The hidden fortresscity of Bergen op Zoom

The purpose of the developed vision is to position the historical fortifications, both material (the relics) as well as immaterial heritage (the stories and history) as one of the leading themes to make Bergen op Zoom an attractive city.

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 later and later as a garrison city and training center for (conscripted) soldiers. For centuries, fortifications and soldiers have defined the image of the city of Bergen op Zoom. This element has become an important aspect of the city's DNA and has (partly) determined the character and identity of the city and its inhabitants.

Although the military function of Bergen op Zoom no longer determines the streetscape of the city in 2017, much remains of this past. The cities urban fabric, street pattern, street names, but also buildings remember us of this past. But not only in a physical sense: even the immaterial heritage is still present. In the collective memory, the stories (the song "Merck toch hoe Sterck) and the traditions. The military past is a distinctive and important part of the biography of the city and is therefore an important identity aspect.

The unique thing about Bergen op Zoom
The military past is not only an important identity bearer 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 will further expand this initial exploration and further develop the most promising locations. By means of interventions in the public space, the fortress past will be experienced again.


ir. Marco Vermeulen, ir. Bram Willemse

Research and design


Municipality of Bergen op Zoom

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