Back - List of Pavilions

Netherlands - Expo Liege 1939

Netherlands at the Exhibition Expo Liege 1939
© Sentroul
Architect(s) : H.-C. Pieck

The PALAIS DES PAYS-BASES was built in the middle of the double carriageway on the left bank, against the Astrid Park. Its ground floor occupied one of the two carriageways and the median strip, while the upper floor spanned the other.

It was a very modern building with clean, precise lines, distinguished by the frankness of its construction. The framework, partly left visible, was not lacking in elegance in its nakedness.

The facades were clad in natural eternit slabs, giving a light grey tone of the most pleasing effect. On each of the side façades, a very decorative planisphere reminded us of the conquests of the famous Dutch explorers.

The architectural element provided by the tower and its lighthouse was truly original in its simplicity. The balcony traced a beautiful horizontal line under the bays of the first floor. The large display windows on the ground floor allowed for outdoor display. The interior layout was wonderfully well thought out. Everything was displayed with method and clarity. The large glass roof on the rear façade was completely covered with transparent photos showing the different phases of the drying of the Dutch soil over the centuries. It was classy decoration.


On the left bank of the Meuse, halfway between the Coronmeuse bridge and the main entrance, stood the magnificent Palace of the Netherlands. With a built-up area of 950 square metres, it spanned the main artery of the left bank and, together with the first floor, provided a gross exhibition area of 1,200 square metres.

Above the passageway, on the outside, two maps symbolised the participation. One represented the Dutch shipping lines, the other the voyages of exploration undertaken by Dutch pioneers.

Indeed, as we shall see, the Dutch participation was almost entirely devoted to navigation and the development of waterways. It is well known that in these areas the country has always been very active, both in our time and in the past centuries. But water plays a leading role in all economic and social life. All the country's trade, industry and agriculture depend on it. All these aspects had not been considered in the participation. Rather than dispersing their efforts, the organisers wanted to present carefully selected elements to create a symbolic demonstration of what the country can do in the field of water.

The Section was headed by Mr. J. P. van Vlissingen, Director General of the Rijkswaterstaat, Government Delegate. Mr. H. A. Hooft, Head of the Consular and Commercial Directorate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Participation, of which Mr. H. van Romburgh, Commercial Counsellor at the Netherlands Legation in Brussels, was Vice-Chairman. Dr. J. Visser, Legation Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, acted as Secretary. The architect was Mr. H. C. Pieck.


The ground floor of the Palace was occupied, in the main order, by the Ministry of the Waterstaat, whose participation was preponderant. In particular, the Zuiderzee Works Department, which is dependent on this ministry, had a separate stand. In addition, the Ministry of Social Affairs had a stand for public health on the ground floor.

Along the staircase leading to the upper floor, Dordrecht and Vlissingen had a number of photographs on display.

On the first floor, the important exhibition of the Lighthouse Service was on display. The Amsterdam and Rotterdam stands shared the side walls, while the centre was occupied by the Union of Metalworkers, the Central Dredging Company, the Province of Limburg and the National Tourist Office.

The Dutch Section therefore only had a dozen exhibitors: it is true that they were important!


Here is how these exhibitors were distributed, following the order of the General Classification.

In CLASSES 4 (RIVERS AND CANALS) AND 5 (TIDEWAYS AND SEAS), the Ministry of Waterways, the Zuiderzee Works Department and the Dredging Plant were included. Class 4 also included the Havenbelangen Foundation in Rotterdam (tunnel under the Maas) and the Union of Metalworkers (bridges, locks, etc.). Especially in class 5, the Lighthouse Service was present.

The stand of the Ministry of Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat) occupied a very important place in the Palace. The pièce de résistance was an impressive model (the largest dimension was 11 metres) of the main waterways in the Netherlands.

This model showed the waterway network in its new guise, by means of small electrically powered boats. Some secondary routes were also shown, and the whole was illustrated by a schematic representation of ports, industrial centres, airfields, lighthouses, lightships, etc. The model also showed the waterways that will be completed in the near future.

The main artery is the west-east Rotterdam-Lobith connection, the so-called Rhine-Waal. It is the busiest in the world (in 1937 no less than 84 million tons passed through it) and was improved between 1920 and 1925. Vessels of 4,000 tonnes with a draught of 3 metres can travel easily to Cologne and beyond.

The model also gave an idea of the Meuse's development and how it serves the coal basin in South Limburg. Via the Juliana Canal and the regulated Meuse, 2,000-tonne ships can reach the Rhine-Waal in four places: in Nijmegen via the Meuse-Waal Canal (1928), in Sint-Andries via the Sint-Andries Canal (1931), in Gorkum via the old blocked Meuse and in Moerdijk-Dordrecht via the Kil.

