The (future) culture of the Dutch coast: Dare to differentiate
Essay commissioned by Atelier Kustkwaliteit (2012)
The background of this assignment was the need for rules and inspiration regarding Dutch coastal management, with the cultural qualities and opportunities as a starting point. One of the consequences of the postwar large scale spatial approach was the disappearance of local characteristics, peculiar to the region, in urban planning and landscape design. The Groningen social geographer Keuning’s notion ‘genre de vie’ was introduced as a tool for designing a differentiated and culturally variable location climate along the coast. Part two of this essay contains the onset of a method for the appreciation of the cultural as well as the cultural heritage values along the coast.
What is still intact or unique to such an extent that it should be preserved? Which elements might be changed within the existing context and be given a new life? The report `Beschouwingen betreffende de wederopbouw der Noordzee-badplaatsen’ (Observations on the reconstruction of North Sea resorts), drawn up in 1948 by the Rijksdienst voor het Nationale Plan (Government department for the National Plan) offers a fascinating retrospective view of the recreational profiles set up at the time for every seaside resort. In order to crystallise the notion ‘genre de vie’, part three of the essay contains six brief explorations along the Dutch coastline: an initial examination of the cultural peculiarities of six locations, leading to recommendations that could be useful when working on the coastal defence issue.
Marijke Bovens, report on the series of lectures for Platform 31, January 2013: "In a convincing plea for greater influence of cultural historians on future Delta works (no cultural historian participated in the Delta Committee), cultural historian Marinke Steenhuis emphasises even more explicitly that designing research is all about collecting knowledge. The Delta programme requires a design approach which includes heritage. In this connection attitude rather than retention is essential. Refuse to be limited by visual observation, but gather knowledge in respect of the location and its history. Make use of the Delta programme for a second reconstruction of the coast and the bathing culture, starting from local characteristics. The citizens of Zeeland have their dykes, those of Westland their aversion to recreational parks and hotels. Take that seriously, dare to differentiate. Create specific solutions for the areas concerned. And no, that doesn’t mean the affirmation of clichés. A smart researcher is capable of making a distinction between truth and fiction.”