texture. In addition, a lot of CO2 would be emitted. This not only happens as a result of the chemical reaction with which cement is made, but also due to all transport movements and processing of the heavy conventional materials. The contribution of the concrete material to the greenhouse effect is therefore considerable.
That is why a new technique has been chosen, called Microbially Induced Calcium Carbonate Precipitation (MICP). With this technique, the soil material (sand) present is hardened on site with the help of existing soil bacteria. Under the right conditions, these bacteria can make their own natural cement, in the form of calcite. This is a mineral that is very common in nature. Limestone, for example, consists largely of calcite, and sandstone often consists of sand grains cemented by calcite. Calcite is very stable under natural soil conditions. It does not "decay" and is virtually insoluble in natural groundwater. Calcite deposits on the grains of sand and binds them together. This stabilizes the soil, and with it the retaining walls of the trench are constructed.
An additional advantage is that no CO2 is emitted during the formation of this material, but that CO2 is actually absorbed and deposited in the retaining walls. The material therefore does not contribute to the greenhouse effect, but (even if only a small amount in the case of the trench) to the solution thereof.
In addition, much less radical soil work is required as would be the case if concrete is used. In this way the natural soil layers in the peace sign to be excavated remain visible. By excavating the trench in this way, the walls retain the roughness of a trench dug by hand: a military object with a public and recreational function.

shelter against the spectacle of violence in the service of peace

From the trenches the environment can be experienced from different depths. The shallowest part is connected to the entrance path and provides access to the trench. From there the trench gradually becomes deeper. For parts near the entrance, the wall of the trench can be used as seating. Lower parts offer the perspective of soldiers, where the viewing height is just above ground level. In the lowest part of the trench, the visitor finds itself completely below ground level. The trench is tight and narrow. The bottom is palpable, and only a narrow strip of sky is visible above the visitors.
The peace sign is part of a series of art objects along the “Groene Corridor”, a scenic route that runs over the Eindhovense Dijk from Oirschot to Eindhoven. It is located in the vicinity of the road, but is hidden from view by bushes and, in addition, separated by a moorland. Visitors reach the trench through the forest and the heath, where the military spectacle can be experienced from an isolated place in nature.

ir. Marco Vermeulen, ir. Bram Willemse, Msc. M.Arch. Bertus van Woerden, Alberto Carbonell

in cooperation with
Franki Grondtechnieken
Groundwater Technology

Construction preparation

Gemeente Oirschot

next project:
The Old Tower
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