Hydra Pier (Haarlemmermeer Pavilion)
The Netherlands 

Asymptote 2002

Hydra Pier is a permanent structure built originally as a pavilion for Haarlemmermeer's Floriade exhibition in 2002 - a massive, once-a-decade Dutch horticultural fair.

The pavilion is built out into (actually floating onto) a lake, and is full of symbolism about the boundaries of land and water, in this reclaimed area below sea level. Intrinsic to the design is the idea of water continuously flowing over the roof and walls of the building, beneath which the structural-glass construction dematerializes. As Asymptote describe it:

Hydra-Pier... attempts to appear dematerialized, computer-generated and liquid by virtue of the fact that it is realized formally and tectonically. We drew on ideas pertaining to the virtual that go back as far as seventeenth-century waterworks, spectacles and follies. In the case of the Hydra-Pier, the water running over the roof of the building is not a spectacle of the movement of water but a spectacle of the dematerialization of the building mass...

This notion of dissolution and transformation differs from older ideas of collage or cubist painting and is more akin to simulation, virtualization, or the new digital camouflage skins that read and simulate their surroundings in order to disappear... To be inside the Hydra-Pier, with the liquid above reflected in the shadows on the ground, is to have a visceral experience that cannot be articulated verbally or read in a conventional linguistic or semiotic way.


This is the kind of digital architecture that wins awards, as indeed it has. Technically, the use of the curved, laminated glass with sufficient strength to support the water on the roof without heavy mullions was an engineering breakthrough, and essential to the dematerialization theme. But the brief was to create a permanent work of architecture, and in that respect a visitor to the pavilion today can only be disappointed.

Today no water flows over the structure and it looks more abandoned than dematerialized. Locked gates close off the approach, without explanations or opening times. When I visited, the pavilion was closed and empty except for a couple of enterprising fisherman, using the pier as a rather over-engineered fishing pier.

Simon Glynn 2005


How to visit

Haarlemmermeer is a small town just next to the southwest corner of Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. The Hydra Pavilion is on the northwest side of the Floriade lake, itself to the northwest edge of Haarlemmermeer.

To get there by car or taxi from Schiphol Airport, take the A4 towards the southwest, and turn right onto the N201 through Haarlemmermeer. On the far side of town, where this road is called Kruisweg, turn right onto the N205 (Drie Merenweg). A parking area close to the pavilion will be shortly on your right.

I have not found an easy way of reaching the pavilion by public transport.

While in the area you may be interested to visit NIO Architecten's 'blob' bus station at neighboring Hoofddorp.


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