Public attraction + Nature

National Military Museum

The Soesterberg Airbase, previously closed to public access, was opened in 2015 as the new, National Military Museum. The museum building itself, and the surrounding natural landscape, seamlessly merge into one another to create an accessible, informative and reflective space where the public can learn more about the history of the Dutch armed forces.


The National Military Museum (NMM) was created through the merging of the former Army Museum and the Military Aviation Museum. The plan has been created and realised by the Heijmans Consortium, contracted through a so-called DBFMO contract (Design, Build, Finance, Maintain and Operate). This means that in addition to the design and realisation of the project, Heijmans is also responsible for the maintenance of the grounds and museum for the next 25 years.

Nature development

In addition to the construction of an attractive public museum, was the important task of contextualising the building within the surrounding landscape. The EHS (ecological corridors of the Netherlands) balance approach mandated the inclusion of certain acreages of woodland, heathland and grassland in the design. This nature will be monitored closely over the next 25 years so that what has been promised in the design, will be realised.

Artist impression by bmd3D
The landscape, the museum building and the interiors have been designed in close conjunction with each other

The Soesterberg museum quarter represents an important historical location in Dutch military history, as the Dutch aviation base in WW2 and during the Cold War. The landscape plan designed by H+N+S integrates aspects of this unique history in the surrounding natural landscape. This involved a complex balancing act between the cultural, historical and ecological values of the site, and the recreational and education aspects of the project. This was the reason behind the integration of a zoning plan into the design, to ensure that the natural environment did not suffer under the pressure of the reconstruction phase.



The DBFMO tender procedure involved competitive and intense dialogue for over a year. In this period, six intermediate steps were identified in consultation with the client, to explore customer needs. The design team (architect, landscape architect and exhibition designer) worked particularly closely at this stage, to amalgamate these discussions into an integrated proposal that best met the requirements of the customer.


During the tender process and organisation, the design team was heavily involved in exploring ideas that delivered optimum value for money, in terms of both short-term investments and long-term maintenance costs. After the project was awarded to the Heijmans Consortium, the winning plan was expanded in further detail with specifications for the start of the construction phase. From this point, until the opening of the NMM, H+N+S supervised the implementation of the design plan.


One building

The assignment allowed H+N+S considerable freedom of choice when putting together the design plan. The most important consideration was the creation of a new museum building that would be able to effectively and aesthetically tell the story of Dutch military history, and also display a large collection of artefacts. A large and sturdy building of 100 x 250m was chosen, which matched the vast scale and openness of the former air base and, therefore, naturally fitted in the context of the landscape.

Plan of the NMM (45ha)

History as starting point

The second main consideration was the location of the building on the site. It was decided that the museum should be aligned with the old runway and stand exactly on the site of four ancient T2 hangars. One side of the museum opens onto the vast plains of the former air base; the other side transitions into the densely forested area of Soesterberg.

A museum with two faces

One side of the museum building is dominated by the large scale runways, the panoramic view and the openness of the landscape. The other side is characterised by dense forest, with a scattering of bunkers, shelters and sightlines. The position of the museum within the landscape, therefore, gives expression to the air and land aspects of Dutch military history.

The landscape as a backdrop

The sides of the museum building are all transparent, so that the surrounding landscape can serve as a backdrop for the exhibited collection pieces. The experience of the museum visitor continues outside the building, as they walk through a landscape littered with military relics and sites such as bomb craters and old bunkers. These features were left mostly in situ in the landscape, with very few additions necessary.

Water craters

As they walk through the surrounding landscape, visitors are already experiencing aspects of Dutch military history. Old German command bunkers are visible to visitors, and bomb craters remind visitors of the German occupation and the Allied bombing at the end of the WW2. The craters, in addition to their aesthetic and educational value, have a practical function. They also serve as water collection points and therefore, create a special micro-ecological environment.


The many gabions on the property do not only serve a functional purpose, as part of the security and zoning measures. They also represent the height and form of the woven wicker baskets, which in medieval battle times in the Netherlands, troops used as a form of shelter.

Military monuments

Throughout the grounds, there are also a number of monuments and memorials such as the Monument to the Fallen (1923) in remembrance of the airmen killed in WW1; the Memorial 'Gesneuvelde Meidagen 1940' and the Air force Memorial. These monuments play an important role in the annual ceremonies of the Royal Air Force. H+N+S also included a Zen Garden and a Parade Square in the design plan, both for remembrance and for ceremonial use.

The NMM in large numbers

The total DBFMO contract is valued at 160 million euros, of which 90 million were allocated to design and construction costs. The remaining amount is intended for maintenance and facility management over the next 25 years. The bulk of the design and construction costs were used for the museum building and exhibition. The landscape and infrastructure designed by H+N+S totalled over 16 million.

200.000 cubic metres

For the construction of the site, nearly 200.000 cubic metres of excavation was necessary, to lay many kilometres of cables and pipes in the ground and construct various infiltration craters. Additionally, almost 10 hectares of paving and rubble was removed, much of which was reused as foundation material and used in the gabions (there are nearly half a kilometre of walls throughout the site).

1000 parking spaces

Various facilities are arranged throughout the grounds (electricity, water and data), that can be used in the organisation of major events. Moreover, nearly 1000 parking spaces are available on site. In terms of landscaping, the site includes 17 hectares of heathland, 3.9 hectares of forest and 1.9 hectares of flowery meadows and grassland. Furthermore, 10 large trees were replanted and 182 solitary trees were planted.