John Lonsdale
3 September 2009
Duration 30:21 minutes

John Lonsdale is based in both Amsterdam and Northumberland. In 1991 he lived for a year on a nature reserve before graduating from the Architectural Association in London in 1995. He is currently teaching at the Rietveld Academy and the Academy of Architecture in Amsterdam. In 2001 he was awarded the Prix de Rome for Landscape Architecture and Urbanism for his work called ‘Shifting Horizons’, a study into 'listening to the land' and how not to resist the forces of nature but to live with them.

For our meeting with the architect John Lonsdale we set up both a trip to the island and a meeting with one of the designers of the Maasvlakte 2 project.
It took some effort to get the permission to visit the islands that they call ‘de Boemerang’ and actually stand on it and experience the reality of new land reclamation. From our Station Maasvlakte on the shore we have been observing the island for weeks now, but how big and how high is the island? What is actually there to see? We embark on the Spirit with captain Sander Boom, and after a rough ride we set foot on the new land. A magical land where we meet 3 seals and find piece of mamouth tusk. But how do you negatiate with this island? John suggests to make more islands, drop our tools and leave it to nature as a beach.

The second part of the day we had a conversation with engineer in hydraulics and morphologist Maarten Jansen on intentional and unintentional morphological effects. Maarten Jansen works for PUMA – Projectorganisatie Uitbreiding Maasvlakte: PUMA is a consortium consisting of Koninklijke Boskalis Westminster NV and Van Oord NV. Maarten Jansen is on of the people who worked on the design and the models that shape Maasvlakte 2.

John is interested in the drift of dunes and mud. Mud as a landscape that is sometimes fluid or liquid and other times hard and dry. He is fascinated by this fickel or uncertain landscape. The islands that are being made are at this moment also uncertain landscapes. John likes the wonderful clarity of intent the authors of the website Maasvlakte2 have in describing the islands under MV2 (Hinderplaat) as 'unintentional'. The islands are surely intentional, at least for the active nature lobby, only their shape is still unknown and unfixed. Or it could be that the engineers are able to predict the flow and deposition of muds and silt, through digital modelling, so as to approach a semblance of what may emerge as reality.

We talk about the difference between intentional and unintentional design. How much are the designers and builders of the MV 2 in control of what is happening? How did other forces like economic and ecologic ones effect the shape of MV 2? How will the coastline be changed by this new land reclamation, and what will be the effect of the changing currents on the naturaly shaped sand bank Hinderplaat? When we aks him if there would be a Maasvlakte 3 and 4, will the design process be the same? Maarten Jansen states something we enjoy very much: “This is the last project we wil work in this way. Next projects will be building with nature. We design a construction and nature can play with it and the final shape will be nature made”.