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Wasteland Regeneration

Location: Waterland, Netherlands

Type: master plan, concept design, detail design, construction documents

Size: 100 hectares

Purpose: recreation, education, natural landscape

Client: Amsterdam City Council

Partners: ACV (Witteveen+Bos en Tauw)

Time: 2005-2010



Over 10 years, Vista led the transformation of the highly contaminated Volgermeerpolder near Amsterdam into an extraordinary and unique new landscape.


The Volgermeerpolder is situated just north of Amsterdam, in “Waterland”, a well-known pastoral peat land area. 1000 years of cultivation and artificial water management resulted in the surface level sinking about 5 meters. In the early 20th century, the past was dug out to serve as fuel, leaving behind a marvelous waterlogged landscape. For the following half century, this 100 ha water landscape was used as a waste dump and became notorious as the most extensive chemically polluted landfill in the Netherlands. In 1981, following public outrage, the landfill was closed. 30 years later, this area is now finally given a new future.


The chemical waste had stabilized in the subsurface and was therefore not removed, but covered and controlled. The project focused on how to deal with the landscape? How to serve nature best and transform such a polluted place into a place for recreation?


The foundation of this project is covering the toxic landfill by waterproof polyethylene foil, and layers of water and soil above it, which economically and ecologically interesting. Due to the unique topography of Volgermeerpolder, the site is visible and higher than surrounding area. We applied adoptive wetland and recreation functions on site, and make it a representative of this region.


The site is elevated above the ground due to the bulk of waster underneath. It is fed solely with rainwater, which makes it possible to develop a new sphagnum-bog. This is exactly the previous landform of Volgermeerpolder, and became the focal point of the design. We designed a network of small dikes collects and stores rainwater; creating a series of filled paddies which is inspired by the site’s historically landscape texture. The ecological value of this design is very high. Initially, water and reeds will shelter extensive birds. Later, rare vegetation will bloom here. Such ecological development will contribute to sustainable storage of toxins. After decades, following by the resole of waterproof high-density polyethylene foil, a natural cap will be formed over the toxic waste.  


Now an important recreational path system will link to Volgermeerpolder from Amsterdam. The restoration to some historical elements (the old bridge; the lock of the watercourse) and the construction of an information center are the final touches of the project. Regionally, Volgermeerpolder achieved ecological improvements, recreational projects and high quality landscapes. Internationally, this project became a model of combining landfill restoration and recreational landscape.