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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Trails – Oostvaarderplassen visitor center in The Netherlands by Ooze

February 5th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: Ooze

“A Trip into the Wild”
In the highly cultivated landscape of the Rhine Delta, the Oostvaardersplassen stand out as a pristine wilderness, seemingly untouched by the hands of planners. Its contradictory artificial origin, however, makes it into an emblematic space that allows us to explore the nature of the natural in a country that, like no other, has artificially recreated its natural landscape.

Aerial View

  • Architect: Ooze
  • Name of Project: Trails – Oostvaarderplassen visitor center
  • Location: Oostvaarderplassen, The Netherlands
  • Date: 2009
  • Areas: 2000 m2


  • Budget: Eur 2M
  • Client: Staatsbosbeheer
  • Team: OOZE (Rotterdam – Paris) – Eva Pfannes, Sylvain Hartenberg, Eloka Som, TAKTYK (Paris) and BHC (Rotterdam)
  • Date: 2009
  • Status: Competition

The new visitors centre, the Oostvaarders Trails, is designed to prolong this exploration. Firstly, raising the question to what degree it is possible to satisfy our desire for wilderness in such a highly urbanized setting as the Randstad Holland and secondly, questioning to what extent we can truly allow nature to run its own course. That being said, the interaction between nature and culture is not a static relation but a constant struggle in which the frontlines are fluent and ever changing. The visitors centre reflects these transformations and moves along (shapes itself) concurrently. The Oostvaarders Trails is not simply a building but a strategic experiment on the expanding need for nature in highly cultivated societies.

Along the Oosvaarders Trails, humans, plants and animals coexist. The suggested configuration is a hypothesis on the relation between culture and nature. It addresses a set of questions:
How far can we intrude into the nature without disturbing its vital mechanisms?
How far can we allow nature to approach us without being at our own risk?
How can we support nature to expand?
Which building technology is at hand to support the transition from culture to nature?
Which ecological strategies help this?


A strategy  of expansion needs to take account of a slow transformation in which wilderness grows outward and culture slowly retreats. In stead of intruding into the Oostvaardersplassen, the new visitors centre strives to attract the nature of the Oostvaardersplassen towards itself. Ecology sets in on already existing habitat. Instead of adding new species the natural logic of the Oostvaardersplassen is used to form a robust environmental framework. Once this is established, new species will, without the need for planning, spontaneously evolve and become stepping stones in the expansion of the Oostvaardersplassen. It is highly recommended to remove barriers between the Oostvaardersplassen and its extension sites. The existing train line could be placed underground.


Into the Wild
The visitors centre is designed to be a tree of trails that invites visitors to move from the highly cultural landscape into the nature of the Oostvaarder Plassen. It moves from the public to the collective, from being broad to being narrow, from loud to silent. This slow immersion, that introduces the visitor to the Oostvaardersplassen, is given shape through seeking the close proximity to nature and the exclusion of disturbing elements and through seeking proximity to nature. Buildings are low and invisible to not disrupt the skyline of nature. They react to the different types of nature that the Oostvaardersplassen offer.

The visitor centre is located deep into the Oostvaardersveld.  In future a new access point is possible: a prominent and dedicated exit from the A6 with a new bridge at the Knardijk. The cycle route around the Oostvaardersplassen is attached to the visitors centre. The parking facilities are positioned inside the Hollandse Hout at a distance to the visitors centre. The walk from the lot towards the visitors centre is designed as transition into the wilderness. The visitors centre is removed as far as possible from the existing train line to exclude disturbances from there.

The Oostvaarders Trails are a means to discover the area. They are not a manifested route, but its branches are dedicated to the different experiences that the Oostvaarderplassen offer. Each experience has its own right and moment. Frequent visits will establish insights into the life circle of nature.

Nature is in constant evolution. To anticipate its dynamics the trails are changing their route through time. Nature can recover from the man-made and man can rediscover new wilderness. The buildings along the path follow the cycle of nature. Their configuration can be changed according to new ecological requirements. All buildings, including foundations anticipate on this.

Autonomous building
Each building or group of buildings is autonomous with its own watersystem, collection & treatment, its own sun- generated supply of energy, its own management of the internal environment, with natural ventilation and sunshading and the use of natural materials to built it, timberframe and glass.

Site Map

Building skin
The Visitors Centre is fully integrated in nature by having green walls and developed micro environments for flora and fauna,  highly reflective glass walls which create a  symbiosis with the area and enable people to see the animals without being seen, the animals can approach the building very closely.


Exhibition concept
The displays in the exhibition are as immaterial as possible:
Use of projection on the ground and on flexible pull down screen systems, text stuck on the glass wall of the building to explain topics of nature happening on the outside.
To give a virtual experience of the non-accessible part of the OVP, recorded real time footage is simultaneously overlayed on the view of nature from the interior of the Visitors centre..
This footage will be realized by wild animals dressed with webcams.

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Category: Visitor Center

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