The Netherlands seemed in the early 90s an exciting experimental ground for progressive politics. The introduction of gay marriage, referenda, legalized soft drugs and euthanasia functioned as an early light house for liberal values. Soon after it faced the first waves of right-wing populism, and has met its fair share of mini-Trumps and AfDs ever since. How this has shaped the architectural landscape is not that easy to read, and quite quickly turns difficult to find. Weirdly for a country so used to making itself, it hardly dreams of architecture. The Dutch Folk Union (NVU) has a list of important “Heroes of the Fatherland”- most of them 17th century, artists, scientists, politicians, members of the admiralty.[1] The list doesn’t include an architect, not even a crucial ‘glorious’ golden age classic like Pieter Vingboons or Jacob van Campen. In left and right-wing manifestoes of Dutch political parties, architecture literally doesn’t register. In hundreds of pages of election programs, the word architecture occurs three times, twice used metaphorically.[2] Of the 150 members of parliament today, one is an architect.[3] (and she, the right-hand to Geert Wilders, hardly practiced). In the last 25 years there hasn’t been a single meeting in parliament specifically with architecture on the agenda.[4] In public spaces there is no strong pattern or a specific architecture that makes a truly distinct political impression. Normally it’s a mix of political spheres bound by practical concerns and larger coded limitations. Government agencies could be bank branch offices and vice versa. Architecture doesn’t register politically in the Netherlands. It’s a mistake, perhaps a very fundamental one, to think architecture is political by definition. But what does register then? Architects and theorists tend to believe – perhaps have been victims to wishful thinking – that they have remained politically relevant.

[1] – section on ‘Vaderlandse Geschiedenis’, 2018 [2] The only mention of architecture occurs in a section of the Christian Democratic (CDA) party program 2017-2021. The Liberal democrats (D66) and Socialist Party (SP) in their most recent programs only use the word architecture in a metaphorical sense to discuss the structure of global security. [3] Profiel nieuwe Tweede Kamer 2017, on, reports that the large majority of the members of the Dutch parliament has a background in law, political sciences, management, and history, with a few exceptions including one archeologist, philosopher and an architect. [4] registers all parliamentary meetings since 1995. Architecture does register in the content of meetings, but mostly used only in a metaphorical way.
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