|Peaceful as it looks, the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie, the inundation line in the middle of the country, is a military landscape and a National Landmark.|
There is a historic link between Waterloo and Waterlinie. The year is 1815, Napoleon is defeated on Belgian soil and the new Kingdom of the Netherlands is born. The province of Holland is the heart of this new country and to be defended against future enemies. Water becomes the weapon of choice, as it was in the eighty-year struggle of the Dutch to gain independence from the Spaniards. Work on the new inundation line is started and will last for more than seventy years till 1886.
It is a flat landscape with an invisible secret. Enemies are no longer deterred. Public domain is ready to conquer. The assignment is to make the Waterlinie recognizable, enjoyable and accessible.
Warfare is based on disguise. Hills to hide troops behind, woods and trenches to surprise the enemy, stealth is the key to winning a battle. An absolutely flat country like Holland with a 360 degree vision asks for another kind of defense. Being close to the sea, inundation is the secret weapon. Two feet of water blocks the march of infantry, is too shallow for boats the navy might employ and artillery is dramatically sucked into invisible ditches.
For strategic reasons the 53 mile long defense line, running from the former inland sea IJsselmeer south to the river delta had to be kept free from construction to allow a free shooting range for more than 150 years. This military ordinance blessed this part of the country with underdevelopment; ideal for all kinds of recreation for people now living in the built-up area of Holland, the province that needed protection. Forts turn into art galleries, the landscape is used by joggers, sailors, skaters and skeelers.
Polders that once were part of an inundation plan, now are available to solve other problems – to contain water that threatens to overflow the country in the rainy season or to serve as a reservoir in times of drought. Since our climate has become the adversary, Holland more than ever needs a Waterlinie.
The Netherlands Architecture Fund
Project office Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie