New chamber for a National Monument in a National Landscape

Beatrixsluice Nieuwegein

Beatrixsluice Nieuwegein

Beatrixsluice Nieuwegein

Beatrixsluice Nieuwegein

Beatrixsluice Nieuwegein


An extra chamber for a shipping node

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 essence

Simplicity and pragmatism

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:

  • Long, clear lines, with one ‘pinch’: the logically flowing lines of the river Lek converge at the combined lock complex of three chambers, where the lock island is kept as narrow as possible;
  • A pragmatic, efficient lock complex; a unified lock complex of three chambers and a level ground surface of +7,80 above sea level; an interplay of the symmetries of level sluice heads; a singular, closed-off and easy-to-maintain lock island;
  • Scope to experience the unique location; three atmospheres (the Lek river, the lock complex and the world of the canal) are amplified and connected with the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie (the listed historical Dutch military defence line of flooded land). A wide underpass at the Waterlinie dock, logical routing, wide ecological zones, and a maximum scope for the public to experience the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie;
  • Respectful treatment of the listed monument; ‘Finery’ that was added to the lock complex throughout the years will be removed, and any new artwork will be toned down in terms of colour and design, and will not extend above ground level.
The approach

Lek and canal connected

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:

  • The dike landscape of the Lek: a uniform, continuous dike profile with supporting verges of stony embankments along the canal, a carpet of flowering meadows and asphalt roads running into the current Lek dike.
  • The canal landscape towards the Amsterdam-Rhine canal: a straight and flowing line planted with a double row of poplars and a pleasant bicycle route.
  • The lock complex as a spatial node with a distinct identity: a place of transition, routing and connections. ‘The old lady’, proud and self-aware, visible from a distance, accessible from up close, intimate within its greenery.
Remarkable detail

Experiencing the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie

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:

  • The establishment of a clear line along the canal, instead of its current bending line;
  • Symmetry of shipping lanes, traps and chambers, fitting the listed National Monument;
  • A rehabilitation of the National Monument, by removing unnecessary finery and using high-quality materials;
  • A viewing balcony on the bicycle bridge, as a lookout point above the lock activities;
  • A sophisticated moving method for military casemates;
  • An architectural and sustainable ‘facelift’ for the eastern control room;
  • A safe bike route underneath the bridges;
  • More space for flora & fauna;
  • A better scope for public experience of the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie.

Project data

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

Duration: 2014-2015

Type: optimization, design, landscape integration, tender

Image credits: BoschSlabbers, BunkerQ, BEA3X

Project code: HL 14-11