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.