POLDERS - The Scene of Land and Water

The rectilinear Dutch landscape of polders (reclaimed land) with its characteristic locks, dikes, windmills, farms and cows is instantly recognizable. This rational landscape is unique, but also fragile. The Netherlands has more than three thousand polders, which have undergone various spatial developments over the years. They will continue to change as a result of pressures from urban and rural factors. But how? Must we preserve the aesthetic value of the polder landscape? Will they become building sites? Or will they be partially surrendered to the forces of nature? There are various possible future scenarios. Several Dutch polders are currently at crisis point. The exhibition "Polders - the scene of land and water" is an ode to the polder landscape. It explores the development of fifteen important polders, examining the conflicting interests that will determine their future.

The exhibition "Polders - The scene of land and water" explores in detail the past, present and future of the country's famous polder landscape. In the exhibition you will experience the landscape quite literally: standing on a dike you will look down upon 15 lower-lying polders in the form of photographs, authentic maps and models made especially for the exhibition.
The quiz is closed now. The winners of the impressive 4-kilo book "Polders! - Gedicht Nederland" compiled by landscape architect and curator of the Architecture Biennale 2005, Adriaan Geuze are known...
This colorful animation shows how empoldering occurs and the resulting changes in the landscape. The fight against water is won and the land is dry, but how do you organize it?
In an interactive game you can have your say in the future of the polders. What should we do with them? Build over them with housing and industrial centers? Create new nature reserves? See the consequences of your choices for the organization of the Dutch polder landscape in the year 2030.
Are you interested in reading more about the Dutch polders? Here you will find a small selection of references to sources for further research into the polders. All these books and articles are available for consultation in the NAI's reading room.
A peek behind the scenes of "Polders - The scene of land and water". Who worked on the show?

NAIChanged: Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Polder column


Kees Vriesman, General Director of Staatsbosbeheer, about the future of the Dutch polder landscape

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

> More columns

Lauwersmeer (New Nature)

Naardermeer (New Nature)

Mastenbroek Polder (Aesthetics)

Northeast Polder (The Big Challenge)

Eastern Flevoland (The Big Challenge)

Southern Flevoland (The Big Challenge)

Wieringermeer (The Big Challenge)

Beemster (Aesthetics)

Borsselepolder (Aesthetics)

Watergraafsmeer (Urbanization)

Haarlemmermeer (Urbanization)

Prins Alexander Polder (Urbanization)

Horstermeerpolder (Watershed)

Zoetermeerse Meerpolder (Watershed)

Zuidplaspolder (Watershed)

new nature
the big challenge