UNESCO World Heritage site


For nearly a thousand years, the Dutch have been clever in dealing with the water that surrounds them. This is no exception for the Kinderdijk; the sustainable blend of nature and technology is so uniquely valuable that the area and its windmills were granted UNESCO World Heritage status. The entrance to the area however doesn’t hold up to the UNESCO promise; it is messy and unwelcoming. The village can’t withhold the pressure of tourist streams anymore. As more and more people arrive by boat, the crossing over the local road that sits on top of the dike is becoming progressively more unsafe.

Our design creates a hospitable entrance with one elegant gesture; a safe crossing of the Lek dike, a rich experience of the historical and contemporary water management and a subtle marking of the UNESCO area.

We introduce a carré structure that offers coherence to the area. The innovative integration of dike passage and water barrier enables visitors to cross local traffic on a different level. This prevents traffic jams and thereby unburdening the village.

The new entrance turns arrival into an experience; visitors feel the quality and logic of the heritage. You arrive low, surrounded by water, the dike confines the perspective. You climb the dike, and your view of the Kinderdijk opens up, step by step. Next, you descend into the dike and under the once problematic road. Once immersed you can sense the pressure that the high walls have to withhold. Then, your perspective opens again and all of a sudden you stand in the middle of the UNESCO World Hertiage area.

The water entrance and the two dike passages separate groups from individuals but offers both the same experience. During peak hours, the visitor stream can be distributed over both routes. Buses also connect to the carré structure, that can easily be extended when visitor numbers keep on increasing in the future.

The concept is innovative but realistic because it is based on proven technology. The dike is preserved as a geotechnical structure and is fortified with new structures that enable the new (and future proofed) dike passage. The water barrier remains intact. Kinderdijk finally gets the entrance it deserves!

  • Name: UNESCO World Heritage site Kinderdijk
  • Location: Kinderdijk (NL)
  • Program: Entrance area, public space, riser for water taxi and two cruise ships, dyke passage, flood defense
  • Size: 90.000 m²
  • Commission: Competition
  • Period: 2019
  • Client: Municipality of Molenlanden
  • Team: Jan Lebbink, Gert Kwekkeboom, Rick ten Doeschate, Ingrid van der Heijden, Angela Solis, Marco di Martino, Georgia Taylor-Berry, Hiroyuki Gondo, Robert Comas
  • Partners: Royal Haskoning DHV
  • Images: Civic Architects, IMG+

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