An icon of Dutch Water Management

The north and south piers at IJmuiden stretch out into the sea like the arms of a waiting mother, ready to welcome ships returning from the sea. The locks behind them take the ships into another world of inland waterways, so that they are able to reach the port of Amsterdam. For the past 125 years the locks have been taking care of that, the newer locks becoming wider and longer every time. Ushering in the ships from the sea takes place in a landscape of beach and dunes, polders and dykes, but also of the mighty Tata-Hoogovens steel factory and a sky filled with airplanes landing and taking off. The locks at the entrance of the North Sea Canal are an attraction, that links the varied landscape to the impressive sight of the enormous ships and the feats of hydrologic engineering of the locks. No sightseeing attraction can be more Dutch than this, particularly, if you cycle to it with a picnic basket on a fair day.

A new lock

The port of Amsterdam is growing and the size of ships keeps increasing. Therefore a new and larger lock at IJmuiden was necessary. In this design by H+N+S Landscape Architects and ZJA Zwarts & Jansma Architects, a technically advanced lock - 500 meters long and 65 meters wide - and the accompanying technical control building are integrated into the landscape and arranged as an inviting area for recreation. All necessary systems and maintenance facilities are out of sight, hidden inside the quays and the plateau surrounding the lock, to ensure an open view and easy access. That is also the reason why the design for the control building is fittingly robust, but modest and functional. It is a tough looking and self-supplying building. A lot of attention went into the arrangement and design of the space around the lock. There are picnic tables, wooden benches, bicycle racks, wide zebra crossing and sturdy but elegant fences to create a relaxed, safe and enjoyable area for cyclists and pedestrians.

The machine and the landscape

The design envisages three large green lawns around the lock, where grass and well-chosen shrubs and trees bring about a transition from water to the lock landscape. They consist of three slopes sown in with wild grasses framed by rocks and topped off with concrete plateaus. This design is all about combining the green and open character of the landscape with the access (as unhindered as possible) of cyclists and pedestrians to the spectacle that the complex of locks has to offer. All what is necessary to allow these gigantic ships to float among the fields and polders towards the port has been hidden to the best extent possible or designed in a style that is sparing, robust and functional. In this way the new lock fits into the area, which is the stage on which a true show is performed: how the world market, arriving from the wild and lonely oceans, sails into this small and flat country, in the guise of these gigantic floating warehouses. It is, how befitting, very Dutch to design all this in a way that makes sure that the whole procedure can happen seemingly effortless, without malfunctions, safe, without disturbing the landscape and with maximum access for the public.

Principal: Sluiswachter (Heijmans, Jan de Nul and Besix)
Client: The Dutch Road and Transport Authority
Landscape architect: H+N+S Landscape Architects
Tender: 2015

Project: #800