Waalkade, Zaltbommel, the Netherlands

Source: Photo courtesy of Ben ter Mull


Municipal development
Sculptor Marcel Smink

Type of Area

Large river with natural banks

Land/water interaction

Sandy beach

Built Environment Types

Low built
High green

Scale of Impact


Intervention Scale (Spatial)

Small site

Project Types

Flood protection
Outdoor recreation
Public space regeneration

Urban/ Rural

Inner urban area

Visibility and Openness

Fully enclosed
Fully contained view

More than just flood protection

Over the years the Dutch have relied on dikes to keep floodwaters out of the towns, but in recent years a new approach has been taken to strengthen the weak links in the dikes. River fronts have been redesigned with new flood protection systems.  The ancient city of Zaltbommel lost its links to the river, so the new flood prevention system provided the opportunity to reconnect the town to the river. The project also reconnected the city with its past by linking the historical fortifications via a plaza to the new promenade that runs along the riverbanks. The promenade wall provides continuous seating places where the natural riparian environment can be viewed. 

Temporary flood barriers are used to raise the level of the wall by 50cm and seal gaps that provide access to the river during flood alerts, which ensures that views of the river are not obstructed when the river is not in flood. Access from the promenade leads to riverside beach areas Two pieces of artwork by the artist Marcel Smink are included in the project. One of the sculptures is sited next to the river on the floodplain. The 4m high statue of a boy in his swimming trunks holds out his hand level with the top of the quay wall to indicate how high the river Waal can get before the town of Zaltbommel floods – a visual reminder of the capacity of the river to overflow the defences. On the quayside plaza is a second related statue of a boy but with only the head, chest and hand visible. 

The renovation provides a recreational area for local residents with new roads improving connectivity to the promenade. The open space with simple paving and seating is also a space to hold running competitions, including marathons. The art installations add to the attractiveness of the area.

Perception and Meaning

Place identity

Health and Wellbeing

Increased socialisation
Increased physical activities
Place affordance

Interaction with Water

Tactile – touching

As can be seen from the ratings, this design has greatly improved the accessibility to the riverbank area through the creation of the new promenade with access points. The flood barriers also provide ample seating places for river views.

The old fortifications are incorporated into the design and thus creates a bond with the past, enhancing the cultural and heritage values of the project.

Whilst the wide-open promenade provides free movement that is also wheelchair accessible, and with good views of the river it does not provide shelter from the sun or wind. The river is not suitable for water-based activities as it is an active shipping route, and hence the project has a low rating for this, although it is possible to take a river cruise.