Assignment: Shipping Valley Drechtsteden
Client: City of Dordrecht, Chamber of Commerce Rotterdam and Drechtsteden
Design: Monolab, team: J.W. van Kuilenburg, L. Veeger, W. Hoogerwerf with K. Walsh, M. Salomon, N. Vauth, G.R. Pena
Year: 2002


…retro-active polders


The epicenter of transport and transshipment of containers in the Randstad region is still located towards its peripheral Southern Edge by the harbor area of Rotterdam. The growth of this centre was pushed by the EC-Terminals during the 80’s and 90’s. For all transport by road is going to cause a shift. The highways in Holland are becoming less and less efficient. Container transport by road is and will be vulnerable. The main goal of the Shipping Valley project is realizing container transport with a free choice between water, road and/or railway. To complete the efficiency of this big ECT-machine in Rotterdam, a location for an extra terminal is planned inland towards the city of Dordrecht. Here, a future node serves as the passage for the HSL (high-speed train), essential highways and rivers. This node will stimulate interlace between short sea shipping and inland shipping by free access from the sea. Besides, a transport track parallel to HSL can complete the network and replace the risky rail track through the town of Dordrecht. Shipping Valley can be considered the extension of ECT-Rotterdam because of its network of rivers, highways and HSL-tracks.


The node is situated in two typical Dutch polder landscapes on both sides of the Dordtse Kil River, connected by the Kiltunnel. Westward is the Hoeksche Waard and eastward the polder Biesbosch. Both are more or less protected landscapes. We made this an important issue. The N217 provincial road is the boundary in the north and the A16 highway in the east. The Kil-tunnel (east west) and Dordtse Kil River (north-south) make a cross that divides the node in four parts. The two east quadrants contain present and future business parks of Dordrecht. The north-west quadrant is occupied by the village of Gravendeel. In the south-west quadrant, the train terminal and harbor terminal are planned. A new generation of business- and office parks spread southward.


The machine for the container handling will be in operation for twenty-four hours a day. It will occupy authentic and partly protected Dutch polder landscape, a landscape vulnerable to distortions because of its flatness. This created a double issue for us: planning a perfect layout for this merciless machine and at the same time give priority to the polder landscape.


The polder landscape supplied us with keys. It consists of flat pieces of land surrounded by dikes. The polders were reclaimed from the sea, by pumping out the water. The soil of a polder is the former seafloor. Dikes and polders became our tools to emphasize the priority of the landscape.


The container machine consists of several parts (ship-, train-, and road terminals and dedicated business- and officeparks) connected by ‘vectors’. These vectors are transport systems for trucks, straddle carriers, trains, automatic freight vehicles, etc. Use of vectors leaves the terminals free for autonomous north-south directed development. We bundled these transport systems along lines and pulled the grassland over. These new ‘hollow dikes’ shield most of the noise and visual disturbance. To plan the large and extended programs like business and brain parks, we started to ‘flood’ the polders retro-actively between the new and existing dikes with program by building floor fields. A grid with concrete square towers punches through the floor fields and provides elevators, escape ways, ventilation shafts and services. The grassland on top rises with the filling process until dike levels at +12-m. Big perforations in the plains allow daylight and air in the subsoil condition below.


To insert office space and commercial space, we programmed the edges of the perforations. These locations are limited however. We started introducing clusters of floor fields rising from the top of the flooded polders and again pulled the grassland over these floor fields. Shallow hills started to surface…


Because of the proximity of the Biesbosch Nature Reserve eastward and the new programs westward, we introduced two landscapes in one. Seen from the Biesbosch, the hills show undisturbed hilly grassland. Seen from the west, cut-outs show crystal-like glass office facades appearing from underneath the grassland. Cows graze this hilly landscape, appearing around perforations, on hilltops and over or below office and hotel windows. The evolution of the Dutch polder landscape is completed.