STUDENT PROJECT | The future of an adaptive ‘Afsluitdijk’ | De Afsluitdijk The Netherlands | Monique Sperling

De Afsluitdijk is an iconic dam which represents the Dutch way of living with, and struggling against the water. From 1932 De Afsluitdijk protects the hinterland against flooding and made it possible to construct new polders. The nearly straight line of 32 kilometres long, 90 meters wide is located in the open sea.


The predicted climate change results in the fact De Afsluitdijk is not prepared to fulfill its main function. The increase of storm surges with fiercer waves and sea-level rise (KNMI, 2006; PCCC, 2007) result in a higher water pressure from two sides. By proposing salt marshes the dam provides safety, recreational quality and increase of ecological value. The salt marshes are adaptive to the climate change because they ‘grow’ with the sea level rise.

Nowadays the dam is considered as a barrier between saline and fresh water ecosystems, for the natural water flow, migrating fish and the fresh water inlet. The suggested artificial reefs create space to mix fresh and saline water for fish and sustainable energy production (osmosis).

The result is a multifunctional Afsluitdijk where production of sustainable energy (osmosis, solar energy and wind energy), ecological value, recreational value and the main functions of providing safety, spouting water and being an infrastructural connection are integrated in a spatial design.

The design expresses the spatial qualities of the site and uses the potentials to solve various problems. The proposed solutions conserve the unique shape and enhance the experience of travelling over a dam in the open sea. By moving the bicycle path towards the water and adding strolling paths in the salt marshes, the open horizon can be experienced on both sides of the dam. At the same time the design emphasizes the contrast and interaction between the natural surroundings and artificial/technical dam.

STUDENT PROJECT | The future of an adaptive ‘Afsluitdijk’ | De Afsluitdijk The Netherlands | Monique Sperling
Wageningen University and Research Centre

About Damian Holmes 3228 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at

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