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Defence Line of Amsterdam

Defence Line of Amsterdam

Extending 135 km around the city of Amsterdam, this defence line (built between 1883 and 1920) is the only example of a fortification based on the principle of controlling the waters. Since the 16th century, the people of the Netherlands have used their expert knowledge of hydraulic engineering for defence purposes. The centre of the country was protected by a network of 45 armed forts, acting in concert with temporary flooding from polders and an intricate system of canals and locks.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Ligne de défense d'Amsterdam

Parcourant 135 km autour d'Amsterdam, la ligne défensive construite entre 1883 et 1920 est le seul exemple d'une fortification continue reposant sur le principe de la maîtrise de l'eau. Depuis le XVIe siècle, les Néerlandais ont mis leur exceptionnel savoir-faire en génie hydraulique au service de leur défense. La protection du centre du pays était assurée par un réseau de 45 forts et leur artillerie agissant de concert avec des inondations temporaires déclenchées à partir des polders et d'un système complexe de canaux et d'écluses.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

خط دفاع أمستردام

يُعتبَر خط الدفاع الذي بُني بين العامَيْن 1883 و1920، الذي يمتد على طول 135 كلم، المثال الأوحد على تحصين مستمر يعتمد على مبدأ التحكّم بالماء. فمنذ القرن السادس عشر، وظّف الهولنديون معرفتهم الاستثنائية في مجال الهندسة المتعلّقة بالماء لخدمة دفاعهم. أما حماية وسط البلاد، فكانت مؤمنة عبر شبكة مؤلّفة من 45 حصنًا تعمل ذخائرها بتناغم مع الفياضانات المؤقتة التي تسببها مجموعة من البلدر ونظام قنوات وهوَيس قنوات معقّد.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0



source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Линия оборонительных сооружений Амстердама

Простираясь на 135 км вокруг Амстердама, эта линия обороны (сооруженная в 1883-1920 гг.) является единственным в своем роде укреплением, включающим гидротехнические сооружения. Начиная с XVI в. народ Нидерландов использовал свое превосходное знание гидротехники для целей обороны. Центральная часть страны была защищена системой из 45 укрепленных фортов, которая могла быть усилена временным затоплением польдеров, для чего использовалась сложнейшая сеть каналов и шлюзов.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Línea de defensa de Ámsterdam

Construida entre 1883 y 1920, la línea defensiva de 135 kilómetros construida alrededor de Ámsterdam es el único ejemplo existente de fortificación basada en el control del agua. Desde el siglo XVI los habitantes de los Países Bajos han utilizado sus conocimientos especializados en ingeniería hidráulica con fines defensivos. El centro del país estaba protegido por una red de 45 fuertes artillados, potenciada por inundaciones temporales provocadas gracias a los pólderes y a un sistema complejo de canales y esclusas.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


source: NFUAJ

Stelling van Amsterdam

De verdedigingslinie van Amsterdam - de Stelling genoemd - is gebouwd tussen 1883 en 1920. Het is het enige voorbeeld van een fortificatie die gebaseerd is op het principe van het waterbeheer. Vanaf de 16e eeuw gebruikten de Nederlanders hun expertise van de waterbouw voor defensiedoeleinden. Het midden van het land werd beschermd tegen een invasie door een netwerk van 45 bewapende forten in combinatie met het (tijdelijk) onderwater zetten van polders en een ingewikkeld systeem van kanalen en sluizen. In WO II bleek dit verdedigingswerk achterhaald en daarna zijn de forten, op enkele na, verlaten.

Source: unesco.nl

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Defence Line of Amsterdam © UNESCO
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The Stelling van Amsterdam (Defence Line of Amsterdam) is a complete ring of fortifications extending more than 135 km around the city of Amsterdam. Built between 1883 and 1920, the ring consists of an ingenious network of 45 forts, acting in concert with an intricate system of dikes, sluices, canals and inundation polders, and is a major example of a fortification based on the principle of temporary flooding of the land.

Since the 16th century, the people in the Netherlands have used their special knowledge of hydraulic engineering for defence purposes. The area around the fortifications is divided into polders, each at a different level and surrounded by dikes. Each polder has its own flooding facilities. The depth of flooding was a critical factor in the Stelling’s success; the water had to be too deep to wade and too shallow for boats to sail over. Water levels were maintained by means of inlet sluices and barrage sluices. Forts were built at strategic locations where roads or railroads cut through the defence line (accesses). They were carefully situated at intervals of no more than 3500 m, the spacing being determined by the range of the artillery in the forts. The earlier ones were built of brick, the later of massed concrete.

The land forts have an important place in the development of military engineering worldwide. They mark the shift from the conspicuous brick/stone casemated forts of the Montalembert tradition, in favour of the steel and concrete structures that were to be brought to their highest level of sophistication in the Maginot and Atlantic Wall fortifications. The combination of fixed positions with the deployment of mobile artillery to the intervals between the forts was also advanced in its application.

