The Dutch: Empire of Necessity

The way space, nature, and design interact is critical to planning both rural and urban areas. While Dutch design leads the way in adapting to utilizing the environment, there are valid historical examples of architecture adapting to and utilizing the environment to further human gain and pleasure. The most relevant one that comes to mind is industrial revolution era mills that used water to support the creation of textiles during that time.



The ingenuity of harnessing the natural powers of the environment was groundbreaking at the time. Where Dutch design and ingenuity diverged was where it was unique. Hollanders had far less space to work with than Americans, or the British even. One of the main takeaways from Betsky and Euwen’s False Flat: Why Dutch Design is so good is that the confluence of nature, design, architecture, and planning did not impede the Dutch, it emboldened them, and it taught them lessons that would make them into a more space-efficient and environmentally conscious people.

This consciousness led the Dutch to create wonders of design. There were and are many forces at play which led to this. One of many was the centralization of government. This consolidation made more resources available to invest in improved water ways and other forms of infrastructure that facilitated the culture and economic conditions necessary for the Dutch State to survive. (Meyer, 76-77)

Another impetus that led to Dutch infrastructural and design advancement was simply necessity. The terrain dictated that the Dutch be efficient and utilize their environment in a way that was conducive to their way of life. In the same way, the United States did not have the same need, and did not develop in same way. Regardless, both ended up with funny intersections like roundabouts.


In addition to the idea of design and the confluence of factors that catalyzed Dutch ingenuity, how these ideas have been presented has influenced the discussion of design and otherwise. Meyer’s delta urbanism was presented in a very academic style. The writing is not necessarily stifling, but is less accessible than Berger’s first person narrative. The narrative voices of Metz and Davidson, on the other hand, read more like a story to me. They read like a story, but also were technical and personal.

The presentation might affect the analysis, but for the better. The less cumbersome the read is on the reader, the more information can be absorbed. I am strongly of the opinion that the presentation for anything matters — and that while clunky academic writing exists, engaged, thoughtful, and compelling writing is what turns heads and changes hearts.

The Dutch built and designed in their unique style because of their surroundings. This helped them to innovate and create a national identity. The studies of Dutch design and architecture vary in style and presentation, which then affects how the material is taught.


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