Eastern Scheldt: from nature – to human reserve

Neeltje Jans

Deltas are of great importance to humans all over the world. Densely populated coastal areas where land arises from sea. An amazing gradient where two worlds meet and nature and humans traditionally proliferate. It is the area where one hears, smells and sees the awakening of nature between the ebb – and flood line. It is where the sailor exalts navigation to a form of art and where he falls dry with his boat to be alone and to enjoy the mind-expanding vastness. Yet these qualities increasingly disappear due to the great technical advances since the 19th century, which tried to control the marine dynamics of deltas to ensure safety of the hinterland against inundation.

The Delta Works in the Netherlands embody this. The masterpiece of the Delta Works meant the construction of a national icon: the Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier in Zeeland, which does not only withstand storm surges, but even controls the tides of the sea daily in its Eastern Scheldt. However, this permeable dam has resulted in the erosion of the intertidal area (1) and subsequently in an insatiable demand of sand, which increases annually due to sea-level rise. The intertidal area will have disappeared in about 2080 as a consequence of this sand hunger (2), with major social – and ecological problems as a result.

Besides sand hunger, Zeeland also suffers from space hunger. The rise of mass recreation in the past century has led to the cluttering of holiday parks in the hinterland of the delta, which destroy the lowlands and the sea in their vastness. Therefore, a holistic solution for the Zeeland delta does not only secure the intertidal area, but also encompasses the finding of a suitable place for recreation in its delta.

This is achieved by means of the deconstruction of the Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier and Grevelingendam, and using the resulting new marine dynamics (3) to promote the social – and ecological situation of the Eastern Scheldt. The new coastal defense systems (4-6) protect the hinterland from inundation, grows along with sea-level rise, and is in itself a new landscape entity of Zeeland in which the function of recreation becomes integrated into the landscape (7-11). This way Zeeland is strengthened integrally between sea and land and the Eastern Scheldt (12) is transformed from a nature – to a human reserve, where all interactions live together as an obviousness.



Figure 1: The Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier caused a decrease of tidal volume and thereby shifted the marine dynamics from a sand exporting – to a sand importing system. 

Oosterschelde 2050-2100 Verminderd getij SITE2.jpg







Figure 2: As a consequence of the shift in marine dynamics the intertidal area will mostly have dissappeared in 2080.

ZW Delta Concept High-Low-01-01

ZW Delta Concept Low-High-01-01







Figure 3: The Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier is deconstructed along with the Grevelingendam. The new marine dynamics are used to stimulate the social – and ecological situation of the Eastern Scheldt.


Figure 4,5,6: The new multifunctional coastal defense systems do not only answer the social – and ecological situation of the region, but also their cultural history aesthetically. 


Figure 7: Watervillages become part of the new coastal defense systems, unveiling the qualities of the delta to its visitors

Neeltje 1op15000 Masterplan

Figure 8: Neeltje Jans, the terrain section of the barrier, as the symbol of the old – and the new relation between man and water.

18 V2


Figure 9, 10: Former parts of the barrier become breakwaters and borders to protect the new heritage and the most vulnerable shores at the mouth of the Eastern Scheldt.

Surf village

Figure 11: Surf village Neeltje Jans

Masterplan Oosterschelde v6 EINDONTWERP2.jpg

Figure 12 Human reserve Eastern Scheldt in which all interactions (co-)exist as an obviousness.


Full access at:

Eastern Scheldt: From nature – to human reserve (2015)

For consultation or more info please contact the author

Koen Steegers (koensteegers@gmail.com)

Water Sprung Versatility


The river Roer (Roermond, the Netherlands) has been of great importance to the inhabitants of its valley since the Roman empire. However, anno 2013,  the Roer is not only beloved, but also known for its moody character. Due to the increase of precipitation in winter and the decrease of precipitation in summer, the rain river increasingly causes floods (figure 1) and water shortage (figure 2). As a consequence , homes in the valley are endangered by heavy rainfall upstream and the local prices of vegetables rise, as sections of the farmland due to water insufficiency. Foundation Holtveld, the client, wanted to develop a self-sufficient social cohesive estate in the Roer valley (figure 3), according to the regulations of the ‘Natuurschoonwet’ and the principles of permaculture.

Topo Roermond

Figure 1 flooding of Roer valley

figure 2

Figure 2 watershortage of Roer Valley

figure 3

Figure 3 vicinity of the estate

To be of importance to the environment, the estate needs to decrease water shortage in summer and the danger of flooding in winter. At the same time the functions of the Dutch estate have to be created: dwelling, agriculture, (public) leisure and nature development. In the design rain- and grey water are used as inputs to produce the functions of the Dutch estate by producing a diversity in water conditions via the natural elevation of the Roer valley (figures 4-6). In its construction, the design answers the flooding danger and the water shortage at the same time and reaches out to the nearby secondary school.


figure 4 diversity in water conditions via ponds

Relief 1op10000

Figure 5 natural elevation Roer valley


figure 6 eutrophication via soil

The estate (figure 7) consists of three parts: the left wing, the right wing and the residential center, which connects both wings. The left wing of the estate collects rainwater, which is gradually eutrophicated through the soil (figure 6) via two in-between ponds (figure 8) before it is released into the Roer. The construction of the rainwater-collection-pond gives the opportunity to safeguard the historic farmhouse at the same time. The right wing collects grey water, which is gradually purified through willows and reed via two in-between ponds before it is safely released into the Roer (figure 9). The different ponds with different water conditions give the estate many different functions for itself and its surroundings (figure 10). The residential center (figure 11-13) of the estate is the starting point of the rain- and grey water, which go through the machine. It is the water-beating heart of the estate, that embodies a housing capacity for eight families.

The design shows how the concept of the landscape machine provides a way for landscape architecture to not only exalt people and give them a multifunctional space, but even to be of fundamental importance by safeguarding the design and the surroundings against floods plus providing them with locally produced food, by means of taking pressure of the sewer by the gradual purification of grey water and the collection of rainwater.

Adobe Photoshop PDF

figure 7 Estate overview Holtveld

figure 8

figure 8 concept: Eutrophication left, Purification right

figure 9 waterways

figure 9 waterways

figure 10

figure 10 floods in different frequencies

Figure 11 Distinctive main entrance and rainwater collection-pond

Figure 11 distinctive main entrance and rainwater collection-pond

Adobe Photoshop PDF

Figure 12 purifying willow island, sight on teahouse and residential center

Visual Hoeve V2 backup Ai

Figure 13 the residential center: the water-beating heart

For more info please contact the author:
Koen Steegers (koensteegers@gmail.com)