Town Planning Review

The Preservation of Monuments and Historic Townscapes in the Netherlands

Town Planning Review (1981), 52, (4), 433


THE PRESERVATION OF MONUMENTS AND HISTORIC TOWNSCAPES IN THE' NETHERLANDS by F. w. VAN VOORDEN The environment as organised by human agency is largely determined by social, economic and cultural factors acting upon the natural environment. These factors are characterised mainly by a lack of harmony and continuity, while the man-made environment which results is marked by a considerable degree of stability. This is because changes can only be brought about through the expenditure ofmuch effort; Something must actually be demolished before any new building can take place. In the past, the use of land both for building and for farming produced, in the main, harmonious results in spite of constant change; the pictures we have of the past are nearly all characterised by balance in form and atmosphere. Even that 'ofthe late nineteenth century, which absorbed many new elements, such as tramways and railways, new industries and 'extensive housing construction outside the limits of the old fortified towns, displays considerable harmony. Changes to the existing pattern resulted in a new balanced whole. Rarely was anything left once the new had replaced or been woven into the old; there remained few isolated fragments of old b~ildings or public works. No general protection of areas for the preservation of hIstoric buildings was yet necessary; for the time being, all that was required was to take some care, particularly with regard to buildings which obviously merited such attention by reason of their age and architectural interest. The last few decades, however, have seen radical changes in social, economic and CUltural patterns in Dutch society. The ever increasing mobility ofpeople and goods and the far-reaching exchange of opinions, ideas and codes of conduct have been of decisive significance. Stimuli for change in the man-made environment, which were formerly felt at comparatively regular intervals, have begun to come thicker and fa.ster. The seemingly stable fabric lacked the ability to absorb the new and stronger stImUli, so that the existing state of harmony has been disturbed ever more frequently. The disharmony which now confronts us is unique in the unbroken sequence of man-made environments which, in most of the Netherlands, goes back ~o the Carolingian period. As a result, the natural fabric ofthe environment has been Irreparably damaged in many places. Along with this development, there has emerged as a reaction a call for statutory provisions which will examine processes in society to determine their influence on the environment, both separately and cumulatively. Physical planning originates as Copyright © 2010 ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved. Copyright © Liverpool University Press.

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Author details

Voorden, F. W. van