Criterion (ii): The Stelling van Amsterdam is an exceptional example of an extensive integrated European defence system of the modern period which has survived intact and well conserved since it was created in the late 19th century. It is part of a continuum of defensive measures that both anticipated its construction and were later to influence some portions of it immediately before and after World War II.

Criterion (iv): The forts of the Stelling are outstanding examples of an extensive integrated defence system of the modern period which has survived intact and well conserved since it was created in the later 19th century. It illustrates the transition from brick construction in the 19th century to the use of reinforced concrete in the 20th century. This transition, with its experiments in the use of concrete and emphasis on the use of unreinforced concrete, is an episode in the history of European architecture of which material remains are only rarely preserved.

Criterion (v): It is also notable for the unique way in which the Dutch genius for hydraulic engineering has been incorporated into the defences of the nation's capital city.


The Stelling van Amsterdam and its individual attributes are a complete, integrated defence system. The defence works have not been used for military purposes for the past four decades. As the surrounding area was a restricted military zone for many decades, its setting has been preserved through planning development control, although it could in the future be vulnerable to development pressures.

The ring of forts make up a group of connected buildings and other structures whose homogeneity and position in the landscape have remained unchanged and distinguishable in all its parts. They form the main defence line together with the dikes, line ramparts, hydraulic properties, forts, batteries and other military buildings, and the structure of the landscape.


The fortifications have been preserved as they were designed and specified. The materials and building constructions used have also remained unchanged. Repair in arrears applies in some cases. No parts of the Stelling have been reconstructed. The Outstanding Universal Value is expressed in the authenticity of the design (the typology of forts, sluices, batteries, line ramparts), of the specific use of building materials (brick, unreinforced concrete, reinforced concrete), of the workmanship (meticulous construction apparent in its constructional condition and flawlessness), and of the structure in its setting (as an interconnected military functional system in the human-made landscape of the polders and the urbanised landscape).

The Stelling van Amsterdam is a coherent human-made landscape, one in which natural elements such as water and soil have been incorporated by humans into a built system of engineering works, creating a clearly defined landscape.

Protection and management requirements

The Province of Noord-Holland is the site-holder. Responsibility for the conservation is also in the hands of the national government, the Province of Utrecht, 23 municipal authorities and three water boards. In addition, the many management bodies and owners of sections of the Stelling van Amsterdam (e.g. nature conservation organisations and private parties) play a role. The north side of the Stelling van Amsterdam overlaps with the Beemster Polder, another World Heritage property. The Stelling van Amsterdam has no buffer zone.

Protection of the properties is multi-level and comprehensive. The Stelling is protected by the Provincial By-law governing Monuments and Historic Buildings [Provinciale Monumenten-verordening] (more than 125 elements of the Stelling are provincial heritage sites) and the national 1988 Monuments and Historic Buildings Act [Monumentenwet 1988] (more than 25 elements are state monuments).

In 2011, the Dutch government adopted the National Policy Strategy for Infrastructure and Spatial Planning (SVIR). This agenda came into force in 2012 and ensures the maintenance of World Heritage properties when it comes to the spatial development of the Netherlands. In line with this national policy, a specific preservation regime on the basis of the Dutch Spatial Planning Act (Wro) has been adopted for the Defence Line of Amsterdam in the General Spatial Planning Rules Decree (Barro). This regime involves legally binding rules that instruct provinces to ensure that the maintenance of the attributes of the World Heritage properties is guaranteed in local zoning plans.

In 2005, the Province of Noord-Holland set up a programme office for the Stelling van Amsterdam in order to manage the property (preservation and development). The programme office is in charge of carrying out the Stelling van Amsterdam Implementation Plan [Uitvoeringsprogramma] 2009-2013, adopted by the Provincial Council of Noord-Holland in 2009. The planning framework for the Stelling has been set out in the Policy Framework for Spatial Planning [Ruimtelijk Beleidskader] (2008); quality assurance is regulated in the Visual Quality Plan [Beeldkwaliteitsplan] for the Stelling van Amsterdam (2009).

The Stelling van Amsterdam is subject to the provincial Strategic Structure Agenda for 2040 [Structuurvisie 2040] since 2010. The relevant provincial By-law lists the key attributes and Outstanding Universal Value of the Stelling van Amsterdam and sets out rules for dealing with spatial aspects of the Stelling van Amsterdam as a World Heritage property and National Landscape. The relevant municipal authorities will incorporate these policy rules into their zoning plans. The section of the Stelling van Amsterdam located in the Province of Utrecht is covered by the 2005-2015 Regional Plan for Utrecht [Streekplan Utrecht], superseded by the Strategic Structure Agenda for Utrecht [Structuurvisie Utrecht] in 2013.

The Stelling van Amsterdam programme office intends to develop three visitor centres: one on the southeast side of the Stelling (Fort Pampus, opened in 2011), one on the west side (Fort Benoorden Spaarndam) and one in the northwest (Fort bij Krommeniedijk). Because the Stelling van Amsterdam is located in a spatially and economically dynamic area, planning tools and management mechanisms will be crucial to ensure that spatial developments do not have a detrimental impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and the original open nature of its landscape setting.