‘More dreams about the future design of the Netherlands’

Sven Stremke – associate professor of Landscape Architecture, finds imagination lacking in the latest advice from the Board of Government Advisors.
BOTTOM UP (c) Bureau Verkuylen, Braining the Future en Wolters Vastgoed Imagination? There is plenty of imagination in this submission for a design competition on the energy landscape of the future. Illustration by Braining the Future

The government advisory body on spatial quality, the Board of Government Advisors, issued new recommendations last week. The topic is the interaction between energy infrastructure and space, a domain that associate professor of Landscape Architecture, Sven Stremke, has studied for years. What are his views on the recommendations?

Aren’t these recommendations a little late?
‘Within The Hague’s concept of time, the document is timely. But, in practice, many important decisions on the energy infrastructure are well underway. In that respect, these recommendations would have been better timed a few years ago. The Board did indicate, however, that the energy infrastructure is decisive in the design of the Netherlands, as can be seen in the exploratory Via Parijs document released in 2019.’

But there was little response?
‘It took a while before The Hague responded, yes. The Netherlands has only recently adopted an Energy Network Programme (Dutch acronym: PEH). This advisory document was written at the behest of that programme.’

What are your views on the report’s content?
‘I am somewhat surprised by how technical it is. The Board puts forward some recommendations, all of which are valid: ‘take the rising sea levels into account’; ‘formulate a view on the principal economic structure’; ‘focus on a more European and regional energy system’. At the same time, these recommendations are rather self-evident and not what you would expect from the Board of Government Advisors. I miss the link with our future living environment: our landscapes and villages. I miss imagination.’  

In this piece, the Government Advisors reveal very little of their dreams, and, worse still, they employ political language  

What do you mean?
‘This piece appears to aim at putting the spatial dimension of the energy transition on the agenda. In my perception, that realisation is widely shared. Now is the time for bigger ideas, dreams and new perspectives. I find it hard to imagine that the government advisors are not doing just that. But in this piece, the Government Advisors reveal very little of their dreams, and, making matters worse, they employ political language. Having said that: I do believe that the Energy Network Programme benefits from this piece. We are not the target group.’

What would you like the Board to dream about?
‘About how the energy transition can be used repeatedly as leverage to address other societal issues such as the nitrogen crisis, sustainability in agriculture and the need for more ecological links between nature reserves. Considering the piece is entitled Lever for a clean future, the Board does seem to see this potential, but fails to detail it any further.’

Inspiration for your new book?
‘At the beginning of October, Landscape Architecture lecturer Dirk Oudes, Paolo Picchi (Amsterdam University College for Fine Arts)  and I will publish the book Power of Landscape. This book highlights many examples of how energy goals contribute to solutions for other societal issues. If we succeed in making the right combinations, the energy transition offers ample opportunities.’

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