The country of the Netherlands -as it name suggests- is characterized by an active and continuous struggle to claim the low parts of its territory from the sea. The outermost frontier in this engineering quest is the province of Zeeland, which is largely situated below sea level. Especially since 1953, when a devastating flood claimed land and livelihoods, the artificial dyke line of Zeeland is considered as the ultimate border. The coastal protection program of the Delta Project has since secured the life and productiveness of the inhabitants behind the dunes.

Within this context, A-01 was asked to participate in a re-definition of the ultimate border. Creating a bufferzone between land and water, a third condition of the in-between sea-land is born. Controlled by a newly developed tidal culvert, a hybrid territory opens up to be inhabited by people and animals alike. This territory can be used for tourism, recreation, residence and nature alike in order to stimulate a sustainable development based on economic, environmental and social concerns. At the same time, it can function to showcase the power of engineering that enables life below sea level to the local and international visitor.

Several facilities have been designed to experience the inspirational match between civil engineering and nature development. The architecture of Waterdunen exemplifies the “artificial” or manmade territory by dealing with the figure and ground relationship in a playful way: the built interventions are folded out of the ground; a meandering path that crosses the entire site becomes a building, a viewpoint or shelter where needed. This panoramic passage connects a bird sanctuary with a hotel and recreational housing area, a visitor center and a public boardwalk, where businesses and exhibitions represent the "DNA" of Zeeland: its history, people, technology and goods.

Waterdunen redefines its initial context as much as tourism and land development in the Netherlands as a whole, while offering a recreative, educational and fun experience around one of the most serious topics of our time: it looks into the past and into the future, where the potential threat of climate change and raised sea levels is perceived as a challenge that can ultimately be solved through technology.


Masterplan and architectural design: A-01 (Oliver Schutte, Marije van Lidth de Jeude, Jean Paul Garnier, Jose Pablo Gonzalez, George Araya Gonzalez) in collaboration with XCOOP (Cristina Cassandra Murphy, Andrea Bertassi, Natalia Martinez Saavedra, Iraklis Romanopoulos, Shantanu Bhalla, Gabriele Pitacco)

Engineering and water management: Royal Haskoning DHV

Landscape design: Jeroen de Jong

Communication: MMEK'

Location: Zeeland, Netherlands

Status: Completed

Year: 2013-2014