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Living below sealevel

Linda Koopman | N-Holland, Netherlands

1 Near Camperduin the dunes end and the seawall begins

'The Netherlands' literally means 'Low Countries'; the western part of the country is below sealevel. As long as people live in this region, they have had to take measures to protect themselves, their homes, their livestock and their crops from rising water. This resulted in mounds, quays, canals and dams.

These small-scale solutions proved not to be able to withstand floods, so that in the 13th century an institution was established to implement water management in large-scale projects such as dykes, waterboezems, sluices and polders. This institute still exists and is, in cooparation with scientific, ecological and political institutions, leading the way in thinking about solutions to prevent the Low Countries from disappearing into the sea.

This photo series is about the Hondsbossche Zeewering, a seawall in N-Holland. After the dunes were washed away during storm surges in 1570, it was built and has been adapted over the centuries in terms of technology, used materials, covering, height and width. During the latest work in 2015, new dunes were created on the sea side of the dike.


During my study at Gerrit Rietveld Akademie in Amsterdam I got interested in the strucures of our landscape. Looking for information about its history in archives and old maps I discovered the remnants of peoples work at these structures in my environment. For ages they made canals, terpen, polders, dams, etc. to keep their feet dry. Living below sealevel is an ongoing struggle against water.


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