Nature Development

Nature is an important part of our living environment. In the form of what is now called 'ecosystem services', nature provides us with many conditions for healthy, safe and attractive living. By consolidating these 'services' and shaping the biodiversity and natural qualities of our landscape, H+N+S contributes to the sustainable future of landscape and society.

System + Process

H+N+S approaches working on our natural environment from a systems and process thinking that tries to fathom the complexity of ecosystems. Interventions that the landscape architect makes in the landscape are not seen as a final image, but as a starting point, so that natural processes and dynamics further shape the future of the landscape. In every project at least three types of factors play a role: the abiotic, the biotic and the geographical factors. They can be stacked as layers to provide insight into how the natural system works.

Abiotic Factors

Abiotic factors include the subsoil: soil and water. The soil type and water management determine what can grow in a place; we also call this the potential natural vegetation (PNV) of a place. In an analysis, the characteristics and processes such as erosion, sedimentation, seepage and eutrophication are mapped out. In a design, these characteristics are used or adjusted in such a way that the intended image is created. This includes excavating the top layer of meadows to create a different vegetation with a higher natural value, such as in Park Assumburg in Heemskerk. Another example of this is the erosion walls that have been created at the secondary channel in the Spiegelwaal, where the sand martin nests, among other things.

The erosion wall (steep wall) at the Nevengeul van de Waal, including the sand martin nests here.

Biotic Factors

Biotic factors concern the structure of the flora and fauna present. The variety of flora and fauna is also referred to as biodiversity. In general it can be said; the greater the biodiversity, the greater the resilience of a landscape (system). Nature has a strong resilience, recovery and building capacity. When we improve the conditions for nature development, the new conditions are quickly used by plant and animal species (succession), as can be seen in the heath valley of the National Military Museum.

Heidevallei under development at the National Military Museum in Soesterberg.

In its projects, H+N+S works closely with ecologists to map out the biotic and abiotic factors and, above all, to explore their (development) potentials and adjust them if necessary. Where 'traditional' nature development in the Netherlands is often based on preserving the existing, we try to exploit opportunities for other, more highly valued natural values in our designs. For example, we proposed cutting down parts of the forest on the A12-VEG to create a heath corridor.

An understanding of the interrelationship of flora and fauna is important; herbs, shrubs and trees can be planted, but insects and birds cannot. By planting or attracting the right host plants (on which insects reproduce, or which are of great importance for foraging behaviour), a high-quality ecosystem can be created. This has been applied, for example, to the grain fields in the NMM.

Hop-over for bats at the Central As

Geographical Factors

Geographical factors concern the mutual distances and proportions. In general, it is important to allow populations to be large enough or to allow for exchange. This exchange can take place through, for example, ecoducts, pine marten bridges or bat connections. For example, at the Central As in collaboration with Altenburg & Wymenga conceived and made special bat hop-overs. The size of and exchange between populations is important, for example, to absorb mortality and to allow the population to live and develop robustly in the long term, also in the perspective of climate change.

Other geographical aspects are sun orientation and wind shelter. Forest edges with flowering shrubs and herbs (forest mantle and hem) on the south are interesting for butterflies, for example. They like heat, but less wind. An irregularly shaped forest edge is therefore favorable, because it offers wind-reduced and warm places. Microrelief can also provide shelter or sunlight, which means that a certain species may or may not settle there. A special geographical circumstance are the bare sand islands and shell islands of the Vogelvallei on the Maasvlakte: this is a favorite habitat of many coastal birds. The islets keep ground-bound predators away, allowing them to reproduce and forage safely here.

Vogelvallei Maasvlakte

Linking + realizing

In areas where nature development is a goal, income is usually needed to realize this development. Conversely, there are often opportunities to realize natural values ​​as part of spatial development. H+N+S always thinks integrally and often puts these opportunities on the agenda itself based on an intrinsic motivation to make the Netherlands not only more beautiful, but also more sustainable and ecologically valuable. Linking opportunities have been found in the past in the areas of recreation, nature education, living and working, water storage, flood risk management, renewable energy, agriculture and infrastructure.


On Vlieland, Staatsbosbeheer wanted to expand its campsite in an existing forest area. By including a wet dune valley in the plans, H+N+S was able to add a special habitat to the previously relatively monotonous forest. On behalf of Staatsbosbeheer, a strategy has been devised for the Veluwe to develop heathland in forest areas with temporary recreational homes, ultimately creating a corridor that is interesting for reptiles, butterflies, roe deer and deer.

Design sketch Stortemeld, Vlieland: recreation and nature development go hand in hand here


Education can also play a role in the design, for example in the Naturalis museum garden. Evolution is depicted in the garden by including plant orders chronologically according to their origin in the garden. Because the garden is on a slope on top of the parking lot, gradients are created with respect to the sun, which are used in the planting. In terms of atmosphere, a lush garden has been designed. The systematic design of the planting shows how the evolution of flora and fauna are connected, also known as co-evolution. In the garden, for example, the moment of the joint emergence of pollinators and flowers can be precisely determined, in contrast to the mosses, ferns, conifers and grasses that reproduce via a different system.

Biodiversity and education play an important role in the museum garden at Naturalis.

Living and working

In plans for the living and working environment, H+N+S combines design in many ways with nature development to create a healthy and pleasant living environment, such as in IJburg, Wervik, Eschmarke, but also around an office building such as the new RIVM (public health and environment institute).

The new RIVM building is designed for people and nature.

