POLDERS - The Scene of Land and Water

Series of columns: How do you see the future of the Dutch polder landscape?

How will we deal with the Dutch polder landscape in the future? What are the most important developments, wishes and interests? These issues are at the heart of this series of columns. We asked the respondents: How do you see the future of the Dutch polder landscape? Do you have a personal fascination for the polders? What will remain visible of this landscape in the future? What do you consider the priorities in the development of the Dutch polder landscape? Do you think the cultural and historical value of the polders should play a part in the transformation of rural and urban areas or not?



Column by Kees Vriesman, General Director of Staatsbosbeheer

When I think of the polders, I think of my youth. I was born in the relatively new polder of Wieringermeer and grew up in the polders around Schagen. I cannot escape this past. I also think of the fields' space, panoramas and peace. However, I also have an ambivalence towards the polders.

As a civil engineer the polders caught my imagination early on. On the one hand you have the (supposed) robustness of the dikes around the polders, such as the West-Friesian Omringdijk, which have existed for more than a hundred years. But you also have the rising water and the natural fear that the dikes will not withstand its power.

In a polder robustness and stability come together with vulnerability and the dependence on nature. Polders are also a part of our history, an interplay between human activity and natural circumstances that - looked at from various standpoints - produces a valuable landscape. It is this contradiction, combined with peace and space that creates this beautiful landscape with its panoramas under Dutch skies. And although I realize that this is a romantic image, it is remarkable that apart from several regional artists, the polders do not seem to appeal to the visual arts; apparently the flatness and the space do not inspire. Maybe this is also because the polders are not that accessible to people.

It is for this reason that we - the Staatsbosbeheer and others - are attempting to make the countryside more accessible for cycling, sailing and rambling. You must experience the polders in a way that fits their character and size: slowly, but with the threat, the vulnerability and the sense of nature's power at the back of your mind. Thus the polders are an antidote to the heavily urbanized western part of the Netherlands. In this way they contributes to a good standard of living.

But the polders are also an amazing technological tour de force, a proof of our technical abilities. The question is whether the polders are a sustainable form of land reclamation. We are draining the marshlands; we will need to employ different technologies there than we have used until now. In short, the polders are a phenomenon we should be proud of and which - with all their pros and cons - stand as a world-class achievement.

Kees Vriesman

Every week a new Polder Column will appear here.

Columns until now:

  1. Aaron Betsky: The Polder Model
  2. Zef Hemel: Adieu Polder City
  3. Vinus Zachariasse: A Dike Around the Polders
  4. Wim Derksen: My Polder
  5. J.J. de Graeff: The Future of the Dutch Polder Landscape
  6. S. Thijsen: The Future of our Country
  7. Jusuck Koh: Dreaming up a Post-Modern Polder