No progress

Seen on Dutch television on Sunday 16 August 2015:

The Dutch landscape architect Adriaan Geuze (1960) was guest in last week’s edition of ‘Zomergasten’ (‘’Summer Guests’) on Dutch television. The long interview, inlivened by video and short films, took almost three hours. Geuze showed fragments of documentaries on the Oosterscheldewerken, the building of the Afsluitdijk, the dust bowl in the Mid-West, his study of the transformation of the landscape along the A4 near Leiderdorp, the paintings of Piet Mondriaan, the music of Al Green, Ayaan Hirshi Ali, the Dutch poet Ter Balkt, dolphins. He complained about the loss of the unique Renaissance polders south of Rotterdam, he was furious about the ‘undemocratic’ transformation of the exurban landscape along the A4 motorway near Leiderdorp. “It is not possible to recreate in those zones any longer”. No one had asked for it, he snorted. No one agreed on it. It was all the fault of planners with their stupid procedures. Leave it to engineers, he pleaded. The Dutch created their own land. So let’s create new land! (Let’s become heroic again!) His calvinist background made him deadly serious about all this. Good and evil, there was not much in between.

It was exactly the same story he told us some twenty years ago, in 1997, when Geuze was the curator of an exhibition in the Groninger Museum. In ‘90.000 pakjes margarine, 100 meter vooruit!’ the young architect had built a real showpiece, a panegyric on the heroic designing of the Dutch landscape, while accusing the Dutch planners of spoiling the countryside. Especially the huge pile of planning reports somewhere in the middle of the exhibition was telling in that sense. The babyboomers, the angry young man complained, had lost themselves in endless deliberation. Paper, procedures, nothing had come out of it. Let’s design the new landscape! Let’s draw new land and stop those planners. That’s why it was really disappointing seeing ‘Zomergasten’ last week: that after all those years, Geuze, now 55 years old, had made no progress in his thinking. Twenty years of neoliberalism in the Netherland in which planning had been abolished (and with his blaming the planners, Geuze had showed himself a true advocate of neoliberalism in the Netherlands). Why still accusing those planners? Or is it ‘the edifice complex’ of an ingenuous designer? Geuze: “The world has become very, very complex.”





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