11 - Subdivision: The landscape of Mondriaan

The IJsselmeer polders are immediately recognizable on aerial photographs and satellite images of the Netherlands: regular, rectangular surfaces with relatively few buildings. From the air, the pattern looks Mondriaan-esque, especially when the tulips and other flowers are in bloom. The subdivision, however, was not motivated by artistic reasons, but by efficiency. The farmers had to be able to work as efficiently as possible on their land.

The straight plots in the design of the Noordoostpolder and the later cultivation of flower bulbs give the landscape a Mondriaan-like appearance from the air.


When the Noordoostpolder was drained, a new area of ​​approximately 48,000 hectares was created. Many studies had already been carried out to determine the ideal design and demographic development of this polder. In 1936, six subdivision systems were presented. The final Subdivision Plan dates from 1942. In that plan, a plot of 300 by 800 meters (24 hectares) was considered optimal. The drainage technique used at that time allowed a maximum plot width of 300 meters.

Subdivision map of the Noordoostpolder. C. van Eesteren, 1948.

The Release Plan

After establishing the Subdivision Plan, the Board created a committee to prepare the Release Plan. The Board was given the assignment to conduct research into the ideal enterprise size in the Noordoostpolder. On the basis of the experiences in the Wieringermeer lake, the Committee came to the conclusion that designing only large enterprises provided a number of unfavourable side-effects. Furthermore, research had shown that the larger agricultural enterprises generally played a pioneering role but that smaller enterprises did not lag behind in the course of time.

Based on all those economic and social considerations, the Committee came to the conclusion that different enterprise sizes were required in the Noordoostpolder. The Draft Release Plan was discussed with representatives from the three agricultural organizations and three farm worker organizations. In anticipation of the later famous 'Polder model', a compromise was reached in which the largest enterprises with 60 to 67 hectares were reduced to 48 hectares. It also called for more small enterprises to allow more polder workers to start their own operations. The advice to release plots of eight hectares was not implemented by the Management Board. The final Release Plan had to be approved in parliament. This happened in 1947, with a further revision in 1950. The Lower House eventually agreed to the release of 1577 enterprises, between 12 hectares and 48 hectares in size.

The geographical location of the various enterprises was largely determined by the soil conditions. For example, 2,300 hectares of the clay and loam area at Marknesse, Luttelgeest and Kraggenburg were intended for growing fruit. Almost all farms were placed along the road and along a plot for economic reasons.

Noordoostpolder, plan of release. C. van Eesteren, 1947.

There was also a conscious decision to place farms in groups of two, three or four. The Management Board expected that this grouping would stimulate mutual contact and that people could also support each other with agricultural work or in the event of fire or accidents. In addition, placement in groups came with its financial advantages, because each group would share one fire hydrant and one transformer. Planning was the trump card. In everything.

View over Noordoostpolder 2012.


The Landscape Plan was another plan that shaped the Noordoostpolder. The main roads Ramspol-Emmeloord-Lemmer and Urk-Emmeloord-Marknesse were densely planted. The well-known crossroads accentuated the layout. Lighter planting contributed to the subdivisions within and shaped compartments. Along the edges of the polder, those compartments are smaller and in the middle they are more spacious and larger. If the farms are smaller, they fill the space more. If they are larger, the buildings are fixed points in the wide landscape. The final Landscape Plan dates from 1947.

The typical polder landscape. Dead straight roads, large rectangular plots, farms with canals. Noordoostpolder, 30-06-2011; Johannes Postweg (intersected by the A6), Nagele right on the horizon.


The Village plan dates back to 1946. The location of the villages was aligned with the pattern of roads, canals and plots. It was investigated what distances were acceptable for farm workers, for children, for the elderly, for housewives, etc. (see also pane 12). The villages are therefore located in a circle around Emmeloord, at a distance of seven to nine kilometres between each other. The villages were surrounded by horticulture, fruit orchards and smaller farms. This allowed many families to benefit from the amenities in the village. The larger enterprises covered the other spaces between the villages. Something special in the polder view are the residences for 700 workers which in groups of two, three or four still determine the view (see also pane 16).

Buses connect the Polder with the old land. This bus from Zwartsluis is on its way to the still bare polder on 1 August 1947.


The straight subdivision is being interrupted by Schokland in the east of the polder. The planting around the island still visualizes the outline of the former island.

In 1944 it was decided to make Schokland recognizable as a former island with the help of a tree line.

Larger agricultural enterprises

In the 1960s and 70s, the agricultural sector in the Noordoostpolder generally formed a peaceful picture. On all farms, arable or mixed, 12, 24 or 48 hectares, it was possible to make a living. On average, the revenues and prices were good and the costs were reasonably under control, not least because of the lease system and the relatively low lease prices. For decades, lease was seen as the ideal basis for healthy agriculture and horticulture (particularly, when the rent was below market level as was the case in the Noordoostpolder). Banks, accountants, trade organizations and virtually all farmers agreed. For decades, that functioned well but later, this system slowed the development of agricultural Noordoostpolder down. As a result of falling yields, the need to grow crops on a larger scale increased. The request for more land also increased rapidly due to increasing disease burdens. In the Noordoostpolder, the land mobility was very small due to the lease structure and the lack of market forces. Enterprise expansion was rare. In the 60s, 70s and 80s, some polder farmers left their plot for a larger enterprise in Eastern or Southern Flevoland. The Domains policy was to redistribute the vacated lot, usually among the neighbours. This is how some enterprises expanded from 12 to 24 hectares and according to the redevelopment and structural policy.

The land mobility nevertheless remained relatively small. Only after the Domains sold a lot of land to existing tenants at the end of the last century, the land market started to change and scale also increased in the Noordoostpolder, just like elsewhere in the country.