It is green below sea level – travel

Spectacular architecture instead of Dutch idyll: Almere in the Netherlands is the setting for the international garden exhibition Floriade Expo 2022 /.

Under the infinite sky, the streets seem to stretch straight towards infinity. Clouds accumulate in dramatic formations, reflected in the water.

Here in the Flevopolder the land is even flatter than usual in the Netherlands, the sky is even wider, the light is even brighter. Almere is located on the southwestern tip of the artificial island: with around 220,000 inhabitants, it is the youngest city in the Netherlands and is barely 50 years old. The land on which it stands has been reclaimed by water and therefore Almere is a symbol of the struggle against the forces of nature.

At the same time, it is a green city, surrounded by natural parks and the Markermeer, the IJmeer and the Gooimeer. From 14 April to 9 October, Almere will be the setting for Floriade Expo 2022.

The International Horticulture Exhibition takes place every ten years in a different location, this year with the theme: “Growing green cities”. The Floriade is more than a colorful spectacle of gardens from around the world. It is a fair of ideas for the future: how can our cities become more liveable, greener and more sustainable in the face of climate change?

In the distance the skyline
from Amsterdam
There is no better place for this than Almere. It is a green city, but it is also a blue city. Everything here is surrounded by water and a strong sea wind blows almost everywhere. It twists your hair, makes you pedal on the “fiets” – the bicycle – and blows new thoughts into your head. Almere is crisscrossed by canals and is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. In the distance you can see the Amsterdam skyline.

A few minutes’ walk from the train station is Lake Weerwater in the city center. Students relax in the sun on large wooden piers, employees relax on the beach in the new city during their lunch break. Right next door is the “Kunslinie” theater, which appears to float on water. Water and clouds are reflected in the glass facade of the building.

Subtle reference to the
Sea level
“We are five meters below sea level here,” says Paul Meekel. Guide visitors through the city, showing them the spectacular but also the inconspicuous. Like a jagged line on a facade. “Indicates the height of the sea level.” In this way, people are very subtly reminded that this place of residence is anything but a matter of course.

This is nothing new for the Dutch, around 40 percent of their country is below sea level. But in Almere everything is even clearer. There was water here until 1968. The Zuiderzee, the South Sea, once lay here, an extension of the North Sea. For centuries, villages and islands have been at the mercy of violent storms and floods. The floods reached the gates of Amsterdam. At the beginning of the 20th century it was decided to drain the Zuiderzee. One part became today’s IJsselmeer. Another part has been drained, polder.

A Mecca for
friends of architecture
Designed on the drawing board, Almere has become a playground for the best architects. The famous Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas designed the center. It has three floors. Below are parking lots, streets, separate lanes for buses and bicycles. Sweeping escalators lead from the underworld to the mall, beach, and breathtaking residential towers. Above, on the green and slightly hilly roofs of the shops, there are terraced houses with idyllic gardens – it almost feels like being in Teletubby country.

The neighborhoods were built according to the needs of the citizens: “Duin” (dune), for example, is an artificially constructed dune landscape with a marina and a beach boulevard. In the Oosterwold eco-district, people live sustainably and grow their own food.

A new city for
la Floriade – remains
And Almere is growing. From the City Beach you can already see the contours of the newest neighborhood: a seductive green jungle called “Hortus”, which means “the garden”. But before the new residents move into the district, around two million visitors are expected at the Floriade Expo. The Weerwater Lake site is accessible by car, bus, bicycle, or boat from City Beach.

“This Floriade is different from all the previous ones,” says Niek Roozen, the landscape architect of the Expo. For the first time this is not just a fair that will be demolished after six months. “We are building a new city”. The entire infrastructure remains, says Roozen. This is sustainable and adapted to climate change. The architect points out, for example, the wide sidewalks, designed to allow a rapid flow of rainwater.

One of the channels

woven patchwork blanket
The entire 60-hectare site has been divided into squares and planted in alphabetical order by the botanical names of the plants. The T is obviously reserved for the tulip, this is obvious.

The result is a patchwork quilt of gardens spanned by canals with bridges made from recycled materials. “You want to live here later, right?” asks the landscape architect Roozen.

New forests were planted. In the food forest, for example, you only find edible plants. The forest on the water is very special. Recycled buoys have been planted with trees randomly floating on the water. Podiums and stages also float for the cultural program.

A journey through

the gardens of the world
As many as 30 countries have set up their own pavilion in which to present their ideas for the green city of the future. Expo is like a journey through the gardens of the world. The Netherlands shows how to build in a sustainable and climate-friendly way with organic products. China invites you to take a tour of a growing bamboo garden. India takes visitors on a spiritual journey. In buildings that resemble a sugar loaf, Qatar is demonstrating how traditional forms and modern techniques can be used to green deserts.

Hundreds of exhibitors show modern horticultural techniques and ideas for climate protection in the home. Exciting new materials are presented, such as airplane seats made from pepper stems or mushroom skin.

Like enchanted islands

in the sea
Can you see everything in one day? Hardly likely. Luckily you don’t have to walk all the way – an 850-meter-long cable car runs through the park of the large Floriade Park. A single ride with her is included in the entrance ticket. From the gondolas you have a fantastic view of the site. The exhibits look like large enchanted islands that seem to float on Almere’s Weerwater. The modern city skyline towers across the street, underneath it blooms and grows rampant. “Everything thrives very well here,” says landscape architect Roozen. “The bottom of the sea is extremely fertile.”

Information: Almere is very easy to reach by train from Amsterdam and Utrecht. The center is pedestrianized. Parking spaces available;
Expo Floriade: The 2022 International Horticulture Exhibition takes place from April 14 to October 9 and is open every day from 10:00 to 19:00. The site is easily accessible by public transport. Shuttle buses depart from the center of Almere. Or you can take the boat across Weerwater Lake (€ 4.50 round trip);

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