Originated in Roman times, the village of Cuijk can look back at a long history on the Meuse river. Until the fifties of the twentieth century, Cuijk was located directly at the water front, merely protected against high water by a wall. In the fifties a dike was constructed which consequently forced buildings at the Meuse to give way. A main road on top of the dike further cut of the river from the centre of the village. A huge barrier between the village centre and the river with its scenery was the result. Buro Lubbers designed a stunning intervention that reconnects both locations. The new embankment has become a pleasant public space where people can meet and events can take place.
The design concept of the river bank is inspired on the scale and atmosphere of the river. The sturdy wall of steel has become the link between village and river, not by separating the two, but instead by giving both land and water more space. This effect is created by banking the wall 10%, by seemingly bulking it out of the river bank. Herewith one experiences a fluent and spatial transition between quay and water, between village and landscape. The quay itself is leveled and designed as a plateau of stelcon plates with border lines of corten steel. Whereas the lines provide a subtle layout, the concrete panels show the contours of Roman archaeological finds, such as canals, a bridge pillar as well as explanatory texts. The connection between quay and village centre is first of all created by an underpass of the dike. Besides, near the church, a combination of ramps and stairs is realised, that connects both locations. Via the ramps one can slowly descend to the quay, the intermediate steps offer a quick link between the riverside and the top of the bank. Both ramps and stairs function as a viewing gallery during events, such as the Four Days Marches of Nijmegen.
Along the waterfront wooden platforms with furniture are placed. Here visitors can quietly overlook the river. A surprising feature is that the existing port is integrated in the design of the quay by applying the same wooden materialization. The wide wooden arm embraces the river and offers a nice panoramic view.
Because of the location at the riverside, the design was determined by several technical conditions. The essence of the intervention was of course its function as dyke, preventing the Meuse from covering Cuijk. In today´s tempestuous climate, the struggle against water is increasingly important. Whereas the Meuse has an average elevation of +7.65 NAP, in times of high water it can state +13.50 NAP. Therefore the dam wall must have a minimal height of +15.00 NAP. The possibility of high water also had implications for the design of the elements in front of the wall, since these elements form obstacles in the river´s stream in times of high water. That is why the ramps and the stairs are constructed in such a way, that the pressure and aspiration of the water does not damage their construction. The total construction is thus prepared with 200 mm reinforced concrete, a massive layer that is so strong that it can not float and can exist independently of its foundation. The other elements, like the wooden platforms, are detachable so they can be removed at high tides.
Since 2008, the stunning intervention of Buro Lubbers reconnects the Meuse and the centre of Cuijk. The carefully executed design is characterized by daring and sophisticated measurements. The huge quayside does not compete with its environment, but forms a subtle harmony. The church that rises high above the quay, the cargo-vessels that pass by on the river, the green river forelands and the discharge docks, all complete each other. While the quay at the side of the town emanates security and the wooden seats at the waterfront offer a grand view, the view at Cuijk from the opposite of the Meuse has changed dramatically. Not only Cuijk acquired a new meeting place and is protected against the unpredictable Meuse in the stormy weather of these days, above all the Dutch river landscape gained an explicit landmark.
Note: the quay side is the first phase of an urban and landscape project of Buro Lubbers in Cuijk. In next phases, among other things, the church and museum square and the cemetery will be redesigned and a plan will be formulated that defines the image quality of housing at the Maasboulevard.
Landscape architecture: Buro Lubbers (in cooperation with Ballast Nedam)
Location: Cuijk, Netherlands
Area: 11.000 m2
Costs: € 4.150.000
Photos and text: Buro Lubbers