Paul de Ruiter

The Afsluitdijk / Visual Master Plan

Spectacular simplicity

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A totally straight barrier lies diagonally across the Waddenzee and the IJsselmeer: the Afsluitdijk. This unique icon of hydraulic engineering protects the Netherlands from the sea. In order to arm the country against the threat of rising sea levels, major renovations are required. Feddes/Olthof Landscape Architects and Paul de Ruiter Architects were commissioned by Rijkswaterstaat to devise the spatial design for these future modifications. Designed with a focus on visual appeal, the environment and leisure and, of course in close collaboration with government authorities involved and stakeholder organizations. We see this project as the perfect opportunity to achieve our sustainable ambitions.

Infrastructure, Design & Build

A safe dividing line between air and water

The Afsluitdijk Causeway covers a length of 32 kilometres and includes 25 kilometres of uniform dike and five major junctions with ports and sluices. It is the final stage in a series of massive renovation projects spearheaded by the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management. Numerous other dikes and sluices have already been reinforced to protect the Netherlands against water in the future. The Masterplan begins with the preservation of the existing profile of the straight, 32-kilometre-long dike and a sustainable approach to the required fortification. In the Masterplan, our focus is on maintaining the virtually straight line that the dam forms between air and water. This will create a striking contrast between symmetrical architecture and the turbulence of water and clouds.

We aim to maintain the dead straight line between air and water.

A playground for sustainable developers

We designed a guideline in order to enable environmental innovations to flourish at each end of the dam. These have shallow waters, enabling a wide range of natural development. By re-designing the Breezanddijk as a sustainable island, we are creating a playground for designers of sustainable solutions in which to test their innovations. We are also opting to apply a sustainable approach to reinforcement across the entire dike. With CO2-efficient solutions, we are designing alternative dike coverings that stimulate the ecology.

Our aim is to enable environmental innovations to flourish.

Savouring a unique view, history and nature

In all of our designs, the focus is on enabling the unique view, history and nature that this dam has to offer to be savoured to the full. Our aim is for the Kazematten islands, where World War II bunkers are located, to be open for visitors in the future. We also want to open the Breezanddijk sustainability island, so that visitors can experience for themselves how groundbreaking innovations are achieved. Of course, the dam also needs to offer a place for relaxation. The large terrace that will soon form an extension to the existing monument by architect Dudok will offer a great view over the water’s surface. Even large streams of tourists will find a place to relax here.

We are placing the focus on an optimum experience.

3D printed dike covering

In order to guarantee safety from the water, the covering of the dike needs to be sturdier. Robust materials withstand large waves and prevent the dike from overflowing. One thing was certain in our search for a new material: we needed to treat the existing basalt that was applied manually with respect. We used computer models and 3D prints to develop an innovative covering that is also sustainable in terms of its use of materials and CO2. The design is a covering made of monumental basalt, where the openings in the pattern allow the ecology to thrive. The waves rinse the structure, giving vegetation, clay, sand and shellfish free rein.

Rhythmic towers

The rhythm of the lift towers along the dead straight dam forms the gates of the Afsluitdijk Causeway at either end. In order to future-proof the dam, new pumps need to be integrated within these monuments. Our challenge was to incorporate the technological solutions in a way that ensures that the power of these monuments is maintained. This is possible by adding new lift towers to the monument, aligned with the rhythm of the existing towers. This will make the icon even stronger in the future.

Project details


Project description Visual Master Plan met een esthetisch programma van eisen, opstellen EMVI criteria voor de PPS aanbesteding
Start of design January 2013
Completion Mid 2021


Client Rijkswaterstaat
Project architect Paul de Ruiter & Yttje Feddes
Project team Roel Rutgers, Jan Lebbink, Giorgio Carella, Joris Korbee
Landscape architect Feddes/Olthof Landschapsarchitecten

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