The Nieuw Land tower is a 30-meter-high observation tower to be built in the ‘Hollandse Hout’. The tower exemplifies sustainable architecture by utilizing local materials and emphasizing vegetation growth. A wooden grid with steel connections creates the main load bearing structure of the tower. The timber itself is all either locally sourced or made of reused materials. The foundation consists of a concrete ring beam supported on piles with additional columns in the middle. Summum Engineering provided the structural design and engineering.
Nieuw Land is the youngest national park in the Netherlands and the largest man-made nature park in the world with 29,000 hectares of land. It is literally located at the bottom of the former Zuiderzee (lit. Southern Sea). Nationaal Park Nieuw Land owes its existence to the largest land reclamation project in the world: the reclamation of the Province of Flevoland.
In 2019, the Provincial Council of Flevoland approved a development vision for the National Park Nieuw Land. The aim of this vision was to increase and connect the natural environment while making it accessible to visitors. With the added ambition of creating a world-class bird paradise. A strategically placed iconic watchtower like the Nieuw Land tower will contribute greatly to the experience of these natural and landscape aspects.
The design for the Nieuw Land tower was inspired by an assignment done by a group of students from Hogeschool Windesheim. Taking cues from their design intent, the tower was reimagined and developed by Walden Studio and Natrufied Architecture. The goal of the design was to create a tower grounded in nature that would connect the different landscapes of the Hollandse Hout in an organic way. Summum Engineering provided structural engineering services for this project with the goal to test the technical feasibility of the project.
The construction of the tower is an example of sustainable architecture, where the use of local materials and the potential for vegetation growth is emphasized. The wooden elements used in the construction are not only eco-friendly, but they also add warmth and character to the structure. The use of willow branches as a design element adds a touch of natural beauty to the tower, further highlighting the connection between the structure and its environment.
While seamlessly connecting the diverse landscapes of the Hollandse Hout, the Nieuw Land tower offers visitors a sweeping view of the surrounding area. With its unique design featuring three intertwined “fins”, the tower provides an interesting perspective on the natural environment, allowing visitors to appreciate the landscape from different heights and angles.
Each of the three fins serves a specific purpose, catering to different types of visitors. The forest path fin is designed for hikers coming from the forest, while the shore fin serves as a dock for canoes and a resting place for walkers. The swamp fin is reserved for animals and vegetation, offering a space for them to thrive and even inhabit the tower itself. Nesting and breeding facilities for around fifteen species will be integrated into the tower, taking into account their unique needs and preferences.
The tower is made out of a timber grid structure with a total height of 30 meters and five levels. All the timber elements are either locally sourced whole round timbers, possibly from the Hollandse Hout, or made of reused materials like reclaimed hardwood mooring piles. Steel nodes connect these elements to form the grid structure. In addition to the grid, the bottom level is supported by a number of columns in the middle. The foundation of the tower consists of a concrete tension ring beam supported on piles.
To provide safety, the platforms have railings made of willow branches and timber boards. Along the facade of the tower, the three fins are also covered in willow branches, running vertically along the height. Although the fins do not contribute to the structure’s strength, they add an aesthetic value by further articulating the geometry of the grid.
The entire grid structure can potentially be covered in vegetation. In the structural calculation, the weight of the vegetation is taken into account, and the external wind pressure is assumed to act on a closed structure. This results in a heavier wind load but due to the geometric properties of the Nieuw Land tower maintains favorable aerodynamic behavior.
The goal is to build this structure with locally sourced timber. To do this, the available wood types of the surrounding forests were first inventoried. Each of these wood types has a potential range of strength classes. In these domains, the strength varies from tree to tree. To account for the youth of the forest the structure was modelled with the lower limiting values. Summum Engineering collaborated with the architects on their parametric model, and provided parts that generated the grid structure. This model then also served as the basis for structural analysis, of the tower grid, internals floors and supporting columns.
Aitor Vadillo Barcelona, Diederik Veenendaal, Anand Shah | Summum Engineering (structural)
Rogier van Dee | Daed Ingenieurs (geotechnical)
Nikki Bennis, Mikaella Dijkstra, Emma Meeuwissen, Rick van der Weijden | Hogeschool Windesheim