Bergen op Zoom, between Zeeland and Brabant. Map: Zelandia Comitatus, 1588
Bergen op Zoom, between Zeeland and Brabant. Map: Zelandia Comitatus, 1588

Bergen op Zoom Fortress Vision

Bergen op Zoom

The hidden fortress

The aim of the fortress vision is to position the fortress history, both materially (the relics) and immaterial (the stories and history) as one of the leading themes, to put Bergen op Zoom on the map as an attractive city to recreate.

The DNA of Bergen op Zoom
The military past is an important theme in the history of the city of Bergen op Zoom. First as a defense stronghold and later as a garrison town and training center for soldiers. For centuries fortifications and soldiers have determined the townscape of the city of Bergen op Zoom. This part has become an important aspect of the DNA of the city and has partly determined the character and identity of the city and its residents.

Although soldiers and the military function of Bergen op Zoom in 2017 no longer determine the street scene of the city of Bergen op Zoom, there is still a lot that reminds us of this past. Physical elements remain such as city structure, street pattern, street names, and also buildings in the city. These layers of time that have been added to the city over the centuries are still visible. But not only in physical terms: the intangible heritage is also still present. In the collective memory, the stories (the song "Merck how Sterck") and the traditions. The military past forms a distinctive and important part of the biography of the city and is therefore an important identity carrier.
The uniqueness of Bergen op Zoom
The military past is not only an important identity of the city of Bergen op Zoom, but gave the city a unique and distinctive position in a certain period of time. Bergen op Zoom was at the time of the 18th century the most important military stronghold of the Republic in the Southern Netherlands. The strongest fortress of the Republic and perhaps of Europe had a great reputation in the 18th century as the masterpiece of the famous 17th century fortification builder Menno van Coehoorn.

The city often played a key role in the control or protection of different areas for the various leaders. In particular, the importance of maintaining water routes, protecting the Republic as a frontier city, sometimes Zeeland/ Holland or Brabant. This ensured that the city, by means of investments, attracted famous fortification builders or labor of the population itself in defense of their own home, and became an ever larger and more modern fortress in different time periods.

This vision is the first exploration of the potential of the history as a fortress city for strengthening the recreational appeal of the city. In the autumn of 2018, SMV further expanded this initial exploration and further develop the most promising locations. By means of interventions in the public space, the fortress past can be experienced again.

ir. Marco Vermeulen, ir. Bram Willemse

Research and design


Gemeente Bergen op Zoom

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