The direct surroundings of former Vreeswijk (now called Nieuwegein) has been a major shipping node for centuries. Defence and logistic reasons have led to the construction of forts, defence lines and locks. One of the last waterworks to be realised was the Prinses Beatrix sluice, some 75 years ago. The Beatrix sluice is an essential linking pin along the busy shipping connection between Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
This monumental sluice, however, threatens to become a bottleneck, as a result of the increasing volume of ever larger cargo ships. This is the driving force behind the addition of a third chamber to the lock complex. The project, dubbed BEA3X, requires respectful treatment: of the landscape, the listed monument and its history.
The entire design of BEA3X is characterised by simplicity and pragmatism. Simplicity in the choice of a robust, solid sliding door with well-organised and logically connected traps. And pragmatic in the way its design, size and scale and materialisation are logical consequences of its function. This has been translated into four design principles:
The lock complex is a ‘stepping stone’ between the river Lek and the (Amsterdam-Rhine) canal, between different landscapes and routes. Here, the river world of insecurity, changing water levels, dikes and water issues meets that of the predictable, long and tree-lined transport lines of the canal. This is also the place where walking, biking, auto and ecological routes cross the shipping route. The interplay of transition and confrontation results in three atmospheres:
For an optimal experience of the NHW, several points of departure were determined. First of all, sophisticated design more than doubles the aquatic zone between the lock complex and industrial zone ’t Klooster.
In line with principles of the Landscape Plan, the concrete NHW-objects are replaced as ‘objets trouvé’. These ‘found objects’ are authentic evidence of the former military position. Their placement in the landscape lead visitors to wonder why these objects are there and what this might mean. To aid in such reflections, and increase the recreational value of the area, visitors are provided with augmented reality (AR) for more information.
Pointing a smartphone or tablet at a physical marker unlocks information in 2D or 3D. In 2D, a digital information board is accessed. 3D enables the visitor to digitally activate and experience a three-dimensional object. The object is pinned down geographically in relation to its marker. Consequently, the visitor can walk around it and look at the object from all sides. It is even possible to digitally position objects in their original position. For example, the visitor can look at the hiding places and casemates in their original location, while real ships pass through unobstructed. As such, the past enters like a ghost into the new reality, amplifying historical values and the NHW’s cohesion.
The markers were designed by the BEA3X project team. Each marker is two metres in diameter and integrated into the paving of the north-south route on the eastern bank of the canal. On them, an abstracted image is shown of the NHW object it concerns.
During the design process, extra attention was paid to, among others:
Title: Plan design and integration 3rd chamber of Beatrix lock Nieuwegein
Location: Nieuwegein, Utrecht, NL
Size: 115 ha
Client: BEA3X (BAM) on behalf of Rijkswaterstaat
Cooperation: Benthem Crouwel Architecten, BunkerQ
Type: optimization, design, landscape integration, tender
Image credits: BoschSlabbers, BunkerQ, BEA3X
Project code: HL 14-11