November 19, 2016

Dutch Geometry

A few more excerpts from Brilliant Orange, on the concept of space:

‘We discussed space all the time,’ says Barry Hulshoff. ‘Cruyff always talked about where people should run, where they should stand, when they should not be moving. It was all about making space and coming into space. It is a kind of architecture on the field. It is about movement but still it is about space, about organising space.

The football pitch is the same size and shape everywhere in the world, yet no one else thought about football this way. So why did the Dutch? The answer may be that the Dutch think innovatively, creatively and abstractly about space in their football because for centuries they have had to think innovatively about space in every other area of their lives. Because of their strange landscape, the Dutch are a nation of spatial neurotics. On the one hand they don’t have nearly enough of the stuff. Holland is one of the most crowded and most intensively planned landscapes on Earth. Space is an inordinately precious commodity, and for centuries the use of every square centimetre of every Dutch city, field and polder has been carefully considered and argued over. The land is controlled because as a matter of national survival it must be.

The land the Dutch made for themselves is extremely odd. ‘We live in a complete knot of artificialness,’ says influential landscape architect Dirk Sijmons. ‘What is nature and what is can’t say. The landscape is an abstraction in the sense that it is only points, lines and surfaces, like a painting by Mondrian. We live in a kind of inhabited mega-structure below sea level. It is a form of degenerated nature, but at the same time it is a beautiful landscape.’

‘How can a small country like Holland, one of the most crowded nations on Earth, offer space?’ he asks. ‘The answer lies in the Dutch ability to create new space — not only literally, in the form of new land reclaimed from the sea, but in the form of new political structures, new social compacts and new relationships between society, technology and nature. This ability to make space gives rise to a host of surprising hybrids: what seems natural — the land, for instance — is in fact artificial, and often what is man-made has become intertwined with nature.

. . . 

The Dutch make their geometric patterns. In a Vermeer, the pearl twinkles. You can say, in fact, that the twinkling of the pearl is the whole point of Vermeer. 

The whole painting is leading to this moment, the way the whole of football leads to the overhead goal of Van Basten...


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