The Hague International Zone

For the municipality of the Hague, we have created a strategy on safety and security for the International Zone, incorporating the World Forum, the Peace Palace and the International Criminal Court.

How may we protect people and buildings in the city? Many specialists are focusing on solutions for this question on a daily basis – from law enforcement to local residents groups. And what is the role of design, and how can we nudge rather than counteract?
We developed a strategic vision for the municipality of The Hague that focuses on the International Zone where we took on the challenge of designing safe and inviting environments in the city. We set it as our mission to protect people and buildings without creating physical fences and without adding visual urban clutter to the cityscape.
For this exploratory research, we have engaged with multiple stakeholders, scanned the industry response, mapped distinct city locations and activities, and framed an approach that intervenes in the public realm. The questions that lead to our proposal were – how might we use both physical and digital methods to enhance safety? How might we enable safety measures to be used invisibly anywhere, and at appropriate times?
The synthesis of our observations shaped our ambition to design safe environments that invite, rather than restrict, users in the city, with the goal to create environments that encourage social interactions. We believe user-attractive spaces deliver safety and security.
Our human-centric proposal is outlined in a vision document, where we proposed interventions that are interactive, embedded within the built environment and respond to real time data on people’s flow and movement in the city. They project positivity and encourage playful engagement with our surroundings and at the same time are flexible in the way they enhance safety, and are adaptable to ever-changing situations.

Holistic approach

The International Zone is an area without fixed borders in the heart of The Hague that hosts international and national peace, justice and safety organisations that are deemed in high risk of attacks. Within the International Zone we identified three specific areas that pose the highest risk, each with different organisational presence and needs, various urban contexts and atmosphere, and different coverage of existing security. The locations are: World Forum, Peace Palace, and the International Criminal Court. We focused on the public space between and around the organisations’ marked territory as we identified that these interstitial spaces are most vulnerable. Our proposal covers each site with multiple interactions/pilots, as well as a proposal for an overall platform that allows linking all interventions. Our goal is to create a safety net that covers maximum areas open for the public that may be vulnerable to an attack.

Pilot 1. World Forum – Interactive Rhythms

The World Forum accommodates a variety of crowds on a daily basis who work and visit the area. High-security organizations are in close proximity to large event destinations. The need to adapt to security events and large crowds requires flexible infrastructure that can adapt to different urban rhythms.
We propose: Interactive infrastructures. With adaptable signs, flexible bollards and connected traffic lights, the zone will react in real time to its ever-changing requirements. With flexible parking lots and curbs, we propose adaptable roads around the neighbourhood. If during an event a road closure is required, a parallel road widens up and takes over the traffic. Sensors will tell us just how successful this redirection is, and will update the road signs and navigation systems in time for the drivers not to notice too much.
During an evening event in the World Forum, like a musical, the area can get crowded with pedestrians. Connected traffic lights will response, and keep the crossings open for a longer period to keep the visitors flowing in or out of the area. Responsive wayfinding will guide the visitors to the entrance of their event.
When the area needs to be evacuated, traffic lights will manage cars and pedestrian flow. Wayfinding for pedestrians will turn into alert and will guide people towards the nearest emergency exit.

Pilot 2. Peace Palace – Defining Rhythms

The Peace Palace has dual purposes – on one hand it functions as a high security facility, managing criminals in arbitration. At the same time, it is a destination for multiple national and international visitors. Demonstrations passing by the Peace Palace offer yet another level of crowd management challenges and the need to mitigate security threats. The area requires management of flows. We propose: Defined Rhythms.

Mapping complexity
Cities are inherently complex, and the location of the Peace Palace is embedded in the chaotic flows of people in the neighbourhood. By mapping these flows, we believe we could better prepare for an eventual emergency event and be able to assist people in need.

Adaptable spaces
Adding to our knowledge to how people circulate around the site, we propose to create adaptable spaces in and around the Palace. These adaptable spaces will benefit visitors in the area on daily basis, while in case of need they may be removed from the public space and allow for unobstructed space.

Past-future identity
Interacting with crowds around the Peace Palace by utilising digital technology and by offering dynamic urban furniture will offer a strong identity to the palace, linking its glorious past to a future that projects sophistications, resiliency and future-thinking.

Temporal response
Our temporal response focuses on three aspects:

  • Design for Everyday use
  • Design for an Event
  • Design for an Emergency

On daily basis, the Peace Palace interventions function as a wayfinding platform, responding to and alerting about any changes in local infrastructure and street use. During an event, the interventions focus on transformation to an information tool managing crowd occupancy and nudging flows towards quieter areas. In case of an emergency, the interventions will sense danger and alert the local authorities. It could also explicitly indicate escape routes and information regarding additional support such as medical help.

Pilot 3. International Criminal Court – Invisible friend

The International Criminal Court is a highly secured space, in the midst of a residential neighbourhood and a leisure area of The Hague. Its security planning also creates an inhospitable urban island. The area requires a new relation strategy. We propose: Invisible friend.

Nice to know / need to know basis
As many neighbours are curious about the functions of the building, we propose a new way of communicating information without revealing too many details. A coded signal that will inform residents about high activity in the court could be a playful way to communicate between these two very separate, yet close, communities.

Recognising presence
Our proposal focuses on interventions that are embedded within the built environment, as we are aware that the security apparats around the ICC is already extensive. Interaction should be playful and aesthetic while effective and directed at retrieving information that is specific and relevant.

Temporal Response
Our temporal response focuses on three aspects:

  • Design for Everyday use
  • Design for an Event
  • Design for an Emergency

On daily basis, the ICC interventions function as a wayfinding platform, responding to and alerting about any changes in local infrastructure and street use. During an event, the interventions focus on transformation to an information tool managing crowd occupancy and nudging flows towards quieter areas. In case of an emergency, the interventions will sense danger and alert the local authorities. It could also explicitly indicate escape routes and information regarding additional support such as medical help.