Winner, Beyer, and Meyer’s Perspectives of Holland

Hoefnagel, Joris. Map of Amsterdam, from “Civitates Orbis Terrarum” by Georg Braun (1541-1622) and Frans Hogenburg (1535-90), c.1572 (coloured Engraving).

Winner describes the Dutch soccer of the 1990s to have space as their “unique defining element” (44). He claims that the Dutch soccer team sought to find space and take space whenever available. The Dutch soccer team had a system where they attacked the halfway line instead of the protecting their goal which resulted in less running and resulted in, typically, two goals in the first five minutes. Winner also claims just like the Dutch soccer team is concerned about space, so has Holland since WWII. He claims that the Dutch have put their faith in a series of National plans known as the National Spatial Planing Acts (in English). These are blueprints concerning the use of space that are to be followed by “every local and municipal authority in the Netherlands” (49). Winner ends the article and his point by drawing back to Dutch’s soccer team in its height in 1995 and the photographer, Van der Meer, who captured their great use of space. He also concludes that the Dutch landscape as Van der Meer saw it was too precise and mathematical about space.  Winner highlights how der Meer believed that the Dutch landscape from the air is so straight and precisely laid out as if it is a posting of Mondrian. 

Beyer uses the route that he takes to his office from his home as he sees it as platform of how he explains the Netherlands to be laid out. He also focuses on the history of Holland first and uses that to explain how the Netherlands was created and became successful. He explains how they first had to fight “back the sea and the rivers to make land” (12), because this area once was a swamp. He claims after the construction of the city was completed the focuses was shifted to political matters and trading their agriculture. This focus of trade and agriculture resulted in great wealth for the Netherlands. Unfortunately, their struggles were not over because they are located at the end of a river and must “accept the current and winds that flowed over the land from elsewhere” (16). This resulted in great loss of power and wealth that they had gained. He explains that the Dutch managed to fight their way back because the public cared and the government took initiative in the 1990s. Rem Koolhas founded the Office for Metropolitan Architecture and was integral part in the cites great architectural landscape of today exclaims Beyer.

Meyer, similarly to Beyer focuses on the history of the Netherlands and their struggles  with their landscape because of the surrounding water. Meyer explains how the hydraulic technology and the engineering if the dikes, drainage, and pumping system give the “polder character of its own” (63). He illuminates how the water management system of today has positively impacted the agricultural demands of Holland. He finishes chapter three by suggesting that the structure of the landscape should again follow the “fine Dutch tradition” of “usefulness, durability and beauty” (63). In the fourth chapter, Beyer explains that the Dutch deal was impacted by its natural landscapes and the development of the nation-state. He explains how the landscape project of modern day began at a top-down approach and shifted away from that policy as hydraulic interventions and local urban development became a focus. He concludes that hydraulic engineering, urban planing and development, and local, regional, and international authorities are the key players in the Dutch delta’s landscape of today as they were twenty years ago. Moreover, they are the key to success in any delta of the world today. 

Winner, Beyer and Meyer all see that space was a valued and focused area of the Dutch landscape, and the way it was constructed from the start. Beyer and Meyer take a more academic approach than Winner. They explain the history of the Netherlands and its struggles and successes of a landscape through that. Meyer is the most traditional of the three and does not really stray at all from the sole focus of Holland’s landscape and history. Beyer strays a little and explains some of Dutch’s landscape through his eyes and through his route to work from his home. Winner strays the most from traditional and typical academic writing. He uses a fun and interesting turn on explaining how Holland used space in strict and great way architecturally just like their soccer team did in the 1990s at their height. These different approaches work well together despite their difference in approach, because they all see the significance in how the Netherlands utilized space and worked around the land’s difficulties of the surrounding water.


4 thoughts on “Winner, Beyer, and Meyer’s Perspectives of Holland

  1. Nice summaries, including your note about their differing styles. Winner is definitely journalistic writer, but man, how many sports writers know the art history literature and can analyze Dutch photography? What do you think about the way he handles art? Do you find resonances with anything you’ve read in the past two weeks? What might Brusati, say, or Grootenboer think of Winner’s argument? As for Betsky (note correction) and Meyer, et al., you’re right that they’re both academic, but what differences do you see in their approaches or writing styles? Betsky’s is a sort of stream of consciousness, right? How does that seem “academic” to you? You’re right–he’s an architect and scholar of architecture, but this seems like a more informal narrative, right? What effect does that have on his interpretation?


  2. Hi Claire! I think you do a great job describing the articles. Joseph, are you posing the question “does the land shape the character or the character perpetually shape the land”? All three articles do show how the Dutch utilize space and how their limited land affects their life. You go on to talk about the modern water systems and the top down approach — why do you think that the need to focus on space and landscaping dissipated once hydraulic systems were developed?? I’m not sure if I’m wording this properly but I’m wondering if the development of new water technology changes the culture too. The Beltsky book may be touch on this. Like Joseph said, you raise an interesting point about the cycle between the importance of space and societal values.


  3. Hi Claire! It definitely all comes back to space and the use of space in these article, doesn’t it? Everything from soccer to land development in Dutch history is rooted in having to redefine—and being defined by—the space that’s available. I thought that that idea of the new “character” created after new land was created was especially interesting, and I hadn’t thought of that sort of cycle between space and society that these articles brought up.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s