The sea dike in the province of Friesland, the Netherlands has become so high over the years that coastal residents felt cut off from the sea and the marshlands, the origins of their existence. In the 2011 community vision the village of Blije stated: ‘We want to dwell, live and work facing the Wadden Sea again.’ The villagers hatched a plan for a new outpost on the Wadden salt-marshes: a place to tell old stories and make new ones, a place to teach, to study or to listen to music, theatre or just the wind. In short: a place of sojourn.

In the distant past Friesland was all marshland, with hundreds of terps (flood-mounds) protecting property and goods. One villager suggested to continue this tradition, which preceded 900 years of dike-building and sea defense and the village embraced it. Step by step, by trial and error, the terp became part of the identity of the village of Blije. The village’s strong sense of community and resilience – the legendary Frisian mienskip – helped incorporate sustainable, social and health goals in a vision almost impossible to realize.

It took years of preparation to obtain the over a dozen permits because the mudflats, the lands accreting outside the dikes, are part of the UNESCO World Heritage site Wadden Sea, the largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mudflats in the world. The ecological importance of this biotope is huge and the protection measures are very extensive.

Observatorium designed a reinterpretation of the flood mound, usually a trapezoid earthwork with houses and barns. It was their aim to create a living emblem of tidal landscape, land accretion and nature protection. In the past, terps grew slowly from narrow and low – a residential terp of 100 m2 – to wide and high – a village-with-church terp of 1,000 m2. This layering process is illustrated by the fact that one can interpret the way up as a time line.

A colonnade of wooden columns with a balustrade indicates the potential height. The terp is an earthwork that is formed from the surrounding matured clay. Around the terp, rejuvenated pieces of mudflat form testing grounds where Groningen University examines vegetation development and the effects on fish, birds, insects and the climate. This is literally and figuratively building with nature. The terp and the walkway are constructed sustainably. The circle of columns and the retaining wall consist of reused mooring posts.

From the sea defense, the terp looks like a pencil drawing indicating a destination in the desolation. The path tempts you to walk onto the mudflats and visit the height in the plain. As you get closer, the scale and appearance of the terp change from a tiny interruption of the horizon to a large earthwork embracing you. You enter the terp through a gate made from 8 meter high columns. A winding path with the columns on either side leads the visitor along 36 framed panoramas of the vast flat lands and immense skies. The higher you go, the lower the rows of columns. The further you go, the more outside you go as well. The prospects between the columns form a circle of windows to the world around you and changes constantly. You feel becoming part of the movements of the earth and the tides. The ring on the colonnade develops to a balustrade on the highest level. The inside of the spiral forms an amphitheater with a circle of benches.

Terp fan de Takomst is the most recent land reclamation in the Netherlands and offers views of the Wadden Sea, the Wadden islands, the salt-marsh vegetation, mirages and the green wall of the sea defense. The terp is important to the appeal and livability of the Dutch Wadden coast. It is actively used by the bird protection society, water management, farmers, scientists, artists, nature tourists and of course the villagers of Blije. The site may be categorized in different typologies: solar calendar, open air theatre, ancient religious site. But it is foremost the landmark of a community reshaping their own public and natural environments together with artists, despite the many institutions having a say.

The villagers won a third prize at the Golden Pyramide Award for private commissioning in the public realm. The artists received a honorable mention at the NVTL-Awards of the dutch Society of Garden and Landscape Architecture. Frisian Art Triennale Arcadia 2022 and the Landscape Triennale 2023 both programmed activities.

Location: Zeedijk, 9171 AM Blije/ Friesland

Design year: 2019

Year Completed: 2022


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