World Heritage Monuments are buildings or sites that are considered to have “outstanding universal value” according to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
Waters and architecture
Most of the World Heritage monuments in the Netherlands are connected to the country’s waters, and how they were battled, controlled and used throughout history. Other sites focus more on striking examples of architecture from a certain time period.
Nine World Heritage monuments
There are nine World Heritage monuments in the Netherlands:
Schokland and surroundings
Schokland (added to the list in 1995) is an elevated area near Emmeloord, that used to be an island in the Zuider Zee, a bay of the North Sea. The area has withstood flooding and tides as the sea engulfed its surroundings, making it an island in the 15th century. After a few centuries of habitation, the sea eventually forced the land to be evacuated.
The draining of the Zuider Zee in the 1940s reclaimed the land around Schokland, making it accessible once again. The area has historic vestiges of human habitation, and represents the tumultuous relationship the Netherlands has with the sea.
Defence line of Amsterdam
The defence line of Amsterdam (added to the list in 1996) dates back to the city’s fortifications around the turn of the century around the year 1900. Controlling the waters through hydraulic engineering, defences were strengthened with a network of armed forts that used the temporary flooding of the polders and the network of canals to their advantage. The defence line extends 135 km around the city of Amsterdam.
Mill network Kinderdijk-Elshout
The mill network at the Kinderdijk area (added to the list in 1997) is a legacy of the intricate constructions made to control, drain and handle the local waters from the Middle Ages to the present. Beside the famous windmills, the area contains dykes, reservoirs and pumping stations.
Ir. D.F. Wouda Steam Pumping Station
The Wouda Pumping Station in the province of Friesland (added to the list in 1998) is the largest steam pumping station ever built. It opened in 1920, and is still in operation.
The Beemster Polder (added to the list in 1999) is an area of reclaimed land, with a well-preserved layout that illustrates classical and Renaissance planning principles. When the area was still a large lake, its waters were drained from in 1612, using dykes, windmills and pumping systems. These measures were taken to create food and space for the ever growing cities. The Beemster Polder’s waters are still actively managed to make sure the residential areas aren’t flooded.
Rietveld Schröder house
The Rietveld Schröder House (added to the list in 2000) was designed by the famous architect Gerrit Thomas Rietveld. It represents the Modern Movement in architecture, with its typical layout following the ideals of De Stijl (The Style), a famous Dutch art and design movement following a principle also known as neoplasticism.
The Rietveld Schröder House was built in Utrecht in 1924 for its resident, Truus Schröder-Schräder. It is a small and sober family house, yet it has its own kind of extravagance with a flexible spatial arrangement, and a three-dimensional, asymmetrical composition. It used primary colours, straight surfaces. A system of sliding and revolving panels makes the building ever changing and dynamic.
In between the North Sea and the mainlands of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark is the Wadden Sea (added to the list in 2009). These waters contain a chain of mudflat islands (wadden) extending up from the Netherlands.
The Wadden Sea contains the largest unbroken system of mudflats in the world. The Dutch Wadden contains its own, special ecosystem that’s heavily influenced by the tides. The surroundings are constantly in transition between sea and land, with salt marshes, dunes and beaches. Rare and interesting species of flora and fauna can be found in the surroundings, which are accustomed to a life half lived on land, and half in the water. Seals, porpoises and special birds are abundant.
Canal ring of Amsterdam
The Canal Ring area of Amsterdam (added to the list in 2010) was formed in the 17th century, when Dutch cities were created in direct correlation with their canals due to the benefits in transport and defence. The network of canals runs through and around the old port town. Swamplands in the area were drained, and the canals came in their place, in order to extend the urban area. At the time, it was the largest example of urban extension of its kind, and served as an example to many projects to follow.
Van Nelle factory
Built around the 1920s, the Van Nelle factory (added to the list in 2014) was designed in the style of the then popular industrial constructivist style. It was used to produce coffee, tea and tobacco.
Located in Rotterdam, the building was constructed with lots of steel and glass, with the idea that the factory’s workings should be visible to the outside world, and that employees would work in an open environment with lots of daylight. The building harks back to Dutch ideals from the inter-war period, following goals to optimise industrial work and the mental state of a company’s workers.
Requests for World Heritage status
To obtain a World Heritage Status, sites that are deemed worthy must first be requested to be added, and are put on the list of requested monument sites. The RACM (Dutch Governmental Organisation for Archaeology, Culture Landscapes and Monuments) has selected various Dutch monuments to apply for the status of World Heritage Monument, the top 100 of which you can find on an extended list.