For the experienced explorer

Bezoekerscentrum Oostvaardersland

The Oostvaardersplassen natural area is located between Lelystad and Almere. The area shall be developed into a natural landscape and recreation area of scenic beauty: the Oostvaardersland (15,000 hectares in size). In 2009, the Forestry Commission (as administrator of the area) held a public competition concerning the design of a new Natural Activities Centre (1,100 m²) for an expected 150,000 annualy visitors. Bureau B+B, working in cooperation with HL Architecture, won Second Prize with a poetic plan in which, with casual understatedness, the condition of the soil interweaves architecture and landscape. The basis of the plan is formed by an intervention which will change the landscape: raising the water level and linking it to that of the Oostvaardersplassen.
The large open lake that will form as a result will slowly silt up, in turn leading to a new dynamic equilibrium. Water depths, possible seasonal fluctuations in water level and such weather influences as the wind will determine the ultimate form of the area. The visitors’ centre is accessible via the Knardijk, from whose elevation one can look out over the entire natural area. Small, narrow parking fields are located at the foot of the dike, between the willow trees. A 3.5-m-wide path consisting of slightly separate sandy coloured concrete railway sleepers winds it way towards the nature centre, which stands half sunk into the former seabed and looks as though it has been here for years.
At the point of transition from land to water, a spot where natural processes are manifest and which will always be visited by fauna of many a feather, the ring-shaped gleaming building mirrors the nature around it and the constantly changing cloud patterns. In, on and around the building, a space will develop that will function as a base camp for long hikes, as a look-out point – the roof is directly accessible – and as a tranquil place to sojourn. Within the ring are: the entrance to the nature centre, a play area, a fireplace and a long table.
The landscape is, however, still visible under the building, and the water’s edge is only a few steps away. A variety of paths leads from the centre into the nature area. There are comfortable elevated paths, which are easily accessible to everyone and offer a variation-filled walk by wet grasslands, reed-lands, open water and willow woods. For the experienced explorer, there are paths that can only be negotiated with Wellingtons, and depending on the water level. These paths lead past sheltered birdwatchers’ huts and penetrate more deeply into the natural area. From the Selection Board report: ‘The variation in water level, and the changes in the landscape proposed with it, unite the Oostvaardersveld in a convincing manner with the Oostvaardersplassen, transforming it into a large area.’ And further: ‘A plan with many strong points and pleasing contrasts: for example, the commanding view and the dark subterranean aspect. This subterranean part also provides good opportunities for dramatized exhibits. Strong in terms of presentation: it is clear how everything functions.’

  • Location: Praamweg, Lelystad, Netherlands
  • 2nd prize: 2009-2010
  • Client: Staatsbosbeheer
  • Area: 260 ha
  • Partners: De Architekten Cie.