The Scene of Land and Water

Part of the 2nd International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam

The polder landscape of the Netherlands is famous all over the world for its rectilinear ditches, dikes, windmills, farmhouses and cows. This rationally organized landscape is unique, but also vulnerable. The Netherlands has more than 3,000 polders and these have served as a template for spatial developments for centuries. At present there are numerous urban and rural developments that imply a new transformation of the existing polder landscape. Urbanization, changes in agriculture and the need for water storage will have a big impact on the future layout of the polders. While many people are aware of the “makeability” of the Dutch landscape, the actual design and organization of the polders is often forgotten. Learning about the history of the polders and their rural and spatial qualities facilitates the “reading” of the existing polder landscape. This knowledge makes possible a better assessment of ongoing developments in the polders.

The Polders exhibition looked at the past, present and future of 15 polder landscapes through a new series of models, historical maps, prints, drawings and photographs. It traced the transformation processes of well-known polders including the Beemster (1608–1612), Watergraafsmeer (1629), Haarlemmermeer (1840–1852) and IJsselmeer polders and examined the planning challenges in less well-known areas, such as the Borssele Polder (1616), Zoetermeerse Meerpolder (1614) and Horstermeer Polder (1882).

Exhibition and graphic design: Traast & Gruson
Research and Execution Models: Faculty of Architecture – Delft University of Technology

27 May – 4 September 2005
Client: Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAI)

Photos: Dirk Vroemen