Vincent van Gogh had a great love for the Brabant landscape, as can be seen in many of his paintings. Over a century after he left his native Dutch province, this landscape is now under pressure. The number of floods is increasing while farmers, cities, industry, and nature lovers are fighting over the available space. Given the complications of the Dutch nitrogen crisis, permit applications for projects in Natura 2000 protected areas have come to a standstill. How can Brabant find the balance between idyll and progress?
At the initiative of Midpoint Brabant, MVRDV and the Van Gogh Homeland Foundation developed a meaningful experience that aims to make the public more aware of the region’s coming challenges. By combining knowledge of architecture, landscape design, and sustainability, along with expertise in the leisure industry, the initiators want to reignite the enthusiasm of both young and old people for the Brabant landscape. The ambition is to show, in an attractive and accessible way, how the landscape that inspired Vincent van Gogh 150 years ago can be made more sustainable and greener in the future.
Van Gogh Homeland is being realised in collaboration with the regions and municipalities of Brabant, but also with important regional players such as the Efteling amusement park. At the beginning of March, the plan for Van Gogh Homeland was handed over to Stijn Smeulders, deputy of the province of North Brabant, who is facilitating the development of the plan. That plan is divided into three parts: Van Gogh Homeland Experience, an attraction that is being developed in collaboration with Efteling, Van Gogh Homeland Biennale, and the Van Gogh Homeland Atelier, a hub for knowledge transfer from which the attraction and the biennale will be developed.
The biennale will come first, planned for 2025. Architect Winy Maas, founding partner of MVRDV, has been asked to be the first curator to shape this biennale. It will be an outdoor exhibition full of interventions and temporary installations that give the stage to typical Brabant landscape elements. Visitors can go on an adventurous expedition through temporary super dunes, horticultural towers, rain chambers, and heather houses that will be placed throughout the landscape. Inspired by Van Gogh's vision of the Brabant landscape, makers are invited to accentuate Brabant’s best features and explore the limits of using the landscape in multiple ways.
“If you think about the climate challenge, you have to dare to think big,” says Winy Maas. “Exploring so many possibilities can get the ball rolling. Our outdoor exhibition will soon consist of numerous pavilions that will be placed in the landscape, like a string of beads. We do not give visitors a moralistic message, but let them feel climate change – the dryness, the wetness. We also show possible solutions such as a garden tower or a super dune. In my opinion, the task for the coming period lies in the interweaving of city with nature, and of nature with city. We must be open to a critical approach to each other's ideals.”
The intention is that the biennale will be organised in a different area of Brabant every two years. The first will take place in central Brabant, with the municipality of Tilburg as its centre. “This Brabant biennale will manifest itself not only in the landscape, but also in the urban fabric”, say Joost Melis, director of the Van Gogh Homeland Foundation, and programme maker Lian Duif. “Van Gogh Homeland as a whole will further strengthen Brabant's identity. It is precisely because of its accessible nature that a visit is attractive for various audiences. The expectation is that, thanks to the way the biennale presents information, young people will also feel more involved in the major transition challenges, as well as the landscape that surrounds them – which of course they will manage in the future.”
Van Gogh Homeland is an initiative of Midpoint Brabant – Stichting Van Gogh Homeland and is being realized by MVRDV in partnership with the Municipality of Tilburg, Efteling, and Libéma. The province of North Brabant is facilitating the development of the plan.
Read the plan in full here.