Tuesday March 11, 2014 De Hoge Veluwe


After cycling over 40 km of luxurious bicycle paths, on a picturesque day, through the De Hoge Veluwe National Park, the multi-modal trek to Ede from Utrecht was completely justified. It felt great to hop on a cruiser, and experience the park at a pace that allowed me to cover a lot of ground while observing this unexpected landscape. I ended up hop-scotching with an American couple; they would stop, climb up a lookout, and I would pass-by to the next lookout (inconspicuous ladders up to platforms in trees) only to see them pass below. Eventually, we stopped at the same place: a series of modest interpretive signs detailing the large mammals that can be spotted in the game pasture. Despite my best efforts, I did not see any red or roe deer (miniature deer), mouflons or wild boar.

This is a place where the symmetry, alignment, and intention of well-maintained paths and edges are seamlessly melded with the rough, flowing texture of the expansive moorland, grassland, and sand drifts. Countless opportunities for panoramic vistas could be detected along the path; one only needed to see where a meter of the moss along the side of the paved bicycle path was worn away, showing where the next photo-op would be. In the woods, the sacredness of a cleared under-story was celebrated, creating a consistent hierarchy of Douglas fir, Red pine, Beech, Oak, Heather, Moorgrass and Lichen. This is a place where the quiet and stillness are only interrupted by the wind rustling through grasses and dried Beech leaves.

In the sand dunes, I was overwhelmed by the expanse. Open land, surrounded by a few grey silhouetted layers of far-off trees on the horizon, stretched as far as I could comprehend. The dunes were rolling with bright red lichen. I expected to find a sun-bleached cattle skull, or perhaps a wandering sage-brush.  A family had posted up near a gnarled dead tree; the sculptural branches made a perfect fort for the kids to climb all over. After wandering the open dunes, this tree felt safe, and I felt protected. Here, I explored the patterns on the tree bark, made by some burrowing insect. The filigree pattern contrasted against the shiny, smooth, and silver surface of the tree. The simple beauty of this texture was indication that not all of the pieces of this ‘natural’ Dutch landscape were orchestrated by design; spontaneity can prevail!

The signage is minimal, although practical. There are markers along the paved path indicate your location, along with simple blue signs indicating the bicycle and pedestrian path; it would be difficult to get lost here. Also, the gentle, sloping terrain is enjoyable to traverse (as opposed to challenging). This is a park where one does not gear-up for the day, hoping to tackle some sort of athletic feat while surrounded by national treasure.   Instead, this is a place where one leaves their pride at the fiets parkeren  (free white cruisers are provided by the park), in order to quietly and tactfully explore, quickly forgetting that anything outside of the park could possibly exist.

Modern Nature Bingqin Huang

The sculpture garden is located in the national park. It surrounds the Kroller-Muller Museum. Taking a walk through the 25-hectare large sculpture garden is a really relaxing tour. A unique collection of sculptures by artists like Henry Moore, Richard Serra and Ger Van Elk can be found strewed around the garden. Some of them are unexpectedly placed in the garden.

It was a bright, sunny day. We entered the sculpture garden through the gate inside the Kroller-Muller Museum. Compared to the Museum, constructed in a modern style with metal and glass, the sculpture garden is a whole different natural world. In contrast to the indoor environment of the Museum, I was suddenly bathed in sparkling sunshine the moment I stepped out to the sculpture garden. The weather was warm. Green lawns look out over the area. Trees, flowers, grasses and sculptures were awash in sunshine. People gathered in twos and threes walked on the paths. I heard the sound of wind, and chirps from time to time.

Some of the sculptures are perfectly blended in the surrounding environment. One of the sculptures is made of granite. It is cut in cubes with one side being maintained with its original stone-like surface, and other sides are polished smoothly. Around are pieces of granite cubes placed dotted on the site. It is so harmonious like it belongs there. Some of the sculptures are modern and abstract. They stand out in the environment dramatically with their strong visual colors. One of my favorite pieces is the “K-Piece” made by Mark De Suvera in 1972. The sculpture is about 20 feet high. It is formed of several metal strips welded together. Its shiny, red color stands out beautifully on the green lawn.

Overall, the sculpture garden was very attractive to me with its combination of nature and modern arts.


The Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh said that unrelenting labor symbolizes true faith. This may be a religious metaphor, but I believe it reflects deeply upon Dutch art and construction in the Netherlands. To add to Van Gogh’s metaphors, the highlands of the Dutch landscape are the altar that art and nature commune. The Hoge Veluwe National Park and Köller-Müller Museum that we visited are all together a Dutch highland Masterpiece. The entire space made me wonder how many Dutch projects and ideas, are just experimentation, process work, and inspiration for the future.

Within the 25-hectare sculpture garden there is a special quality to late winter Dutch sunlight. Its softness seems to round the tough edges of the landscape and the art within the space. The heaviness of the sculptures lie within deeply cast shadows. The feeling within these shadows is cool and calm. This is the feeling that my mind held for much of the day.

Perhaps it was the perfect day, and perhaps it was the idea of a space specifically for human creation. Given the historic manipulation of Dutch land, and the innovation of the country, this space seemed too good to be true. Platforms for artistic interpretation from Richard Serra, and others on the landscape are snug perfectly within the hills and trees that define the National Park. The Park’s land is elevated higher than the rest of the Netherlands, which means flooding is less of a threat. Here the winning battle over water emphasizes the art in war. Though they struggle, the Dutch and their landscapes appear to work together. There is a process, a simultaneous push and pull.

The notion of projects as process work in the landscape was brought to my attention by another Van Gogh idea. He also believed in new approaches to art as a representation of nature, which he thought should simultaneously express something personal and universal. This is seen physically stepping out into the sculpture garden, where there is a universal beauty between many varying art pieces.

Having seen a land of such variation that has battled natural forces for centuries makes me believe that any work dealing with the sculpting of land is artistic and scientific experimentation. These are works of process, all formed with an understanding that nothing stays the same. My conclusions from within this highly designed and artistic space are that Dutch design and art are about exploration and building upon ideas rather than finished products. Since the future is always embedded in Dutch ideas there is important room for error and learning. This vulnerability and exposed sense of self is the smallest, yet most important allowable buffer between land and sea, mind and matter.