Water safety

From its inception, H+N+S has combined flood risk management with nature development in its plans. The concepts developed by H+N+S in Plan Ooievaar, among others, gave direction to many plans that have been realized in the context of Room for the River. In that plan it was explained how sand and clay extraction in the floodplains could yield natural values ​​and possibilities for water storage, making the river area safer and more ecologically interesting. Ongoing involvement in the river program led to, among other things, the implementation of the Reevediep. In this bypass, meadows were transformed into wet nature, which can serve as a high water discharge for the IJssel.

Agriculture and nature

Also from the start, a positive interaction between agriculture and nature has been sought. The key to this was often the most natural fresh water supply, to which the functions are linked depending on their impact on water quality. And also in such a way that this does not cause desiccation in nature reserves and that no inlet of foreign water is required. The entire water system is used to create a situation from which both agriculture and nature can benefit; while these functions in the Netherlands often oppose each other. An older example of this is the study for the Hondsrug and the Veenkoloniën, Landstad Deventer. A newer example is the Krimpenerwaard Area Vision.


Infrastructure was implicitly already briefly mentioned as a barrier to be overcome in the distribution of species, which means that ecoducts and hopovers are necessary. Certain infrastructure can also be used as a connecting element, or as a 'host' for animal species. In an integration vision for the Houtrib dyke, the spatial quality is guaranteed with a new dyke improvement. H+N+S also identified opportunities for nature development in the sandy environment of the dyke, following a dyke improvement.

Sketch development Trintelzand - integration vision Houtribdijk


Within the theme Energy & Landscape, linkage opportunities for nature are also sought. For example, renewable energy can be used as a revenue model for nature development, such as with the wind forest concept; monotonous production forests are transformed into mixed, ecologically valuable forests (succession stages are passed through, while the turbines 'dance' through the production forest and create open spaces).

We also consider options for nature-inclusive design of renewable energy. For example in 2050 - Energetic Odyssey, where the hard substrate of the wind turbine can form a biotope for all kinds of plants and animals and a wind farm can be a refugium for endangered fish species, where fishing is not allowed/cannot be done. The parks will be equipped with bird radars so that they can be released when migratory birds fly by.

Illustration of nature-inclusive development of an offshore wind farm.

Create + Grow

Landscape architecture differs from architecture in that the development of a project only starts when the construction/layout has been completed. When the excavators drive off, the seed is sown, nature takes over.

H+N+S thinks in time and bases its furnishing proposals on the way in which the design can develop over a period of say 20 years from construction. The phenomenon of growth has determined the forest plans for the Noorderbos, the Bentwoud, the Hollandse Hout and the NMM, among other things. By planting trees in different sizes, densities, species and mixes, varied conditions are created that create a high ecological value from realization and after a few years already produce a varied and interesting picture.

Relatively young, dark, little differentiated deciduous forest - More openness and development of mantle/hem vegetation

A special growth process is succession; a bare sandy bottom is home to pioneer species that can withstand wind, drift, water shortage and excess sun. The presence of these first crops provides shelter that benefits other species. Over time, organic matter forms in the soil. This in turn retains water and nutrients that other species grow on, which provide shade for other species through larger leaves, and so on.

In addition to growth and succession, abiotic processes such as erosion, sedimentation and water dynamics also play a role in the development over time. This is clearly reflected in Plan Ooievaar, Waalweelde, I-Lent and the Zandmotor. In the Sand Motor, the abiotic processes are actively used as a coastal defense strategy: currents, wind and waves move an artificially created sandbank at Kijkduin along the coast. In this way, the beach and dune are widened.

The Sand Motor one year after construction (photo: Beeldbank RWS / Joop vanhoudt)

Nature + experience

H+N+S never only tells an ecological story in its projects. Cultural history and design are also important, for example. Each time a new chapter that builds on the existing one is added to an area. For a further explanation of our approach to cultural history, read the longread on this topic.

In the Hoge Veluwe National Park, for example, the development history was first recorded in the Cultural-historical vision, which was later used for the Strategic Total Plan. This rests on three pillars: nature, cultural history and recreation. Forgotten cultural-historical relics are brought back, impurities added later are removed and ecological cohesion is restored. In concrete terms, this leads to, among other things, the felling of forest areas that have overgrown the characteristic and valuable heath areas over time. With this, H+N+S is not only working on nature development, but also on nature management and the preservation of cultural-historical heritage.

National Park de Hoge Veluwe

The classical instruments of the landscape architect are used in many country estates, country estates and city parks. We consider this to be the most 'craft' side of our profession: creating open space around freestanding trees and striking species, maintaining or reducing openness and sightlines, enhancing the seasonal experience, the difference between mass and space, of contrasts in light and dark along a walk, with variation and scale of the units. H+N+S worked in, among other places, the historic places of Windesheim, Rhederoord and Soestdijk Palace, but also on new developments such as the Noorderbos, where emphasizing the experience aspect led to the planting of special species. In these projects we balance nature and amenity values together: a varied landscape is a valuable landscape.

Ambition + vision

Nature provides us with a greater variety of ecosystem services than we would expect in the first respect: clean drinking water, clean air, district cooling, cleaning capacity of the soil, pest control, pollination, carbon sequestration, food, nutrient cycleetc. Nature has an economic value, not only because of these ecosystem services, but also, for example, because the proximity of nature increases the attractiveness of living and working environments. This can be deduced from the higher value of real estate in the vicinity of high-quality green areas.

For the sustainable preservation of the natural environment and biodiversity, H+N+S focuses in projects on contributing to water and soil quality, on sustainably maintaining and developing flora and fauna populations and habitats, and on mitigating of and adapting to climate change, in order to safeguard the natural values ​​in a well-functioning and beautiful Dutch landscape for the future.