Dutch architecture practice RO&AD has designed a series of components to activate public space at the Fort de Roovere along the Brabant Water Line in Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands. The winding line is an early 17th-century defence system that connected towns together with fortresses and it is now undergoing a restoration process to bring it back to life for the public and to animate its historical significance to the Netherlands.

The latest of RO&AD’s components to be completed is the Pompejus Tower, named after the first commander of the Fort de Roovere, a 25m high landmark that multitasks as a viewing platform, open-air theatre and exhibition space. Cantilevering over a moat of water and into the open landscape from a grassy bank, the pointed steel and timber frame is made up of shapes joining in the ‘voronoi’ pattern – a mathematically-devised, interlocking design that can be found in nature on the skin of giraffes and the shields of turtles.

The Pompejus Tower, designed by RO&AD and constructed of steel and Accoya

The materials had to be durable and hard-wearing – to withstand the elements and the public activities of climbing, playing and performing. The architects chose a specially-treated timber called Accoya, chosen for its durability, stability and low maintenance properties. Accoya was also a sustainable choice as the young timber is sustainably grown in New Zealand and manufactured in Arnhem, the Netherlands, where it undergoes a strengthening process of acetylation, that helps it to resist rot and stay stronger even than tropical hardwood.

As well as tourists who now have a new landmark to explore and visit, the tower is first and foremost a space for the community. An earlier component of the public space designed by RO&AD was the sunken ‘Mozesbrug’, a bridge traversing the flood canal near the tower – the bridge is sunken into the water, also made of Accoya, and in direct contact to the freshwater of the moat. Essentially, crossing the bridge means passing through the water, instead of over it, and the design allows it to appear almost invisible.