North of the main artery, the industrial centre of Twente is connected to the Rhine-Waal (Twente canals, 2,000 t.), and a canal from Amsterdam to the Rhine, for 4,000 t. vessels, is under construction. The connection between Amsterdam and Rotterdam via the IJssel and the Gouwe has been made accessible to 2,000 t. vessels.

The far north of the country, a centre of agriculture, industry and coastal shipping, will be connected to the Rhine-Waal, via Amsterdam and the IJssel (of Gelderland), also for 2,000 t. vessels.

This model was a good illustration of the efforts made by the Netherlands in recent years to develop and improve its waterways. It is well known that this country has the densest network in Europe and it is naturally keen to keep it up to date with progress and the needs of traffic.

Next to it, a place had been reserved for a model of a ferry boat. This new invention is now in use on the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal. The service is simple, fast and inexpensive. The ferry can be stopped immediately in case of danger and the level of the platform is independent of the water level.

Finally, the participation of the Waterstaat was complemented by a series of photographs of the major works carried out by this department (construction of bridges, locks, etc.). A stained glass window at the back of the Palace showed slides of the drainage works carried out by the Dutch in Europe over the centuries, the drainage works in the Netherlands and more specifically those of the Zuiderzee.

The Zuiderzee Reclamation Department showed the various stages of the reclamation process on a light map. A model of the newly designed reclamation mill for Urk, the development plan for the north-eastern polder and a cross-section of the large enclosure dike were also on display.

The Lighthouse Service, which is part of the Ministry of National Defence, was keen to demonstrate the efforts made in recent years to improve the lighting of the coast.

The first steps were taken in 1904 and led to the creation of a test station in Scheveningen in 1909, which opened up the possibility of photometric measurements and experiments of all kinds. Different types of lamps were successively developed and, among the results achieved, the percentage of days of the year when most of the large lights were visible within their geographical range rose from 25 to 40% to the current 60 to 80%.

A modern collection of lamps, lanterns and lenses was on display, as well as several models of lighthouses and lightships. From a technical point of view, the use of wireless technology was highlighted in the numerous applications that have led to important improvements, thanks to radio beacons, transmitters and receivers installed on board fireboats and pilot boats and on land, as well as to radio receivers for broadcasting on board fireboats.

Finally, a lighted map of the country showed the location of the main landing lights and radio beacons. At present, there are three radio beacons operating on the fireboats 'Terschellingerbank', 'Maas' and 'Noordhinder' and a fourth one on land at Umuiden.

The Amsterdam and Rotterdam participations naturally belonged to CLASSES 6 (INLAND PORTS) AND 7 (SEA PORTS).

The Amsterdam Municipal Trade Department (Gemeente-Handels-Inrichtingen) exhibited a large model on a scale of 1:2500 of the entire port complex with a reproduction of all the facilities and main services belonging to or connected with the port. In the background, a copper bas-relief depicted the urban agglomeration which is located at some distance from the port. By means of an electrical device, the visitor could make slides appear on the background of the model, reproducing the part or the installation of the port which held his attention in particular.

To the left and right were views of the port and relief maps showing communications with the hinterland. Numerous charts provided information on the maritime and Rhine traffic in the port of Amsterdam.

On the other hand, the Havenbelangen Foundation presented the port of Rotterdam. It had secured the cooperation of the city's Academy of Visual Arts and Technical Sciences. The stand consisted of five paintings. The large canvas in the middle showed the entry and exit of the port, with a map of the port in the centre. Two side paintings showed the loading and unloading of ships at anchor and in the quay.

The left-hand wall showed a map of Europe indicating Rotterdam's share of Rhine traffic. The right-hand wall showed that of the many seagoing vessels visiting the port, two-thirds are handled at the quayside and one-third at anchor.

A diorama completed the picture by giving an idea of the facilities seen from the cargo sheds.

Finally, a model was used to show how the elements of the tunnel under the Meuse, which is currently being completed in Rotterdam, are put in place and assembled underwater. It is known that this structure

It is known that this structure is built according to different principles than those applied for the tunnel under the Scheldt in Antwerp.

CLASS 9 (URBAN AND RURAL WORKS) was represented, in principal order, by the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Zuiderzee Works Department. The participation of the latter has already been described.

In the field of public health, the Ministry of Social Affairs presented the following elements
an overview map of the current state of the drinking water supply, with the designation of local and regional services
A general representation intended to highlight the State's concerns in this area, and the organisation of the National Drinking Water Supply Board
a map of the Province of North Holland with the network of pipes of the Provincial Water Board
Photos and models of water towers, as well as graphs on the consumption of drinking water in the country.

In CLASS 13 (WATER TECHNOLOGY AND ELECTRICITY), the Lighthouse Service, which we have already mentioned, was listed.
In CLASS 16III (MATERIALS AND TOOLS), the Union des Industriels Métallurgistes was listed, whose objects also fell under classes 16IV and 19.

The Union des Industriels Métallurgistes (Vereeniging van Metaal-Industrieelen) groups together both the large shipyards and the mechanical engineering workshops.

