Water + World Heritage

Regional vision for the Kinderdijk

The World Heritage ‘Kinderdijk’ is an icon of Dutch water management. The historic landscape mill was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and is a special nature reserve. Kinderdijk is a popular destination for visitors from around the world. This project aims to strengthen the accessibility and spatial quality of the area, and ensure the sustainable conservation of this heritage.


The Kinderdijk World Heritage Foundation (SWEK) is responsible for the daily management of the site. This involves both the preservation of its cultural and historical value, as well as the reception of large numbers of visitors. The preservation of the site heritage is in good hands – the mills are proudly safeguarded and the quays protected from large, disruptive developments.

Entrance area not accessible

The spatial layout of the entrance area is a major constraint on the further improvement of the visitor reception. The entrance lacks proper facilities, clear access routes and signage. As a result, many visitors simply come to look at the mill from the public road without entering the actual Heritage site, even though the area is far more extensive and has much more to offer. Such non-paying visitors do not contribute to the conservation of World Heritage.

Water forms a connecting link when visiting the Kinderdijk

Water serves as a connecting link for this site on many levels. Water transport adds to the special experience of a visit to the Kinderdijk and is an ideal means to access the area. Further maximisation of water as a transport mechanism around the site also offers the possibility of extending the visitor capacity of the site, utilising the existing infrastructure.


H+N+S has developed a vision for the Kinderdijk in collaboration with Beek and Kooijman Cultural History. With regards to the mill area, Landscape and Heritage South Holland also contributed to the project. The study was supervised by a project group, which in addition to the client also included the Cultural Heritage Agency, Rivierenland water board, the province of South Holland, Molenwaard en Alblasserdam municipality and the Nature and Bird Watch Foundation.


As part of the new vision for the area, the number of mills available for visitation will be increased from one to three. These mills are accessible by water. The entrance area is newly furnished and offers space for the construction of a new visitor centre. In addition, the vision proposes to restore the 'Lekkerlandse Lage Boezem' and the windmill, which provides further opportunity for nature conservation, education and recreation.

Central axis and flanks

Around the Middle Quay and adjacent water boards, different trails and routes for cyclists, pedestrians and boats are interconnected. This ‘central axis’ increases the accessibility and functional capacity of the environment for visitors: the infrastructure of the Water Bus and the cruise to the Lekdijk through the entrance area continues eastward towards the Alblasserwaard and Alblas.

The two storage reservoirs and polder areas form a flank around this central axis. In the water storage compartment, the quality of nature creates a peaceful front for the site. As such, the proposal aims to achieve its goals to improve accessibility and experience for visitors using (where possible) the existing buildings and infrastructure: namely, the mills and water.

Vision entrance area Kinderdijk

Showcase for water management

The entrance to the Lekdijk represents one of the most dynamic areas of water management in the world. It has, over the course of the centuries, been adapted again and again to reflect the latest insights on water management. Modern water management devices are again deployed in the new plan to improve the experience of visitors as they enter the site.

Redevelopment of the entrance area

The main starting point for the design of the entrance area is the restoration of the Middle Quay, which forms the connection between the River and the windmills. The current building will be removed and a new visitor center will be situated on the Middle Quay, in Achterwaterschap, where a sight line over the water remains intact.

The logistics of the park and existing transport routes will be unravelled to reduce transport congestion and promote water as a means of connection. The accessibility of the Wisboomgemaal on the other side of the Achterwaterschap will also be improved through the construction of a more attractive trail or bridge.


The area vision designed by H+N+S has since served as the basis for a competition for the design of the visitor centre itself. This competition was won by the young architects Dorus Meurs and Michael Daane Bolier from The Hague (M & DB Architects) in collaboration with ARUP Netherlands, with their plan ‘Living Heritage in the 21 st Century’.

The Kinderdijk area project has been described by the Cultural Heritage Agency as a practical example of the integration of landscape architecture and heritage.