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Harlingen, Waterfront


Location Client Size Completion
Harlingen, The Netherlands gemeente Harlingen 58 hectare design 2010

Project details

Improving the coastal defence system of Harlingen and the waterfront and water courses of the town to enable future development and to create a tourist destination whilst protecting the environment.

Water is a defining element in the spatial structure of Harlingen, a harbour town on the Wadden Sea whose urban fabric includes several waterways, canals and moats. Its main waterfront consists of three areas, the Wadden Sea Promenade, the New Willem Harbour and Western Sea Dyke Area  and currently lacks cohesion, but could become an attractive destination. In addition the sea dyke needs to be raised as a response to rising sea-levels.

An overarching concept plan was created and developed further to propose specific design solutions for different areas of the waterfront. The Western Sea Dyke Area, which has a pivotal position, is reconnected with its surroundings and the coastal defences are improved by adding a series of new dykes and salt marshes to reduce the onslaught of the sea and build up of silt. This also creates a rich natural environment, just outside the coastal defence system, to attract tourists.

The proposal also transforms the Wadden Promenade into a pleasant place to stay with a double-sided terrace offering views over the Wadden Sea as well as the picturesque historic centre. New, low-scale buildings on the promenade will create shelter from the windy climate and the New Willem Harbour becomes an attractive public destination providing both specific harbour facilities and retail and recreational amenities.

To provide an eco-friendly protection of the coastline.
To strengthen the identity of the town by creating a vision for its waterfront.
To restore the water structure by adding physical connections through the different areas on the coast side.

An ecologically sound coastal defence system, combined with a restored spatial structure that enhances the quality of the public realm and creates a destination for tourists.

Spin off
A further development of natural coastal defences, a guideline for existing plans and an inspiring scheme for future initiatives.

Lessons Learnt
How to use nature as part of a coastal defence system to avoid non-sustainable technological solutions.

How to use historic features to emphasise and simplify the spatial organisation of the town and to reconnect areas to become a cohesive whole. An example of this is the re-opening of the old canal on the south side of the city walls.

“Working with nature”: natural technology to improve coastal defense.

Integrated services