The Netherlands is a densely populated country combining a high standard of welfare with a great democratic tradition. It could well be the prime example of a country that has always had to (and knows how to) mold the environment to suit its will. It's a country that time and time again has won more land from the sea. Perhaps in the near future extra space will be found not just by increasing the country's width but by expanding vertically. This kind of operation would seem to be applicable to many more countries. It raises questions of global significance. Can increasing population densities coexist with an increase in the quality of life? What conditions should be satisfied before such increases in density take place? What role will nature, in the widest sense, play in such an increase in density? Is not the issue here "new nature," literally and metaphorically? This kind of effort can be the Netherlands' specific contribution to the ecological spectrum of the World Fair in Hannover 2000, which seems to be devoted particularly to a nostalgic glimpse of ecology: a simple critique of technology and the consumer society, of asphalt and machinery. What the Dutch entry shows is precisely a mix of technology and nature, emphasizing nature's make-ability and artificiality: technology and nature need not be mutually exclusive, they can perfectly well reinforce one another.
Nature arranged on many levels provides both an extension to existing nature and an outstanding symbol of its artificiality. It provides multi-level public space as an extension to existing public spaces. And even by arranging existing programs on many levels it provides yet more extra space, at ground level, for visibility and accessibility, for the unexpected, for "nature." Dividing up the space in the Dutch entry and arranging it on multiple levels surrounds the building with spatial events and other cultural manifestations. The building becomes a monumental multi-level park. It takes on the character of a happening.
The fact that this kind of building does not yet exist means that it also gets to function as a laboratory. It not only saves space, it also saves energy, time, water and infrastructure. A mini-ecosystem is created. It's a survival kit. Of course, it also tests existing qualities: it attempts to find a solution for a lack of light and land. At the same time the density and the diversity of functions builds new connections and new relationships. It can therefore serve as a symbol for the multi-faceted nature of society: it presents the paradoxical notion that as diversity increases, it seems so too does cohesion.
FROM UTOPIA TO DISTOPIA
The 2000 Hannover World expo fair was not received with big enthusiasm. The number of visitors was much lower then expected and suggested in advance. Did it lack inspiration? The situation somewhere in the middle of Germany - a political choice: the center of west and the newly united east part of Germany - within a very provincial and moderating town did not help in that. It is not very attractive. There is no reason to be there. After the expo, the unemployment rate radically increased. People stared to leave the region. Who can under those circumstances invest the maintenance of the expo? Almost none of the buildings were being re-used afterwards. Many of them were broken down. Except the Dutch. Why? Had it become indeed a monument? The Dutch pavilion remained as a solitude element within a landscape that looked after the fall of a nuclear bomb. Fences were erected around the building. Lifts, trees and windmills were dismantled. Thousands of birds started to inhabit the vacant structure. Squatters (other birds) started to live in the floors. Partyseekers started to use the forest. It became a real park so to say. This distopia was not so bad. It became a ruin in the best German tradition. As in Heine's poems or in Goethe's memories, a new ruin was born! We could already imagine a structure overgrown with ivy... The secret discussion on its future, found its current apocalypse in September 2005. Finally it has been sold. Through eBay.