Dubai is not the only place in the world where new land is being created. In Rotterdam construction has started of a massive extension southeast of the harbor into the North Sea. The plan, which is called ‘Maasvlakte 2’, adds new space to ship containers. It also introduces new beaches and new nature.
The new nature is to compensate for the old nature that being buried under the harbor extension. Like the first Maasvlakte, the second is basically an enormous horizontal slab of sand of up to five meters above sea level. It will be flatter than flat, enormously vast, highly boring, and avoid of any nature. What is being created is basically a big desert.
There are places with a little grass, some plants and trees. Those are the edges. The harbor itself is a tabula rasa. Sand, asphalt… that’s it. On top of this landscape there huge oil drums, sky-high cranes, containers, little buildings and fences as far as the eye can see.
The landscape has a highly sublime quality to it. Isn’t that ironic? The sublime landscape, as for instance David Caspar Friedrich painted it, celebrated the wild landscape. How can an industrial landscape contain the same beauty? I suppose it is the vastness of the landscape and the uncompromised rigor of it that the harbor has in common with ‘the wild’.
At one of the ‘hinges’ in the landscape of the first Maasvlakte the sea barrier folds back to form a bay. From this point one has a great view at the construction of the harbor extension. It is also the place where an information centre on the project has been build. At this point the cornerstone of this landscape, sand, is being replaced by concrete blocks and something else… Is it asphalt? It looks like a miniature natural landscape. Its morphology suggest this material was highly fluid at its creation.
The most fascinating aspect of the landscape is how it is being appropriated by the citizens of Rotterdam. At a sunny weekend the beaches are filled with people. On the dams there are fishermen. Along the dikes instant, linear campings develop. All pretty much illegal.
The beach is avoid of beach pavilions and coast guard. The sign on the dams saying ‘forbidden’ is ignored. And to camp in ‘the wild’, whether natural or industrial, is also not allowed in the Netherlands. But all this happens anyway.
From the city center of Rotterdam it takes three quarters of an hour to drive to a place at the edge of society. Here the law is still the law, but it’s being stretched a little. Just a little. A little freedom.
At times the peripheries of our cities seem to offer more urbanity than our hygienic, cleansed city centers. In contrast to the accidental recreation on the Maasvlakte, in the most representational street of Rotterdam, the Coolsingel, the natural grass has recently been replaced by artificial grass. The natural grass became too messy.
Here is a nice rendering of the Maasvlakte 2.