Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Hydraulic jungle

The Dutch version of Angkor Wat is located in the Noordoostpolder. Overgrown, abandoned relics from a hydraulic ‘religion’ are spread out in a deep ‘jungle’ called the ‘Waterloopbos’. It is not the first time that this place has been mentioned (see this post about a visit of some of my project colleagues some years back), but being an amazing sight worthwhile to receive yet another blog and update. Even more important, the area is targeted to receive its very own Master Plan (also check out the video)!

The forest itself dates back to 1944, and was planted in one of the reclaimed Flevopolders. By the early 1950s the area was handed over to the WL Hydraulics. This organization had an office in the Flevopolders and was in need of an area to be used as a testing facility, or open air laboratory, in which scale models of various hydraulic works could be tested on various hydraulic characteristic. Interestingly, various decisions regarding the place of a dyke, or layout of a harbour, have not been taken on site, but in, or based on measurements, sometimes on the other side of the world, in a small forest, in a typical Dutch ‘polder’.

For example, in small scale version (1:50), miniature versions of the harbors of Rotterdam, Lagos and Bangkok appeared between the trees, equipped with different types of docking quays and wave barriers, to test with design and layout would suit the requirements of planned projects. Many of the works implemented within the Delta Plan were constructed and tested here, for example and the effect of waves and erosion during the closing of dams. After testing, however, those small scale models were just abandoned, and became in turn the target of the forest ‘re-reclaiming’ the area with overgrowing vegetation.

In the mid-90s WL Hydraulics moved to Delft. Plans of the new land owner to convert the area into a recreational area with holiday houses faced protests by nearby inhabitants and NGO’s advocating nature protection and restoration. The NGO Natuurmonumenten was able to buy the area in 2002, and developed various initiatives to keep the area accessible and to capitalize on the various hydraulic scale models integrated in the forests’ walking routes. The area is up for nomination and this will undoubtedly speed up the formulation of a ‘Master Plan’ describing the future plans for the area.

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