Designing the transformation of the Dutch territory

The first wind farms were positioned in the corners of our country. More and more, they will enter the domain of our daily lives. Confrontations between the comfortable old and the scale of the renewal are confusing, though unavoidable. Vision and progressive thinking are essential for this.

The Enlightenment brought to us a series of ideas that focused on reason as the primary source of knowledge and new ideals such as freedom, progress, tolerance, brotherhood and separation of state and faith. That period was characterized by an emphasis on scientific methods and reductionism, along with an increased survey of beliefs -an attitude laid down by the expression Sapere Aude (Dare to know).

These look like messages from times long past. Today, we experience the opposite situation; an emotional era, in which an opinion is often highlighted more than knowledge, regardless of content and multiple realities that are not seen as new ways of living but as a serious threat. Similar to a new period of the Middle Ages, darkness and confusion seem to dominate. The power is on the hands of those who will be able to mobilize crowds and opinions.

The paralyzing issues

For centuries, we have organized our territory and created the conditions for freedom and progress. Forging a society. We fought the water, organized our logistics and put things in place, just as it should be.

It is more than 50 years since the last Dutch national plan. In fact, the Netherlands has gradually moved from the late 1960s’ highly ambitious versions of national plans towards an era of weakened national spatial planning and uncoordinated interventions on a local scale. During that process, visions showed a decreasing tendency to intervene, until the point of full liberalization of decentralization and deregulation was reached.

This eroding trend intersects with an increasing number of issues with a wider impact. The paradigm of paralysis. The more complex the world and the more need for action, the opposite seems to happen. In the absence of a plan, global problems are tackled by evasion and decomposition, leaving society confused.

Designing freedom

Project Holland wants to make the planning more precise, holistic and idealistic. We do not believe that a reversal of our planning tradition is possible, certainly not in the short term. But we think we can contribute to passing a tipping point soon. We are optimistic that there is a broad understanding of larger themes with a spatial impact. The population is growing, the sea level is rising and the energy transition is in full swing, to name a few. No moralism or scepticism is needed to study the effects of changes. We advocate that our pragmatic nature is not to ask why but to decide how.

It’s about conquering our freedom again. Our fundamental, unprejudiced feeling that the future of our territory and the corresponding possibilities are in our hands.

The transformation of the Dutch territory

As the scale and complexity of contemporary problems are continuously growing, it is only a matter of time until we scale-up our way of addressing urgent challenges and solving current and future problems. Our freedom lies in the space between the cities. Man-made, canonized, exploited, but basically unseen. A constructed landscape by nature. An economic environment created for our own use and arranged according to time-bound laws.

According to this principle, this neutral and non-ideological common ground of the available rural and peri-urban land will dominate the modus operandi of theorists and practitioners and allow large-scale interventions. Transformations that extend beyond administrative boundaries, distinct land use and contrasting spatial configurations. Our landscape will then serve as a field for interventions that feed our cities, provide energy and material for the continuation of our own future and provide fertile ground for new legislation, broader administrative boundaries and intense cooperation.