Main defence line as part of the New Dutch Waterline
The main defence line or sometimes also called main resistance line, is part of the system of the New Dutch Waterline spread along the line one finds a sequel of citadels, an enormous amount of smaller objects such as sluices and other water scientific works and the later added casemates. In combination with the inundation fields they form a large 19th century defence system. A large number of cuttings, to be made in embankments form a not directly visible but essential part of the inundation system. The location of that is only visible on chart images. The line has several intensively and extensively defended zones.
The main defence line in its purest shape forms the border between wet and dry and is closely connected to the underlying landscape: during the construction, existing embankments and natural depressed areas are used as much as possible. Because of irregularities in the relief and higher lying accesses in the form of infrastructure and waterways, the inundation fields could not form a continuous water plain. On the weak spots, one now finds the places that most speak to the imagination, where citadels, inundation works and the connecting concentration of bunkers and casemates come together. The spatial image that arises consists of intensively defended accesses surrounded by a high density of objects, succeeded with parts of several kilometres long, without any apparent defence. Interesting about the main defence line is that it passes several landscapes and takes on several forms of appearance. It’s a line that can be experienced at some times but can’t in many other moments.
At this moment we live in a time in which the landscape from the past changes along the main defence line. On a higher level, there already is a focus on a densification West of the main defence line and a larger openness at the Eastside of the line. Bicycle routes passing by the fortifications are merged into a cycle route that physically connects the fortifications. The route will be physically pointed out by boundary marks. Except for the cyclist who travels 85 kilometres – and probably that same distance back- the person who doesn’t follow the complete line, but only part of it would also get the ‘perspective of memory’ of the entire line.
The cutting as an intervention
An intervention of the line is critical. Opposite to the rationalism of the military engineering art is the magic of the waterline – and with that, the line that is part of it. A landscape of which we literally cannot imagine the boundary and that has formed a threat that now, in an era of fast transport by land and by air is also hard to imagine can now be flooded. It’s a secret landscape that is not visible but does need to become experienceable again, without loosing the magic of the secret. For this reason, the decision has been made to make ‘cuts’ at crucial places that have the character of disguising and revealing the secret. They contribute to the ‘story telling’ by means of a series of spots, each with their own cut, different of type, size and story but characterized by the same design and use of material. These limited procedures add continuity along the cycle route and offer an insight into each part of the fascinating system that is the New Dutch Waterline.
Covered community road
The covered community road at Fort Honswijk connects a number of defence works at the North-side of the Lek, as part of the New Dutch Waterline. The project of the covered community road near Tull en’t Waal is interesting because it is part of a pretty neat ensemble, the former gantry of Honswijk, of which the Lunet at the Snel and Fort Honswijk are also part of. The water, the roads and the embankments have a hidden purpose, which is put back on stage within the scope of the recreational development of the New Dutch Waterline. Besides reconstruction of the buildings, re-profiling the earthen bank and making a viewpoint, partial recreational use can be enhanced by improving cycle and foot paths.
Because of the reconstruction of the defence work and the later added hiding places in the adjoining bank one will be enabled to get a feeling of how transports could take place without the enemy noticing. The Covered Community Road at Fort Honswijk is not a damming embankment, but a defence embankment. The main defence line as a system calls for particularization and explanation, much more then concrete lining. By adding the ‘cut’ through the embankment, the defensive character of the embankment has been made experiencable and a short walk is made possible. The water lying behind becomes accessible by an entrance through the cut in the ground. Southwards, a series of step stones form a staircase over the embankment, making the defence work accessible.
With that, the plan for the main defence line is based on making intervention producing a readable landscape, by which the line does become special but not always and everywhere. Just like the secret writing with invisible ink becomes visible when it’s lighted by fluorescent light. The recent execution of the plan for the Covered Community Road at Fort Honswijk proves the power of the cut.
+ Project credits / data
Project: Gedekte Gemeenschapsweg, Houten | New Dutch Waterline – Covered community road at Fort Honswijk
Initiator: Municipality of Houten
Landscape architect: OKRA Landscape Architects | http://www.okra.nl/
In cooperation with: Bunker Q
Year of execution: 2009
Client: Gemeente Houten
Area: app.. 30.000 m²
Costs: € 600.000,- Euro ex VAT
+ All images and drawings courtesy OKRA Landscape Architects