Polderscapes: The Landscape Architecture of the Dutch Lowlands

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The Dutch lowlands consist mainly of polders, areas where water levels are artificially controlled so people can live and work there. This centuries-old interaction between man and water has produced a rich polder landscape. The great variety in polder forms is caused by differences in the geological subsoil, the dynamics of water and land and human intervention. This research systematically explores and visualizes the wealth in shapes of the Dutch polder landscape from a landscape architecture perspective. Polders are not just regarded as hydraulic phenomena but also as spatial constructions and cultural expressions: the polder landscape as one can see and experience it, and also as an expression of Dutch culture. Through exploring the morphology of the polder landscape the genius loci of the Dutch lowlands can be 'read' in order to retrieve the information and design knowledge that lies hidden within it, as clues for further development. In this research the landscape architectonic form of the polder landscape is analyzed in two stages revealing its cohesion and variety through systematic analysis and cartography. First, all polders are surveyed and digitized resulting in the first systematic polder map of the Netherlands. The use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) not only ensured precision work, but also made it possible to link information to the map, turningit into a spatial database. Second, the polder as the elementary landscape unit of the lowlands is further explored. In a morphological analysis of selected examples the characteristics of the different polder types (sea clay polders, river polders, lake bed polders and peat polders) are enumerated and interpreted typologically. An analysis of this sort makes the polder landscape, which until now has been discussed only in physical and historical-geographical terms, accessible for spatial design disciplines while providing clues for preservation and transformation.
Original languageMultiple languages
Pages (from-to)38-57
JournalLandscape Architecture (Fengjing Yuanlin)
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Polder Landscapes
  • Design Analysis
  • Dutch Lowlands
  • Formal Analysis
  • Typology
  • Mapping

Cite this