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Landscape Architecture and Town Planning in the Netherlands 95- 97

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Edited by Sjoerd Cusveller. Thoth, 1998. 176pp. £24.95. (Distributor Art Books International, tel 0171 720 1503)

This biennial survey presents 25 schemes (chosen from 230) by Dutch designers for sites in the Netherlands, adopted or implemented between 1995 and 97, writes Andrew Mead. There are proposals for urban development and reconstruction, public open spaces, parks

and gardens.

The prime criterion for selection was high- quality design 'linked to a theme which goes beyond the specific task at hand' - which are meant to be a model in some respect. An element of surprise ('not more of the same, however good') was also sought, and 'functionality rather than frills'.

Editor Sjoerd Cusveller suggests that we should not idealise practice in the Netherlands: the gulf between 'inspiring images' (which this book sometimes contains) and everyday planning has 'scarcely been bridged'. Cusveller also comments on the 'enormous' scale of development anticipated there by 2005, with the biggest building site (some 2500ha) at Leidsche Rijn outside Utrecht ; West 8's 70ha park there, which refers to the character of the Kremlin in Moscow, deliberately cultivates seclusion.

Another thoughtful response to inevitable issues of density is B+B's plan for new housing on the island of De Nielt in Cuijk, where areas of highly concentrated building are inserted amid more dispersed development and ample green space (see left).

Given the book's format of four pages per project, however, it can only offer a taste of these schemes, so any larger issues they address aren't necessarily explored. OMA's plan for the centre of Almere, for instance, incorporates an extensive underground area for which 'a range of measures have been devised to prevent the emergence of a dark, unsafe underworld' (perhaps of more general application?), but we hardly learn what they might be.

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