I started studying the way the Netherlands has changed in the last 100 years as part of my research into ‘Dutch Space is Different’. Never realised that a fat 70% of the non-urban space has been re-ordered and re-shaped in a period of no more than 80 years – from around 1920 up until 2000. It was the mighty – and almost noiseless – engine we call ‘ruilverkaveling’ that rolled over the land.

Land consolidation projects have rationalised, squared and straightened the countryside, radically adjusting agricultural farm structure in order to produce more efficiently. In later years other interests were added – historic patterns of land use, building new nature, tourism. But first and foremost, the straight line and the compact plot were king.

I happen to have firsthand knowledge of the process, having worked at the Dutch Kadaster and having been the boss-person of Kadaster land surveyors that powered the engine of redevelopment. I distinctly remember touring the semi-island of Schouwen Duiveland with my collegue from the Kadaster and the chairman of the Land Consolidation Committee. It was like driving around with God behind the wheel – for these two men, the land was plastic. They’d built a farm here, diverted a canal there, made a dike happen somewhere else. They never questioned the rightness of their effort – their right to re-make the land so it would bring forth even more potatoes, onions and turnips. I did have my reservations at the time, but the engine appeared un-stoppable.

Ruminating on this experience, I came to ask myself: what if we took this re-shaping of land one level up? In other words – what would the Netherlands as a whole look like if I applied a machine (an algorithm) to stretch its boundaries, flattten its shape, rationalise its contours? This led to a series of short stop-motion films that I’ve been having fun with all of last week. Posting one now, more to come a little later, I think.

By the way, the good people of WordPress need to re-think their strategy for moving GIF images – the WP way of dealing with images is not very user-friendly.

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