Hester Koelman

Hester Koelman

Landscape Architecture



Woeste gronden

Desolate lands
A rain landscape in the Achterhoek

Korenburgerveen is a beautiful and very special nature reserve in the Achterhoek. It is a raised peat bog, a landscape formed by plants that live on rainwater, and a very interesting ecosystem. The Korenburgerveen is one of the last parts of the Netherlands that has not been cultivated, there is still real ‘wild land' here. It lies as an island where time has stood still in a landscape that has changed the most in the past 100 years: from forest with heath to large-scale agriculture with intensive livestock farming and grasslands that require a lot of fertilizer and water. This intensification has also created problems for raised peat bogs.

The Achterhoek is one of the driest areas in the Netherlands because it depends on rainwater. Agriculture is not designed for this and extracts a lot of groundwater, while the raised bogs must always remain wet. In addition, the sandy soil here is naturally very nutrient-poor, which means that agriculture uses a lot of fertilizer. This way, a lot of nitrogen is released into the air that fertilizes the raised bogs. The wrong function is in the wrong place here.

In my design, the small scale of the Achterhoek is restored by making the differences in relief and soil structure visible and tangible again. I intervene in the water system to transform it from draining rainwater as quickly as possible to retaining water for as long as possible. Low parts in the micro-relief are used to retain the rainwater so that more infiltrates into the soil. This makes the differences between high and low again visible. Gradients arise for ecology and this makes a beautiful landscape for recreational users and residents that is slightly different in every place. In this way the drought problem is tackled and the conditions in the landscape change.

Because this makes it wetter in some places and drier in others, agriculture has to adapt. Agriculture must also change in order to tackle the nitrogen problem: reducing cows and stopping the use of fertilizer is necessary for this. I have devised an alternative land division based on the differences in height and on the soil. This has major consequences for what is possible where. I want to expand the surface of ‘wild land’ again and add more wilderness to the Netherlands.

In the most crucial places in the landscape there is no longer room for regular agriculture. I want to naturalize these areas by having them managed by special ecosystem service farmers. These will perform services for the other farmers, who are in between the highest and lowest parts of the landscape. The farmers all work together, from top to bottom. The natural buffers that are created in this way also form regional connections for ecology and for recreational users. Different Natura 2000 areas will be linked together, making nature even more robust and making it even more interesting to visit this area.


Graduation date: 13 July 2021
Graduation committee: Roel van Gerwen (mentor), Yttje Feddes, Bruno Doedens
Additional members for the exam: Harma Horlings, Gert-Jan Wisse

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