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20TH CENTURY URBAN DESIGN IN THE NETHERLANDS.

By Hans Ibelings. Rotterdam: NAi. 1999. Hill 79,50

This lavishly illustrated book is intended to complement Hans Ibelings' earlier volume devoted to architecture, published in 1995. It fails to do so. The author's concentration on what he calls the 'concrete street-level picture' rather than the 'abstract, cartographic picture' produces a picture-book of architectural scenery. As in the first book, most illustrations are photographs of buildings, and the few plans included seldom relate to photos. Holland's important contribution to spatial planning, which would require carefully designed maps and plans, is barely mentioned. Postwar achievements like the proposal to conserve a 'Green Heart' at the centre of the Randstad (perimeter city) incorporating the major urban centres are neglected. Another omission is the work of W. de Bruyn at Leidschendam and Zeist in the l950s and 1960s, which anticipated by a few years Martin and March's 'Land Use and Built Form' theory, and moreover got built.

The format and arrangement by decade are identical in both Ibelings' books, but whereas, in the first, one was struck by the inexhaustible variety and profusion of talent, the sequel leaves one with a feeling of letdown. As each decade succeeds the last, the conviction grows that since the pre-war period, when such humane designers as Berlage, Granpre Moliere, Dudok, Wijdeveld and De Klerk were working, Dutch architecture has been in accelerated decline. Perhaps; but I suspect the author's bizarre selection is partly responsible. Why does the Netherlands Architecture Institute consider this superficial coffee-table book worth publishing in English, while more profound and internationally relevant studies, such as L.J.M. and J.M. Tummers' Het Land in de Stad(1997), remain sadly restricted to Dutch readers?
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:PADOVAN, RICHARD
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 2000
Words:281
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