Winner centers this whole chapter around the Dutch soccer team’s use of space above all else. He argues that the team’s unique mindset is rooted in centuries-old Dutch land use and reclamation practices; they take the space they are given, and they pioneer techniques to redefine it. He describes this reengineering of pitch space as “a conceptual revolution based on the idea that the size of any football field was flexible and could be altered by a team” (44). Winner writes that Dutch artists have also long been obsessed with understanding exactly how much space they have to work with and making the most of it, especially in architecture painting.
Aaron Betsky’s quick tour of Dutch architecture history begins with his daily bike ride through Rotterdam. Partway through his description of the dizzying variety of architectural styles from various periods, he writes, “My neighborhood is not as simple as its planners had imagined,” (20). This, I think, contains much of his main argument; space in the Netherlands, especially in bigger cities like Rotterdam, was very carefully planned, but the circumstances have changed so much from era to era that the architecture is not nearly uniform. I always think history is best told as a story, so I think his winding narrative tour was an excellent way to tell this story.
Meyer’s account of Dutch land reclamation and development in the two chapters we read this week is much more detailed and technical—I have to imagine he works in academia to take such a deep dive into urban planning and the ins and outs of these engineering stories. In chapter 3, he’s actually pretty much chronological in explaining how the land was drained and made habitable, and chapter 4 gives us a clearer picture of what types of cities developed where based largely on how the land was reclaimed—e.g. dike towns, polder towns, dam towns—and then an explanation on how shifting geography reshaped social, economic, and political structures.
All three of these writers definitely focus heavily on how the Dutch make brilliant use of the space they have. Using that connection, I think they do work very well together to paint a picture of how the idea of space as something limited and valuable but always flexible has seeped into every corner of the Dutch consciousness and shaped the way they view and interact with the world.