Landscape architecture solves noise problem at Amsterdam airport

Reminiscent of rows of crops, the landscape design cut airport noise dramatically. Photo: Schiphol GroupReminiscent of rows of crops, the landscape design cut airport noise dramatically.
Photo: Schiphol Group

It’s a common problem for airports around the world: how to reduce the noise of airplane take-offs without reducing the actual number of take-offs. Schiphol, one of the busiest airports in the world, located just outside Amsterdam, found a solution in the surrounding landscape.

Schiphol has more than 1,600 flights daily and when its Polderban runway was built in 2003, neighbors started to complain. The incessant din could be heard more than 18 miles away. In response, the airport hired H+N+S Landscape Architects and artist Paul De Kort, who drew from scientific research and the work of Ernst Chladni, a 17th century German scientist considered the grandfather of modern acoustic science.

Based on earlier observations that a large-scale landscape of repetitive burrows could dampen sound significantly, De Kort designed a series of hedges and ditches in an interlocking diamond pattern in the runways’ paths. The resulting 80-acre green space is the Buitenschot Land Art Park, which was completed in October 2013. Bike paths and sports fields are nestled within the park’s trenches and ridges, but the real beauty is that the park cut the decibel level of the ambient noise in half almost immediately. When tested in 2014, 35 noise monitoring points set up around the region recorded volumes that did not exceed desired levels.

De Kort’s designs may point toward the future of airport design. As Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan wrote about the park in Gizmodo Australia, “… as cities grow towards airports, and as airports begin to anchor entire new cities, odds are good that developers may turn to Schiphol for guidance before long. If you look at the world’s fastest growing cities, many of them are being planned around mega-airports, which themselves look more like small cities … than infrastructure.”

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