my dad’s road

April 12, 2013

Not really “my Dad’s road” of course, but he was project manager on the construction of the section of the A6 through the lake called Tjeukemeer. It was the biggest project he was involved with and he was very proud of it. Looking at it now, it is a surprise it was ever built. A motorway section that runs through the biggest lake in Friesland, in the north of the Netherlands. It cuts the lake in half, even though halfway across, the road crosses a bridge to allow boats through. It is both a thing of beauty and an extreme example of the Dutch tendency to control the land and the water and also of their pragmatism. The most direct route for the road was through the lake, so through the lake it went.

I remember as a child visiting my dad at work. A day on site involved a trip in a boat to cross over to what is now the bridge and was then two small islands in the middle of the lake. Sand was hoovered up from the middle of the lake, mixed with water and pumped through a pipeline to be sprayed where the road was going to be. The sand settles and very slowly builds up the bridge ends and later the whole road. Careful management of the settling sand and the addition of stones keeps it all in place and once the sand and earth base has settled properly, the road can be built on top. In the early days we used to play on the quicksand and had hours of fun with walky-talkies.

My dad was acutely aware of the environmental impact of the project even though I don’t recall that being a big issue at the time. He introduced a number of innovations that helped blend the finished road into it’s setting. Traditionally Dutch motorway construction involved very clean and stark finishing. In some key places, they ended up leaving nature to create it’s own transition from constructed reality to its surrounding, by leaving areas alone to heal naturally. He was particularly proud of this and the resulting soft edges.

To this day, every time I drive this section of motorway, I think of my dad.

Jinne Stiksma

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