As a leading example of human ingenuity and early engineering design, the quintessentially Dutch windmill village of Kinderdijk is one of the most photographed destinations in Europe. A UNESCO designated World Heritage site, the beautifully preserved set of mills and pumping stations have helped keep the low-lying polder lands dry, helping to prevent floodings over the last 700 years.
The main challenge for the Kinderdijk World Heritage Foundation (Sitchting Werelderfgoed Kinderdijk - SWEK) was how to accommodate the growing number of visitors in a way that was respectful of the delicate surrounding context, including the 18th century mills and water infrastructure; as well as the natural environment, a Natura 2000 designated area.
Driven by the need to deliver an enhanced, more sustainable visitor experience, SWEK was looking to upgrade the entrance area and other visitor amenities, including the overall site infrastructure and landscaping. Accessible design features in the visitor centre include pedestrian bridges and child-friendly areas like a ‘kiss-and-ride’ zone, as well as a wealth of educational resources including an experience centre and a learning space.
Arup was initially appointed to develop the design for a new entrance building and visitor centre together with M&DB Architecten. Arup’s involvement then grew to include the delivery of this delicate intervention: our multidisciplinary advisory services team was subsequently appointed to lead on the project and programme management, assessing the overall risks, and running the planning, budget and permits; as well as managing a wide range of stakeholders including local residents and millers.
A delicate intervention in a listed UNESCO site
Driven by the need to deliver the new entrance zone in a timely manner and within budget, we drew from our experience delivering complex buildings throughout the construction, procurement and licensing lifecycle. Our consultants established a cost plan from the outset of the project, and defined a systematic way to approach project changes and monitor their implications against the project cost plan which resulted on the timely delivery of the visitor centre within budget.
Stakeholder engagement was a priority focus for our project management team: we engaged all the stakeholders throughout to remain aligned with the project’s objectives. We took the lead to facilitate decision making and communicate these with stakeholders to deliver better outcomes, promptly reflecting any changes to the programme to overcome any possible technical, construction or budget-related hurdles.
Sensitive entrance design for iconic Dutch village
Designing an entrance building to a living heritage site is a careful balancing act. The new entrance building is a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, with clean lines that delicately blend in with the surrounding landscape.
One of the nice features is the new entrance building. It has three levels referring to one of the elements of nature; water, air and earth. The roof terrace provides the visitor unique views overlooking the polder area and the windmills. Arup was also involved in structural engineering, electrical engineering, building physics, fire safety and was asked to sketch the bridge design.