watergoed (1999)

the 'weerribben' nature reserve is situated in the north-west of the dutch province of overijssel. it is a landscape consisting of freshwater wetlands and marshes that came into being when the practice of peat dredging ended and extends over approximately 3000 hectares. to protect this nature reserve from dehydration and to create an ecological zone linking with similar marsh areas a number of adjacent fields will be turned into new freshwater wetland nature reserves that collectively cover an area of around 600 hectares. my preliminary design is a proposal for the layout of these new nature reserves. they are emphatically intended to provide new opportunities for experiencing nature. accordingly, this new natural beauty should be made accessible to nature lovers. to a limited extent, however, since the area must not become overcrowded. an exception is made for a few small sanctuaries where the natural beauty exists purely for its own sake and that remain inaccessible to human beings, even to conservationists and scientists. i view nature as our primary reality and the experience of nature as a fundamental value. the densely populated modern country of the netherlands needs much more natural beauty than it has at the moment. the present plan leaves room for further additions in future.

in the new nature reserves the artificially controlled water level will be significantly raised to achieve a closer approximation of the natural water level of the 'weerribben'. terraces will be laid out at various heights from 1.2 metres below to 0.9 metres above water level. different vegetations will develop out of the various ecological starting points. a few spots will exceed this height and depth. in the long run this artificially laid out, culturally selected differentiation will be erased by nature itself (a more perfect situation!). some parts of the shallow wetlands will gradually rise as a result of plant deposits. in this process the water level will be raised further to an even more natural situation. after 80-to l00 years the area will probably have grown into one extensive older marsh as a result of succession.

the terrace layout is designed according to a block pattern that employs plots of 150 by 150 metres. the level of each block will not be determined subjectively but using a scientific random method (objectivization through randomness has played an important role in my work since the 1960s).

between the blocks, an irregular ditches network will be created that is also designed using the random method. this creates a water labyrinth for canoes and also - as a result of the irregular influx of external water - a greater ecological diversity.

at one location a linked area of several blocks will be reserved for expanding reed cultivation. this is a regional tradition that is closely related to nature.

an existing forest will be made more attractive for hikers and made accessible for small boats. at some spots the landscape will be enlivened by facilities for small ships, hikers, cyclists and in other ways.

a special observation and meditation spot will be formed by a water lily pond, dedicated to the memory of gustav theodor fechner, the nineteenth-century physicist and philosopher and author of nanna, or the spiritual life of plants.

extensive footpaths will be laid out, leading over dams, planking and bridges. existing bicycle tracks will be essentially maintained, and preferably semi-paved. all asphalted roads for agricultural tarnsport and motor vehicles will be removed from the new nature reserve.

at some spots on the fringes of the reservation houseboats and small camping sites will be situated in such a way that it is possible to be in the natural landscape without disturbing nature.
furthermore, various differentiations are proposed for the fringe zones.

i view this entire work as an integration of concrete art, various scientific disciplines and philosophy.

(eschenau, august-september, 1998)

source: herman de vries, 'summary', written in 1998 and published in watergoed kop van overijssel (Esselink Stichting : Zwolle/Mondriaan Stichting : Amsterdam 1999) 39.

See also:
Govert Grosfeld, 'Herman de Vries en het ontwerp voor een nieuw natuurgebied', in Open no. 4 'Kunst in het veranderende landschap' (2003) 50-55 (ill.)

"Het Watergoed", meervoudig ruimtegebruik in de vorm van een kunstwerk / Hendrik Abbing, Rudie Peeten (Grontmij Overijssel : Zwolle 2001) (ill.).