by Jeroen van der Vlist
Chief Operations Officer (COO)

March 16, 2017

Jeroen Van der Vlist

Except Integrated Sustainability, along with our partners at the municipality of De Marne, Groningen province, Staatsbosbeheer, and the Pieterburen Seal Center, conceptualized the glorious Wadden Sea World Heritage Center. Located in Lauwersoog, the project creates a unique experience of the Wadden Sea and Lauwersmeer National Park, aiming to attract over 250,000 new visitors to the region per year. Except managed the process from idea, via stakeholder management and concept development, to a fully supported and investible program and concept design.

The final design for the center, by Danish architect Dorte Mandrup

The Wadden Sea is a large, shallow area of the Dutch coast, surrounded by lush farmland and small coastal islets. It is a UNESCO-listed world heritage site, and in 2016, revealed by a survey to be thought of as the most beautiful natural area in the entire country.

The beauty and importance of the area are undeniable, but currently, there is no experience center for the Wadden Sea in the Netherlands. There is a necessity and opportunity for something remarkable to take place.

In 2016, in cocreation with a team of 27 different local partners, Except develop a vision and concept for Waddenworld, a UNESCO Experience Center. Following the release of our concept and project plan in 2018, the center received full approval of €29 million in funding in 2021. A subsequent architecture selection chose Dorte Mandrup's final architectural design for the center. It is a spectacular example of experience-led environmental education, and its consistent achievements continue to add to its global fame.

Waddenworld's goals

The center's core aim is to generate awareness and crucial support to help protect the unique environmental qualities of the Wadden Sea. It achieves this by:

  • Offering a complete "Wadden Sea experience."
  • Taking on an educational role while showcasing innovation and research.
  • Identifying itself as one of, if not the most important, sea-research center in the Netherlands.
  • Standing out as a unique experience center to help increase knowledge and appreciate ecology and the great outdoors.
  • Remaining adaptable to the differing trends and needs of its visitors.

Economic ambitions

  • To strengthen the regional economy by attracting up to 250,000 annual visitors.
  • To provide the local harbor town of Lauwersoog added sustainability.
  • To significantly extend the more traditional tourist seasons.
  • To maintain independent operation and autonomy.  
Waddenworld Harbour FINAL_DM_small.jpg
Wadden Center final design by Dorte Mandrup

The Waddenworld structure

The interactive buildings that make up the center are a story unto themselves.

The central structure primarily offers shelter, heating, and support. The winning architectural design developed by Dorte Mandrup. Most experiences occur in the surrounding pavilions, each unique in style and story.

The clever design guarantees year-round energy conservation and the layout and design can change by adding or modifying existing pavilions. Regarding decoration and art on the inside, expositions are regularly exchanged via programs with other sea centers in Germany and Denmark to keep experiences fresh and exciting.

The design of the center ensures a positive impact on its surrounding environment. Not only does it respect its environmental impact but its place in the local community, providing a place to connect with entrepreneurs who want to help preserve and spread interest in the region surrounding Lauwersoog harbor. Boosting the income and reliability of the local economy are essential to the center's sustainability.

Thanks to all our partners, diligent entrepreneurs, and support initiatives, Waddenworld building helps this region develop one of the most significant tourist attractions in the Netherlands.


Revealing the unseen

The UNESCO World Heritage Center Wadden Seas is located on the northern Dutch coast and is the epicenter of all tourism activities.

Here, one can observe and interact with what usually remains invisible to the general public - from rare water microbes to the subtle details of how the landscape has gradually taken shape over centuries. Waddenworld helps visitors get a deeper understanding of lifecycles over time, the power of water, and the beautiful diversity of nature.

Visitors learn this through immersive experiences that encourage them to see and feel the world beneath an open sky. The center uses stories to help portray and instigate these unique insights.


The world-renowned center offers a range of experience-focused excursions led by local entrepreneurs who openly share their homeland with their guests.

Visitors often stay in the area for several days to immerse themselves in the area and ensure they have time to experience as much as possible. Activities include audio-backed and guided cycle routes, water expeditions, wild seal watching, and stargazing tours. Storytelling and puzzle-based boat tours of the region's sea and lakes encapsulate the very different but equally spectacular salt and fresh water environments.


Inside the center itself, visitors are taken up to the Panorama Tower and into the sky to observe and somewhat experience the perspective of the local bird population. 

From high to low, the Wadden Sea Experience gets down and dirty by showing visitors how to analyze the unseen life in the region's soils and why the life they also support are so special.

The 'Wad Hall' tells stories from a range of stakeholders located on or nearby the Wadden Sea, ranging from technical and innovative stories to the diverse food markets. Meanwhile, a stroll along the boulevard, art projects, diners, and restaurants offer their own and equally impressive experiences.

  • "Waddenworld provides an important place where one can experience and learn about the interconnected complexities of our environment. To build more sustainable societies, people need places like this to begin to understand the significance of our shared history with nature and become inspired about protecting the future."


Research and wildlife rescue

The center has its own field station, which reinforces international marine research, knowledge, and entrepreneurship in the Wadden Sea region.

Researchers working with Waddenworld experiment on innovative sustainability-focused projects, nature conservation, and technology that aim to protect and preserve the ecology of the region. The center's facilities and philosophy attract a vast range of scientists and students from across the globe.

While it is primarily a research facility, utilizing state-of-the-art labs and the surrounding natural environment, the center also has world-class animal care for locally wounded or sick marine animals.

Jeroen Van der Vlist
by Jeroen van der Vlist
Chief Operations Officer (COO)

March 16, 2017

Client & Partners

Project team

  • Emma Westerduin

    Architect and Project Manager

  • Jeroen van der Vlist

    Chief Operations Officer (COO)

  • Tom Bosschaert


  • Luca Gennari

    Environmental Engineering Consultant

  • Libera Amenta

    Urban Planner, Metabolism & Circularity
    Except Integrated Sustainability

  • Mirjam Schmüll

    Urban strategist, process manager
    Except Integrated Sustainability

  • Mirjam Snitjer

    Project Assistant
    Except Integrated Sustainability


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