Beemster Polder

Beemster, Netherlands

The Beemster Polder, dating from the early 17th century, is is an exceptional example of reclaimed land in the Netherlands. It has preserved intact its well-ordered landscape of fields, roads, canals, dykes and settlements, laid out in accordance with classical and Renaissance planning principles.

The Beemster Polder was created by the draining of Lake Beemster in 1612, in order to develop new agricultural land and space for country residences, and to combat flooding in this low-lying region. It also provided a means for capital investment in land. Other earlier land reclamation had taken place, but technical improvements in windmill technology permitted more ambitious undertakings. The Beemster Polder was the first large project covering an area of 7,208 hectares. Today it is a well-ordered agricultural landscape of fields, roads, canals, dykes and settlements.

The polder was laid out in a rational geometric pattern, developed in accordance with the principles of classical and Renaissance planning. This mathematical land division was based on a system of squares forming a rectangle with the ideal dimensional ratio of 2:3. A series of oblong lots, measuring 180 metres by 900 metres, form the basic dimensions of the allotments. Five of these lots make up a unit, a module of 900 metres by 900 metres, and four units create a larger square. The pattern of roads and watercourses runs north to south and east to west, with buildings along the roads. The short sides of the lots are connected by drainage canals and access roads. The polder itself followed the outline of the lake, and the direction of the squares corresponds as much as possible with the former shoreline, so as to avoid creating unusable lots.

Besides the grid pattern of roads, watercourses and plots of land, the polder is made up of a ring dyke, a ring canal, and relatively high roads with avenues of trees. Several villages were planned for the polder and today these are Middenbeemster, Noordbeemster, Westbeemster, and Zuidoostbeemster. Protected monuments include religious, residential and farm buildings from the 17th to 19th centuries, industrial buildings (a mill, a smithy, water authority buildings and bridges) as well as the five forts constructed between 1880 and 1920, which formed part of the Defence Line of Amsterdam.

The bell-jar farm, built between 1600 and 1640, is an archetypical farm in this region, characterized by a raised shed roof that evolves into a pyramid shape. The farm’s geometric modular unit with a typical square base corresponds to the geometry of the polder.

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Founded: 1607-1612
Category: Miscellaneous historic sites in Netherlands

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