The exhibition Dissident Gardens contains a pavilion that houses materials from the archives of Het Nieuwe Instituut. They include designs for country houses and holiday parks by Van den Broek & Bakema, Hendrik Wijdeveld, Piet Blom, Gerrit Rietveld and Auke Komter, among others. They show our ambivalent relationship to nature: from immersion in and the subjugation of the landscape to the pursuit of sustainability and optimisation.
The exhibition Dissident Gardens views the garden as the site where mankind’s desire to control his environment clashes with his fascination for wild, untamed nature. Simultaneously, in the current era defined by digital technology and globalisation, gardens have become places of refuge and tranquillity. Dissident Gardens explores our relationship to nature today, the influence of technology and the role of the designer and architect. Technology and ecology have become interwoven, leading to a new understanding of the relationship between nature and culture.
For this exhibition, a selection has been made from the archives of designs for holiday parks and country houses. Holiday parks reflect the longing for the countryside: the desire to be at one with nature and to escape from everyday life. But they also show an ambivalent and constantly changing relationship to nature and the landscape. The tension between recreation and nature takes on ever-changing forms.
Urban leisure centre
The Netherlands has some 1500 holiday parks, the highest density of vacation centres in the world. Initially such camping sites were aimed at ‘social tourism’, which viewed primitive accommodation as the antidote to degenerate urban lifestyles. It was not until around 1960 that these idealist camps made way for holiday resorts with a focus on comfort and luxury. With its commercial and recreational facilities, the holiday park became a ‘concentrated urban leisure centre’ in which nature served merely as a backdrop to suggest the feeling of being in the countryside.
Playground for experimentation
Two strong Dutch design traditions come together in the holiday park: landscape design and housing design. The Netherlands has a tradition in which the landscape penetrates deep within these parks and housing projects. But the holiday park is also a playground for experimentation or even a catalyst for integral landscape development.
The architectural practice Van den Broek & Bakema was the regular designer for Sporthuis Centrum, which later became Center Parcs. At De Eemhof park (1980) near Zeewolde, they created a spectacular, artificial, island landscape with an unprecedented number of amenities. Firsts included a congress hall and the hypermodern ‘subtropical swimming paradise’. Today the holiday park is a catalyst for sustainable ecological solutions, such as improving the quality of waterways in Zeeland and forests on the island of Vlieland.
In addition to photographs and drawings of historical holiday parks from the archives of the Het Nieuwe Instituut, the exhibition also features designs for contemporary holiday resorts, including designs by H+N+S Landschapsarchitecten. In its designs, this practice strives for ecological improvement: to create a positive stimulus for nature with no negative ecological impact.
Picture Gallery: Jan Vrijhof and Piet Zwart
The selection of the images in this article is based on research conducted for the exhibtion. Not all of them will be on display in the Dissident Gardens exhibition in Gallery 1.
Sources and further reading
Mieke Dings. Tussen tent en villa. Het vakantiepark in Nederland 1920 - nu. nai010 Uitgevers, 2015.
Petra Brouwer. Vakantie als ruimtelijk ordeningsinstrument. Archined, 2016.
A series of three films about the background to the Pleasure Parks exhibition, containing interviews with curators from the Heritage department.