June 3, 2013

Den Bosch turned old country road into nature preserve

Filed under: Bicycles,Nature by Branko Collin @ 12:47 pm

When the city of Den Bosch expanded eastward in the 1980s, it gobbled up an old stretch of Meuse dike called Heinis. Originally developers wanted to build a business park there, but protests put a stop to those plans.

Instead, the city decided to build around the area as Mark Wagenbuur writes:

For ages this country road ran through the fields, but the city expanded and new parts were built north and south of this east west road in the late 1970s. Residential areas to the north and an industrial area to the south. By 1980 the old road was suddenly in the middle of the city.

When this was still a real country road there were many rural houses on it. […] Many of the more contemporary houses were destroyed but all the monumental farm houses remained. There were so many of those that the road still has the atmosphere of a country road.

Motor traffic on the old road is now restricted, with bridges spanning gaps in the old dike to let bicycles across.

From a conservationist’s perspective, the area is important for its ‘wheels’ (I don’t think there is an English word for the phenomenon), small but sometimes deep ponds made by kolks breaking through dikes, what IVN/Vogel- en Natuurwacht ‘s-Hertogenbosch e.o. calls “mementos of the sometimes unsuccessful battle against water.”

Here is a Google maps link. Although I cannot show you many photos of the area, the link above to Mark Wagenbuur’s article also leads to a video of a bike ride through the area.

(Photo of a ‘wheel’ in Heinis by Geert Smulders who released it into the public domain)

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July 28, 2008

City in a crater: Project Indigo

Filed under: Art by Branko Collin @ 4:48 pm

There are some beautiful images of this fantasy city, a 2007 personal project of visualizer Jesse van Dijk, at the artist’s portfolio. Van Dijk writes about this wondrous city where daylight is something only the rich can afford:

My principle idea for this city came down to a (somewhat) harmonious society with huge differences in standards of living. Because flat ground is so expensive, only the super-rich can afford to live on top of the pillar, where the climate is nice and sun-hours are plentiful.

As one descends into the pit, the hours the houses are exposed to direct sunlight daily decrease, making house prices lower, which is why the poorest groups of society live at the bottom of the pit. However, people are not neccessarily unhappy at the bottom, there are still children playing in the water, etc. While there is crime (and more of it in the poorer/lower districts) it’s a time of peace, not war.

Thanks Laurent.

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July 26, 2008

Fence divulges all about man-nature relationship

Filed under: Architecture,Design,Nature by Branko Collin @ 7:50 am

The Olympiaplein in Amsterdam is located in my neighbourhood, the Olympic Quarter. I must have walked and biked past this spot dozens if not hundreds of times. And yet when I did so last week, the oddness of this fence struck me for the first time. Its builder and designer has taken special care to curve the fence around some of the trees, but has locked other trees out. It is clear that this was done on purpose, but not why.

Perhaps this is a reflection on the power of man over nature. Trees cannot walk, but even if they could, people would get to decide where. Or, more likely, it is a statement of the power of man over man. We, the city council, decide where our fences run. If we want them to zigzag, we’ll make them zigzag. If we want them to form obscene drawings to observers in outer space, obscene drawings it is. Or perhaps the architect merely mused on the nature of borders in general, with the rows of trees forming one border, and the rows of steel mixing in in an oddly compromising way.

In the end, the solution is far more prosaic. This fence, designed by Ruud-Jan Kokke, replaced its modest predecessor in 2007. The district council had decided to cut down 78 trees to make room for the fence, and this decision led to a storm of protest. Once the district of Oud Zuid had decided to give in to the complaints, the fence builders had already started (Dutch). The decision was then reached to have the fence curve out whenever it met with a tree. And so all my philosophies proved right, in the end, though not in a way I expected.

The city commissioned Gabriele Merolli to make a series of photos of The Fence, and he put them on the web.

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