June 06, 2024
Afsluitdijk koepels 4

Last week, six gigantic glass domes were placed over the previously installed mega pumps in the Afsluitdijk. Each dome weighs 30 tons, has a diameter of 9 meters, and stands 4 meters high.

Since 2018, Benthem Crouwel Architects, as part of the Levvel design team, has been working on the renovation and reinforcement of the Afsluitdijk, commissioned by Rijkswaterstaat. This 32-kilometer-long hydraulic engineering icon has been protecting large parts of the Netherlands from flooding since 1932.

In anticipation of future needs, the dike has been strengthened and raised in recent years, and its water discharge capacity is being increased with a new pumping station. In May, six pumps, part of the pumping station, were installed to pump excess water from the IJsselmeer to the sea during high water, supplementing the sluices in the Afsluitdijk. The transparent domes, designed by Benthem Crouwel Architects, protect the pumps while making the pumping station's technology visible. The nearly twelve-meter-high pumps can together discharge 275,000 liters of water per second, which is equivalent to filling an Olympic swimming pool in nine seconds.

Afsluitdijk koepels 1
Afsluitdijk koepels 3

Images Rijkswaterstaat and construction consortium Levvel – photographer Jan Wessels

In contrast to the complex technologies embedded in the pumping station, the domes are designed in an abstract and simple manner. Thanks to the glass domes, the electric motors of the pumps are displayed as visible elements at ground level. The meticulously detailed transparent domes protect the powerful motors from the elements and spectacularly showcase the water drainage functionality to passing traffic.

The strength and essence of the design lie in minimizing and abstracting the architecture to a spectacular simplicity, which enhances the monumental character of the Afsluitdijk and the experience of its primary function.

Daniel Jongtien


Daniel Jongtien — partner, architect

The domes are fully prefabricated and are placed in their entirety. They are designed in such a way that they can also be lifted off the pumping station as a whole during pump maintenance. Twelve curved glass panels form the dome, which is strong enough to withstand the powerful waves of the Wadden Sea.

The roof of the domes contains a ventilation system that expels air around via large soundproofing boxes, in order to absorb the noise from the enormous pumps and the exhaust system.

Afsluitdijk koepels 2
Afsluitdijk koepels 5

The Afsluitdijk was built in 1932 to protect the Netherlands from flooding. This water barrier is the longest dam in Europe: a unique and impressive work of Dutch engineering, and alongside the Great Wall of China, one of the two man-made structures visible from space.

Climate change and the rising level of the Wadden Sea mean that the current structure is no longer adequate. With respect for the hydraulic engineering heritage and the iconic value of the Afsluitdijk, Benthem Crouwel Architects is designing various reinforcements and innovations: strengthening the dike, constructing additional sluices and new pumping stations that allow water from the IJsselmeer to be pumped into the Wadden Sea even at high tide, a fish migration river, and a new cycle path on the sea side. Additionally, the Afsluitdijk will become an "energy test site" where new forms of energy generation are experimented with.

Together with West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture, Benthem Crouwel Architects forms the design team of Levvel, a combination of BAM, Van Oord, and Rebelgroup. Within the design team, Benthem Crouwel Architects is responsible for expanding the structural components and the overall architectural quality.