Contribution to the contest ‘A design for places left over after planning’. The Jump restores verge tourism to its former glory and is the antithesis of the tunnel under the Green Heart, where the High Speed Line is hidden from sight.
Published in: A design for places left over after planning (ISBN 90 77399 02 X)
The traditional Dutch landscape and its modern counterpart are present as archetypes at location 2, assuming you view this location in its context. South of the ring canal, across the water from the location, the country consists of centuries-old polders which were originally drained using windmill power. One windmill stands witness to the past. The location itself, north of the ring canal, forms part of the vast Haarlemmermeer Polder, which was drained by steam-driven pumping engines in the mid-nineteenth century.
Surprisingly, it is the more recent polder that has kept its agricultural appearance and hence its historical character, while the more ancient lands are now cluttered with modern artefacts such as production greenhouses, new housing developments, advertising masts and industrial estates. The sleek bundle of motorway lanes and high speed rail tracks also plays a part in giving a 21st-century look to the landscape south of the water.
Exactly at the entrance to the Haarlemmermeer Polder, the motorway and the High Speed Line part company in a sweeping gesture. The wedge of land between the two transport arteries emphasizes the perspective of the large-scale agricultural landscape, as do the planes that begin their descent to Schiphol Airport at this point.
Location 2 also serves to illustrate the complex hydrological engineering of the Netherlands. Cars and trains dive under ships and boats. The water of the ring canal stands five metres higher than the surrounding ditches. Embankments (on either side of the motorway) and a water-retaining barrier (alongside the High Speed Line) are required to prevent flooding of the Haarlemmermeer Polder and Schiphol, should a leak occur in the aqueduct.
We had serious doubts on reading in the competition project brief that location 2 is ‘very suitable for artistic purposes of different kinds’. Viewed from the aqueduct, the Haarlemmermeer Polder and its broad swathes of transport infrastructure present such an engulfing panorama that embellishing it with an autonomous work of art would be aesthetically counterproductive. The location is enough in itself – it’s the kind of place where you can see how God created the world, although the Dutch did their bit too.
With its view of the onrushing trains, a vantage point for trainspotters was rightly projected at this location during planning of the HSL. We consider it a mistake not to include this vantage point as part of the competition. The two design tasks just ask to be combined, particularly as the trains are practically invisible from the viewing facility as presently planned: the props between the flood barriers form an optically impenetrable roof over the tunnel trough. Besides, there is nowhere for the trainspotters to park their cars.
The Jump, so called because it resembles a ski-jump in its general outline, makes up for this omission. It is a drive-up ramp which rises to a panoramic vantage point. It also forms a landmark in one of Holland’s largest polders, with its spectacular intersections of waterways, roads and railways.
‘Verge tourism’, the custom of picnicking on the green verges of motorways, came to an end in the Netherlands in 1965 when a prohibition on non-emergency stops on the hard shoulder came into force. It was a sensible decision from a safety point of view, but it also represented the loss of an amenity for day trippers. Recreational car use is not popular only in America, as testified by a car beach near Voorne, the two car parks for plane spotters at Schiphol and a drive-in cinema near Landgraaf.
The Jump restores verge tourism to its former glory. The 240-metre long ramp rises from the ring canal at an angle of six degrees to end twenty metres above the ground level of the Haarlemmermeer Polder. It increases in width as it rises, making room for cars to turn and for a mobile snack bar or ice-cream van.
The Jump provides a panoramic view. Spectators will see the flash of the high speed train in the distance and follow it as it shoots into the tunnel under the ring canal. Cars seem stationary in the face of such dynamics, as do the planes slowly drawing their trails in the skies above the polder.
The height of the Jump makes it possible to take in the unequivocally flat landscape, in all its refined complexity. Historical accoutrements such as a windmill and a pivot bridge enhance the picture. The Jump is the only point in the Netherlands where you can survey the polders with their elevated ring canals from above.
The Jump is made of materials available at the location: steel sheetpiling and earth. It has the robust air of a construction site, recalling the Herculean task of building the High Speed Line.
The basis of the Jump will be formed by the western embankment, which lies exactly halfway between the High Speed Line and the A4 motorway. The Jump emphasizes the protective function of the embankment.
The embankment is a body of sand with sides sloping at 45 degrees. The sloping sides will be excavated, and sheetpiling will be used to provide the Jump, and hence the embankment, with vertical flanks. The sheet piles will not be driven as normal vertically into the ground, but at an angle of six degrees to the vertical. They will thus intersect the top edge of the Jump at right angles. The piles will extend 80 cm. above the road and thus also function as a safety parapet.
To construct the Jump, 33,000 cubic metres of soil will be required, of which 11,000 cubic metres are already present in the form of the embankment. The remaining 22,000 metres will come from the soil depot. The road surface will be topped with stone chippings.
The triangular plot of land past the end of the Jump – location 2 as strictly defined – will contain eighteen tapering artificial islands. These islands will be separated from one another, from the High Speed Line and from the motorway by ten-metre wide ditches.
The length and breadth of each island will be in a fixed ratio, so that they will all look the same size when seen from the Jump.
To construct the islands, 68,000 cubic metres of soil are available. The islands will thus be something over 50 cm. high. The islands will not be accessible to the public, so nature will have free rein there. The contrast between the strict, geometrical shape of the islands and the wild, romantic vegetation on this will be obvious from the Jump.
The ditches will extend along both sides of the Jump so that it will seem to rise out of the water. The end of the embankment, which bends towards the motorway, will be replaced by a straight dyke flanked with sheetpiling, which joins the Jump at right angles.
The Jump tilts down into the flat ground like some vastly elongated shipping container. The Jump itself is massive in character, but its form also suggests dynamics and velocity. This is accentuated by its visual echo of the planes taking off and landing.
When approached from the south, the Jump marks arrival at the Haarlemmermeer Polder, and appears to rise towards Schiphol. Approached from the north, the Jump signifies the boundary of the older countryside: it rises as brusquely as a wall out of the flat landscape.
The Jump adds to the vigorous form of the transport infrastructure. In this respect it is the antithesis of the tunnel under the Green Heart, where the High Speed Line is hidden from sight.