Blog – Touring of some of the Sponge City sites in China

Quest is an international transfer program which connects Arcadians from all over the world. Quest is sponsored by the Lovinklaan Foundation. Every week we are highlighting one of the stories our employees who went on an exchange. In this blogpost we cover the Quest story of Peter Nicholson who traveled from his home office in London to our Arcadis office Shanghai.

Why did I apply for a Quest

I applied to participate in Quest so that I could learn more about the Sponge Cities Program currently being implemented by our China Water Management Team. I was keen to learn lessons to help improve delivery of my own projects in the UK.  I was also interested in experiencing the other Water Management project being undertaken in China, experience the professional life and culture of China and to build lasting contacts and opportunities for future collaborations. I also wanted to share my own knowledge and experience which I hoped would be valuable to the China Water team.

” I was keen to learn lessons to help improve delivery of my own projects in the UK!”

Highlight of my quest experience

One of the highlights of the visit was being able to make a difference and contribute to the Wuhan teams work on an interesting project based in Shanghai, alongside the RKTL teams in Shanghai and the Netherlands and also with Water Management professionals based in the Netherlands. This was a truly collaborative project and great to see teams across our brands and regions working together to delivery results.

My experience

Wuhan is based at the confluence of the middle reaches of the Yangtze and Han rivers about 900km east of Shanghai and very different from the places I have visited before. However, my host, China Water Management lead, Wen Mei Dubbelaar and her team, made to feel very welcome and at home in the city. During the trip the team introduced me to the Sponge City project and we discussed some of the differences between projects in the UK and China. One of the main differences being the level of consultation and stakeholder influence projects have in the UK which can greatly slow down projects. I was able to share some of my own knowledge of relevant projects in the UK which make space for water in the urban environment. This included giving a presentation about myself, my team and projects to the whole of the Wuhan office, kindly translated by Guang Lin. I also had the opportunity to look at two other project in the region, including a concept design in Shanghai around a river, canal and irrigation system, in collaboration with Arrien Borst in the Netherlands and RKTL in Shanghai and the Netherlands.  This was really interesting and I hope to learn more about this type of work at Arcadis after the Quest.

During the week I managed to take a tour of some of the Sponge City sites, and also to see more of the city of Wuhan (after being introduced to the delicious local Dry Noodle specialty for breakfast). We traveled to an older part of the city where the Sponge City project had already begun, including a school which had been adapted to deal with water run-off and drainage in the most effective way possible and a high-density housing estate which had installed similar measures.  It won’t be until the intense summer rainfall that the success of these installations can be truly demonstrated. We also had time to vast Wuhan East Lake which covers over 33 km2. Throughout my stay I was able to assist in developing some of the ideas and approaches to some of the teams project. It was really interesting and rewarding to see Arcadis working together collaboratively.

“It was really interesting and rewarding to see Arcadis working together collaboratively”

What next

Since my return, I have already been in contact with my hosts to assist with some bid work and to keep in touch over our respective projects.  I have also been able to take some of the urban water management lessons I have learnt about and shared them in the UK. I must really thank Wen Mei, Guang and Ming. They were amazing hosts who went out of their way to look after me.  It was a great experience to meet new people, experience the working environment in a different region, and be introduced to some interesting projects.

The international transfer program Quest, which connects Arcadians from all over the world, is sponsored by the Lovinklaan Foundation.

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