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Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie water-based defence system

There is a long tradition of listing and protecting the built heritage, but recently attention has also shifted to landscapes. The nomination of the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie, a line of water-based defences created in the 19th century, as a series of related historic buildings, is one example.


Open landscape

The Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie is a 19th- and 20th-century structure consisting of inundation areas, forts and defences designed to protect the western Netherlands against attacks from the east. The structure still defines the look of the surrounding landscape. Nothing could be built there in order to provide a free line of sight for artillery and snipers, so the landscape along this line of defences is still very open.


Most of the forts along the line of defences were listed many years ago. In the late 1990s the realisation gradually dawned that this military mega-structure also constitutes a unique landscape and that it must be seen as a whole. Five provincial authorities, five government ministries and scores of local authorities have since worked together to preserve and develop the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie as a landscape and recreational feature.


Besides the large forts, the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie consists largely of small structures: casemates, shelters, locks, dams, antitank barriers, drinking water reservoirs. Although the individual parts of this defence system are important in themselves, the importance of the entire system to the Netherlands’ cultural heritage lies largely in the setting, with the open fields of fire and inundation areas, and in the relationship between the parts.


The structures in the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie are to receive protected status as a single entity. The Agency protects some 90 clusters of structures in context. There is to be a shift from focusing on the protection of individual objects to protecting a functional, spatial system, in line with the Agency’spolicy of focusing more on the landscape context ofmonuments and historic buildings.

The Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie is on the Dutch Tentative List for UNESCO World Heritage status.