The stand featured models of the large liners "Nieuw Amsterdam" and "Sibajak", framed by slides showing the various activities of the exhibitors. The Barendrecht drawbridge, the IJmuiden lock (the largest in the world), photographs of dredges, cranes, turbines, etc. were all shown.

The builders also presented models of submarines and other warships, cargo ships and trailers, etc. Among the models was the Vreeswijk lock, one of the largest inland navigation locks in the world.

In CLASS 16IV (COMPANIES), in addition to exhibitors whose participation has already been discussed, such as the Union of Metalworkers, the Zuiderzee Works Department and the Port of Rotterdam, there was a remarkable and interesting participation by the Dredging Plant.

This stand was a collective participation of the Dutch dredgers (Vereeniging Centrale Baggerbedrijf). In addition to the major port works and the annual maintenance work, the regulation of the rivers and, above all, the work on the Zuiderzee should be mentioned. The titanic nature of this last undertaking was highlighted by some particularly striking figures, from which we shall retain that the earthworks amounted to more than 100 million m3. The current annual dredging work in the country amounts to an average of 30 million m3.

The visitor's attention was well drawn to the importance and value of the dredging material, as well as to the numerous works that Dutch contractors have carried out abroad.

In CLASSES 17 (INLAND NAVIGATION) AND 18 (MARITIME NAVIGATION), the already described contributions of the Waterstaat and the ports of Amsterdam and Rotterdam were particularly relevant. That of the Lighthouse Service was also included in class 18.

CLASS 19 (SHIPBUILDING) was represented by the Union des Industriels Métallurgistes, whose stand has already been described.

As for CLASS 23 (MATERIALS AND PROCESSES CONCERNING WATER TECHNOLOGY IN THE COLONIES), the Waterstaat was registered for certain work carried out in the colonies.

To CLASS 24 (SOCIAL ECONOMY), the stand of the Province of
of the Province of Limburg.

First of all, historical documents reminded us of the links that have existed between Liege and Dutch Limburg for many centuries.

Then, statistics and numerous photographs were used to characterise the industry and agriculture of this province, and illuminated maps gave an overview of the main communication routes by land and water, as well as the numerous ports located on the Meuse and the Juliana Canal. A large statue of Saint Servais symbolised the spiritual life of this part of the Netherlands.

Finally, in CLASS 27 (TOURISM), the National Tourist Office (N.V.V.) made a brilliant entry to show what the country has to offer in terms of tourism and water sports.

A model table showed the water centres of the southwest, west and northwest. The characteristic features of these regions were represented and numerous photographs illustrated the variety of attractions offered by water sports and tourism in the Netherlands. The stand also featured tourist maps from the Dutch Tourist Board (A.N.W.B.).


The organisers of the Dutch participation cannot be praised enough for the care they took to make it as brilliant as possible. The presentation was perfect and the objects of the highest value.

As we said in the introduction, this participation was strictly limited to certain characteristic aspects of the Exhibition programme. The main effort was made on civil engineering works, as well as on navigation and shipbuilding. Mention must be made of the Public Hygiene stand, the Limburg stand and the participation of Tourism.

Of course, the organisers cannot be blamed for systematically neglecting certain points in the programme. They dealt with the most important problems, especially those that were more related to the work on the Albert Canal, the inauguration of which was the occasion of the Exhibition. It is only regrettable that the Netherlands did not present anything in the field of fisheries, nor in that of water technology in the colonies. A contribution from this country to these two important elements of the programme would certainly have been of the greatest interest.

We cannot fail to mention the part reserved for artists in the development of the Palais. In the course of the detailed analysis, we have had the opportunity to cite numerous works of decorative art. We would particularly like to highlight the participation of the Havenbelangen Foundation (Rotterdam). It showed a remarkable artistic care that was a credit to the academy to which the collaborating artists belonged. The attraction of the ensemble was not only the paintings themselves, but also the mosaics, cut-outs, special lighting and dioramas created for this purpose. During the first half of August, the Palace was decorated with a profusion of gladioli supplied by the Union of Gladiolus Growers of the country.

As with the other national sections, we have included a detailed table of the awards given by the International Jury to the Dutch exhibitors. It shows that the official exhibitors received 89% of the first category awards and the private exhibitors 50%.

However, it is easy to see that these figures do not reflect the actual quality of the exhibits. Indeed, among the awards given, there were only Grand Prizes and Diplomas of Honour! The percentages, which express the ratio between the number of high awards and the total number of exhibitors registered for the competition, are strongly influenced by the relatively high number of exhibitors who did not receive an award, mainly due to downgrading. They are therefore entirely theoretical.

In addition, 24 exhibitors, mostly artists, were awarded individual prizes, of which 1 was awarded the Gold Medal, 2 the Silver Medal and 21 (the artists) the Special Diploma.

© General Report - International Water Technology Exhibition - Liege 1939