Annual Meeting: the Netherlands 2015

Under Construction: Building Dutch Landscapes

Amsterdam | Wageningen | Rotterdam | Ameland | Amsterdam

14th – 24th of August 2015

poster ELASA NL 2015

The Netherlands is typically associated with cheese, biking, tulips and liberality. But for landscape architects, there are also plenty of inspiring places to visit and developments to follow. Organizing life efficiently on the limited available land is crucial and has greatly influenced the discipline of landscape architecture. The large-scale, multifunctional challenges in the Netherlands have stretched the concept to integration and combination.

During the ELASA annual meeting 2015, we wanted to discover the man-made landscape, landscape architecture at the regional scale, the beauty of the artificial. We wanted to explore together the landscape ‘Under Construction’. Roughly, during our Dutch ELASA meeting we passively and actively explored four different aspects in the Dutch landscape under construction: land under construction, safety under construction, nature under construction and the city under construction.

Land under construction: Land has been reclaimed from the water and entire water bodies have been drained to create new land for living, working and food production. We had a look at Almere: a rather new city developed in the second half of the 20th century on reclaimed land. We also went to Schokland: a former island in the Zuiderzee that became surrounded by agricultural land after drainage.

Safety under construction: Dikes and barriers have been built to keep the water out and even to allow us to live under the sea level. Near Rotterdam, we visited the Maeslantkering storm surge barrier that protects the port of Rotterdam from flooding. Afterwards we went to the Sand Engine at the South Holland coast: an artificial sandbar and unique pilot project in dynamic coastline management. On our last day, we were welcomed at the Enclosing Dike for presentations on the exciting ongoing developments for the icon of Dutch hydraulic engineering.

 Nature under construction: Nature has been created in remarkable places and bridges across the highway have been built to encourage passage of animals. We were introduced to the Volgermeerpolder near Amsterdam: a former toxic waste dump that has been transformed into a nature development project. We also visited the Zanderij Crailoo in Hilversum: the largest ecoduct in the world. 

City under construction: In cities, old harbour areas have been turned into creative hotspots. We visited Borneo and ROEST in Amsterdam and projects such as the Luchtsingel, the Markthal and the Kop van Zuid in Rotterdam.

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Besides these (guided) project visits, we had a two-day design workshop at Wageningen University. Two presentations and a bike trip to the project area helped us to get introduced to the Meinerswijk floodplains near the city of Arnhem. The second day we explored the multifunctional potential (besides the flood control purpose) of the area in small design teams with the help of professional landscape architects. Students from Wageningen University joined in and the results were presented to a wider audience. In Rotterdam, Dutch landscape architecture and design companies welcomed us to have a look at their offices and their work. We were able to meet West 8, LOLA landscape architects and ZUS from a different perspective. The last days of the ELASA annual meeting, we spent our time on the sunny beaches of Ameland, one of Dutch Wadden Islands. In collaboration with SLeM, we explored the characteristics and possibilities of sand in relation to shape, wind and water. The results were very surprising! For our last night, we went back to Amsterdam for a great closing diner and farewell party.

Hopefully, from now on the Netherlands will have much more associations than just cheese and bikes…

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