The forelands of the river Noord were developed for industrial activity, especially shipbuilding and steelmaking. Companies chose this location for economic and logistical reasons, including the price of land, access to the river, and the availability of cooling water. The shipbuilding industry, like other industries, continuously modernized production procedures and products to meet global competition. Facilities had to change or become obsolete. Whether they become an active part of the area’s history in the shape of industrial, cultural, or other heritage depends on all kinds of discussions, actions, and interests. Five objects on the waterfront of the Noord (Fig. 3) exemplify the connections of history to possible transformations in the future, and the question of safeguarding the area’s history as cultural heritage: the Nedstaal site, a proposed art installation on the bridge, the shipyard of van de Giessen de Noord, the Oude Werf yard, and the Mercon Kloos site.
Nedstaal went bankrupt on January 31, 2017 (Fig. 4). The company owned the site with FN Steel; now, the 36 hectare area and its buildings are owned by Ruigenhil Vastgoed B. V. Nedstaal’s assets were removed in April, including the river crane, an icon of the waterfront; the plants themselves were removed by different parties over the course of the year (RHVG 2009).
Not yet removed is the pollution inherited from the integrated steel mill and its steel melting plant; no plan for remediating the site has yet been made. Meanwhile the presidium (the local legislature) has consulted with the other council members of Alblasserdam to prepare for issues that might arise. These consultations were seen as useful after the experience with the spatial redevelopment of the Verolme location in Alblasserdam and similar locations across the Netherlands. The local government wanted to have a clear playing field both economically and socially, and more control in the planning phase free of the market and civil society.
For a redevelopment of this size, the municipality hired ROM-D, whose goal is to strengthen and expand the regional economy, including developing and selling new commercial property, revitalizing existing (outdated) commercial property, developing housing projects, raising the region’s profile through promotion, and regional business development. It sees to it that companies will settle at locations right for them and for the region (ROM-D 2010).
The bridge is a symbol of the river and the municipality of Alblasserdam. Recently, the River Art Rotterdam and Drechtsteden Foundation (Stichting River Art Rotterdam & Drechtsteden) asked artist John Körmeling to develop an attraction on the bridge, and he created Motel Kinderdijk, an actual hotel with rooms overlooking river Noord (Fig. 5
). This project also has the support of the Economic Development Board of Drechtsteden. On May 8, 2017, the foundation formally handed the proposal for the hotel to the mayors of Alblasserdam, Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht, and Papendrecht. To proceed, the foundation will also need approval from Rijkswaterstaat, part of the Ministery of Infrastructure and Environment.
The shipyard once owned by van de Giessen de Noord is now owned by oceAnco. From the river, one sees a modern shipyard with a new dry dock, 156 m long by 52 m wide. Much of the old shipyard is gone, including the tall cranes that once distinguished the town’s skyline. Only the marine hall remains; here, where workers once constructed polyester minesweepers and minehunters, a new company builds polyester yachts. The Heritage Commission of the municipality of Alblasserdam and the local Historic Society of West-Alblasserdam first objected to demolishing the two remaining tower cranes, but on March 13, 2009, withdrew the objection due to the high cost of keeping them (Homoet 2017, Municipality Alblasserdam 2009). Other huge shipbuilding cranes disappeared from the region when shipyards modernized, closed, or merged with other shipbuilding companies.
The history of this part of the riverfront is told not in structures but in pictures, posters, and other artworks. Working for the Green Heart Foundation (Stichting Groene Hart), two Dutch artists, Marry Teeuwen de Jong and Roel Teeuwen, have designed a new way to maintain the tower cranes as work of art (Teeuwen 2016) a project called Haven Zuid to be located next to oceAnco (Municipality Alblasserdam 2007) (Figs. 6a, b).
The recent financial crisis delayed the project, and it waits for a project developer. Recently, the community of Alblasserdam has selected a work of art by artist Rosalinde van Ingen-Schenau to symbolize the region and serve as a meeting point for tourists (Municipality Alblasserdam 2017). Financed by the municipality and also the province of Zuid-Holland, Anamorphosis was placed in the harbor area at the end of 2017. These works of art are a sort of cultural heritage (Fig. 7).
Similarly, the Oude Werf shipyard is only remembered in pictures and books, and on the Internet (Homoet 2018a). The redevelopment of the site started in March 1952 with filling up the mill pond and dismantling the saw mill (Molen Database 2018). The yard had been owned by Verolme (Verolmetrust 1960) and was sold to van de Giessen de Noord in 1977; in 2000, the yard was acquired by Alblasserdam and a project developer. The area has been redeveloped for houses and apartments overlooking the river. From the river, the visitor can see not only the housing but the jetty for the waterbus that connects Rotterdam and Dordrecht. Near the waterbus stop are other artworks (Municipality Alblasserdam 2014), as part of the town’s art route that showcase the identity and the diversity of this port city (Alblasserdam Kunstroute).
In March 2006, the Alblasserwaard city council told the city board to rewrite a plan to develop the Mercon Kloos location (Fig. 8) (ChristenUnie Alblasserdam 2006). But the highest judicial institution in the Netherlands, the Raad van State, decided on Wednesday, November 29, 2010 that the original project of the construction of 300 houses could not proceed. One issue was that the municipality of Alblasserdam had not taken into account the heavy traffic on the Kinderdijk route when planning the new houses, which would bring the number of traffic movements above the maximum threshold. The municipality proposed alternative routes, but the judges decided that better proposals were required. The project was further delayed by the financial crisis. Recently, Mercon Kloos has entered a new phase with the land purchase by project developer Whoonapart (Poldervaart 2017a, b). First meetings with the press and stakeholders have taken place, and early plans now take into account the village landscape, cultural heritage, and heavy traffic. Clearly, the planners have learned from earlier efforts.
Some of the challenging questions and issues remain. What can be kept from the existing iconic buildings depends on the current state of the buildings, especially their steel frames, which have not been maintained. This project is still in development.
Whoonapart and KuiperCompagnons are keen to involve all stakeholders, and have organized several public meetings to this end. The stakeholders have a range of requirements and demands:
Rijkswaterstaat requires a distance of 25 m between the riverside and housing, mainly for safety, as the Noord is one of the busiest rivers in the Netherlands.
The Waterboard Rivierenland requires that the built-up area be a certain height, because the existing embankment is too low. The Waterboard has decided to reinforce the river side of the embankment because it cannot be made higher due to existing housing.
The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (Rijksdienst voor Cultureel Erfgoed) and Foundation World Heritage Kinderdijk (Stichting Werelderfgoed Kinderdijk) have requirements about the skyline of any new buildings visible from the Kinderdijk mill complex. The current inhabitants along the embankment would like to keep their view to the river. Finally, potential tenants for the hotel, the restaurant, and the museum are making bids based on their business models. Whoonapart is including all of these stakeholder demands in their request for a permit for the development of the Mercon Kloos location. The effort spend in the preliminary phase should shorten the next part of the process of obtaining the required permits from the authorities at local, regional, and national levels.
These five examples show the various ways in which the Dutch preserve cultural heritage for our present and our future. Contemporary art is put in place for improving liveability of the riverfronts and for remembering the past. More attention is paid to the historical tangible and intangible values of buildings, landscapes, and views of sites to be redeveloped.