Harro de Jong (Buro Harro) about the Bartokpark in Arnhem
"Ten years ago I came to live and work in Arnhem. I found this city to be fantastic, beautifully situated on the Veluwe and on the Rhine. I was exulted about the landscape, but when I told this to residents of Arnhem they looked at me strangely. Most did not see the city at all as part of the Veluwe. For them, Park Sonsbeek was not an offshoot of the Veluwe landscape; the Veluwe, that was the Hoge Veluwe. The city itself did not profile itself in this way. In policy documents and visions, the northern edge of the city was only shaded and indicated as "forest." I went to investigate. From the Sonsbeekpark it seemed like a three-day walk to Harderwijk, right through the Veluwe. But there were virtually no physical connections from the city, you have to cross major barriers, such as the Schelmseweg. In short: I noticed little awareness and pride among the people of Arnhem in terms of the landscape in which their city was situated. "
"I wanted to do something about it in two ways. First of all, set up a cultural enclave on two old military sites. This is how we moved Arnhem to the Veluwe. Secondly, we wanted to move the Veluwe into Arnhem. Arnhem Central Station - which had been in the pipeline for years at that time - was a major building site. How fantastic would it be if you could construct a heathland landscape on that large sandy plain, with the idea that you would come into direct contact with the landscape from the train. Edwin Verdurmen, director of architecture center CASA, got involved and tried to persuade parties to realise this temporary construction here. Eventually something was built next to the station and a different location had to be found. "
"The idea remained, the place just changed. During a drink in Showroom Arnhem, a creative project location, where CASA is also located, I looked outside with Edwin Verdurmen and architect Peter Groot. Here lay a piece of wasteland, owned by property developer Synchroon. They had demolished a church there with the intention of building a supermarket and houses here. Because of the crisis, that was canceled. For years there was therefore a waste land on the outskirts of the city center. Can't we implement that idea of the heath here, Groot asked. To the alderman this place also was a thorn in the side and soon everything was settled."
"I made one impression in Photoshop. At my office I worked out a sketch into a global map. As ingredients I used the stereotypical elements of the Hoge Veluwe: an undulating landscape with heather, pine, birch and a sand drift. Then it went fairly quickly, the project developer agreed to a temporary use of this site and the municipality funded the construction."
"At the nursery we bought" second choice "trees, which with their imperfections fitted in much better with the image than the too artificial standard trees. Then sand was needed, which we could get for free from a construction site in Arnhem: Saksen Weimar. The slope was drawn on paper, but the rest of the design was actually arranged on the eye. The heather was also ordered from a nursery, Calluna and Erica. "
"The result was nice, some thought it was poetic and idyllic. I actually thought it was frilly. Grass had also been sown, it soon no longer looked like the Veluwe. The vegetation did not catch on, it became increasingly ugly. It was always an idea to place a work of art in the park, the first idea was a statue of a howling wolf, with the background that if we bring nature into the city, the wolf also belongs in it (the wolf just came in the news, because it was spotted within Dutch borders). The work of art was in progress, but at the same time it turned out that Burgers Zoo wanted to donate a work of art to the city because of their centenary. Florentijn Hofman thought was a fantastic place for his thirty-meter-long "aardvark". We used this to enlarge the park and - after only half a year - to give a complete makeover. "
"I had the idea of using second-hand sods from the Hoge Veluwe, then we had" the real thing. " Alex van Hooff, director of Burgers Zoo, introduced me to baron Van Voorst tot Voorst, the owner of the Hoge Veluwe park. He said: pick whatever you like! For the park the sods are weeds, we could use them well. We drove the sods on carts into the city and literally put them back like tiles. If you only look at one patch of Veluwe planting, then that is a piece of art made of moss, heather and other plants. The result was indistinguishable from real. "
"It does require some maintenance: the soil gets enriched by dog poo, and seeds from thistles and nettles blow into it. A bit of land came from Burgers Zoo, but it contained the Japanese knotweed, which is now popping up everywhere. Part of the strategy was also that if the plagues were completely trampled on by children or didn't catch on, that wouldn't be a problem either, because then we would have a sand plain, just like a sand drift. "
"The result worked so well that I have since been using much more" natural transplantation "in my work by harvesting or transporting plant and soil material directly from the environment. I think it is very important that there is an awareness and love for the landscape. I see it as a kind of renewed English landscape style, when designers wanted to bring idyllic landscapes into the city. Now I do that again. But not with English landscapes, but with all those real landscapes that appeal to the imagination and are often directly outside the city. There is nothing better than "the real thing."