Plan 4+1 wins Oostvaardersland competition

Oostvaarderland
Visualization of the Oostvaardersland Nature Activity Center

Together with Olaf Gipser architects and Arup Amsterdam, Vista won the design competition organized by Staatsbosbeheer for the new "Oostvaardersland" visitor's center in Flevoland. The building, with its striking water roof and high lookout tower, is an homage to the engineering skills of the land reclaimers. At the same time, it invites visitors to genuinly experience the new wilderness that was created here. Nature and culture come together in a contemporary exposition concept. In various domains, all types of target groups can discover the area in their own way.

Landscape context
Located at the edge of the Oostvaardersplassen (Oostvaarder lakes) is the Oostvaardersland Nature Activity Center, the ideal place to discover the unique nature of Flevoland. On this former Zuiderzee sea floor, an unusually rich nature reserve was created over the course of several decades. Thanks to its enormous size, natural processes have all the room they need here. Large grazers have free range. “Nature’s primal force” has been unleashed here. This produces unexpected plant and animal types, as well as spectacular landscapes and almost-forgotten wilderness experiences.

Exposition concept
The Nature Activity Center’s core message can be summarized as follows: “The primal force of nature creates a new wilderness on the former sea floor.” The natural landscape is visible from all parts of the building. Viewed from the outside, the building manifests itself as an icon within the landscape. Together, landscape and building tell the story of the sea made dry and the nature that grew in its place. The basic succession stages of the Oostvaardersplassen, i.e. water, reeds, thicket and forest, are showcased in full scale in the form of four landscape display cases. These are embedded in the polder grid and anchor the building in its environment. Further off, the  rigidness of the grid recedes and the wilderness gets the upper hand.

Architectural concept
The new building is situated on the Knardijk, the polder’s original dike, like a new work of art. The technical form of the building is a reference to the history of hydraulic engineering of the Zuiderzee Works. The horizontal water roof marks the old sea level and reflects the characteristic Dutch skies. Through an opening in the water roof the visitor descends to the polder’s floor, where a new natural world unfolds.

The fluid building layout provides a dynamic interaction with the landscape and supports the entire exposition concept. There are separate spatial domains for five target groups, each of which offer their own facilities and atmospheres. Nature enters deep into the building thanks to the four landscape display cases. The various sections are seamlessly connected to each other through a space that can be flexibly arranged. It forms the main circulation route inside the building.

The rising transparent screen offers visitors an impressive view of the Oostvaardersplassen. The screen creates a portal into nature and will be a noticeable eye-catcher in the landscape, for example from the A6 and the railway line. On the inside the mesh of paths, staircases and platforms provides access to a vertical garden. Solar panels provide sustainable energy.

Outside space
Wheras the Oostvaardersplassen are only accessible during organized excursions, the spacious surroundings of the visitor’s center are laid out as an experience landscape that invites individual exploration. The water level of the entire Oostvaardersveld is increased considerably. The acreage of water and reed-lands is thus expanded and natural processes activated. The area is opened up through a network of paths and canoe routes. The natural dynamics and the chance to see unique plants and animals make every visit a new adventure. Ditches and quays will remain visible in the new wilderness, as a reminder of how the area came into existence. Viewpoints, panels with information and boardwalks mark special locations and illustrate specific aspects of the landscape.

Short wilderness walks are set out around the building and recreational facilities are erected: a pioneer garden, with seating and playground elements based on the findings of the sea floor, thematic playground landscapes around water, clay, willow trees and forest and a nature campground. Dirt trails, covered wagon tours and sailing excursions into the area also depart from here.