Wednesday, June 6, 2007

What the Dutch context of Heerenveen feels like as I start work.

Its impossible now that I am here to avoid the Dutchness of the whole situation, and I mean – why would you. Its Surreal – you love it and hate it at the same time. This is the first time I will have lived in a Dutch country town and the experience of that, or the experience of the whole project I should say, will be indivisible. The nature of the community tells you a lot about the project. It is fundamentally operating as a community development project, and has all the tea and biscuit aspects that come with such projects. But what makes it exceptional, and why its really good to spend time with Louis is that you remember amongst how humble and invisible the project is, that it is an incredibly cerebral project, very speculative and engaging, and that there are not many community projects that are so patently about ideas.

Ok, so as a community project, there is an economic aspect to the project which is that it doesn’t exist financially. It is made up of Louis land and some council land and a few contra deals. I was supposed to be put up in those contra deals: a “farm house” that was actually more of a light industrial building. It was intended that this facility would be a visitors center, a place for visiting workers and have a library. Which they assure me it will have, but not until September. In the meantime they found a “bed and breakfast” for me and also for Thomas Richard, the German student who is also working here while I am. The bed and breakfast is basically the spare room (the attic) of a very nice Dutch woman and her Iranian partner. Angela and I had decided that the minimum I required was a bed and somewhere to close the door and work, and it is more than that, though I must work out how to operate the window. There is an intimacy to any place of residence in the Netherlands and so one finds space outside, which seems luxurious in comprison.

I have had a couple of stumoch clenching Duthcness when I have accidentally done something wrong in the pedestrian or bike realm. The segregation of space is so profound in NL because it has yielded a lot of space. The segregation of space results from a segregation of activity. Since I very first saw the Parc de la Villette project of OMA I became interested in a particular spatial organization that I have subsequently realized is a Dutch way of making space. Understanding it goes a long way for me to explain what both fascinates and scares me about the Dutch. In Kollhaas’ project he created long strips that were all parallel, running along next to each other. Each strip had its own character, likea desert garden, or a forest and if you move along their length then you seem to be in a large space. It is really just a long space but the continuity of it makes it seem extensive. On the other hand if you cut across the strips you discover enormous complexity and therefore there are careful controls along these strips to ensure the complexity does not surrender to chaos. Because the order is so simple, if it is kept to it can be easy, but everyone must use the same logic. When it works in an epiphany of bikes and cars and nature strips and housing strips – it is beautiful and spacious. It can also though feel a little suffocating and over determined. This is exactly why Le Roy did the Ecocathedral project, to create a space that is generated by man and nature but not by human political processes – by something much more visceral and ancient. Human toil and time. It is also a reaction to the Dutch way of thinking.

After going through a range of bike issues (potential purchase, borrowing a bike, it has a flat, hiring a bike, getting flat fixed), I have also discovered a place to work in a very chilled out coffeeshop in Heerenveen called Canupe. It is casual, timber, funky music and smoke, and crucially free wireless internet access. The people are very friendly and are interested in the Ecoccathdral personally also. There is a casual hippy vibe but it really feels like your living room. I will be coming in here in the evening to do my posts. I started today and there is so much to say before I even weigh into the content. My hands are dirty and its all very, very simple.


Dan said...

Ha ha!
You've experienced the idiocy of the velux window - no doubt the dual operation model that pivots not only from the top edge, but also from the centre... Handy when its snowing, but not so good for late night stealth missions.

You know, I used to have a small basket rigged up outside the kitchen window (I was in a loft apartment in Denmark) where I'd keep my beers cold in winter...

Anyhow, enjoying the blog, especially the fact that its the first one I've read that is not concerned with how the world doesn't understand the author's Emo tendencies and that dressing the same as everyone else is an expression of one's individuality...

Keep it up man!

kaviraj said...

Holland used to be a sexy country, full of curvy streams, curvy hedges and curvy roads, that respected the landscape and its features.
In the 60s the government instigated the ungodly plan to straigthen the country out - a process called 'ruilverkaveing' was started, in which farms were joined, to make bigger farms and land was swapped between them so that each would be more 'efficient'. In the process, the landscape was ruined, by straigthening out the curvy lines and removing copses of woods, little streams and curvy roads.
now it has a checkerboard dullness and the separation of space has gone too far. The Dutch mentality has striven too far away from cooperation with nature to her complete submission to what we demand of her.
As a result, the ecological balance has been completely upset - plagues of insects attack the boring monocultures and poisons try to restore that separation of space we demand.
Le Roy epitomises this separation of space in his constructions, but shows that in cooperation with nature, such things will not destroy the separation of space, but integrate it.
That is what i understand from what i see.