GifGroen: The paradise in the garbage dump

Graduation project Photo Academy. May 25, 2022

At the end of the last century, the North Holland and South Holland municipalities of Lansingerland, Zoetermeer, Ridderkerk and Velzen covered garbage dumps, waste heaps or rubble dumps in their outer areas with landscape parks. These parks offer different views from high points and contain objects such as watchtowers, stairs and walking paths. The parks have been designed to make the outdoor areas attractive to nature-seekers, such as hikers and mountain bikers. Especially during the lockdowns in the Corona crisis, the public 'went into nature' and visited these parks en masse. To what extent these parks convincingly consist of 'nature' is the question that I investigate in my work.

The architecture of the landscape parks mentioned above fits into a long tradition of designed landscapes. Lorzing (2001) describes 30 parks, spread across the world, that were designed in the (distant) past and that still exist today. With the characteristics 'original' versus 'foreign' and 'man-made' versus 'nature-like', he classifies the designs of parks into four groups. The four groups are rational, romantic, traditional, and ecological design. Although the designs of the landscape parks on garbage dumps have characteristics of all four styles, I think they can best be classified as ecological designs. This involves a combination of the characteristics 'man-made' and 'natural-looking'. Users recognize this and experience these landscapes as new nature.

In his description of the way in which we humans experience landscapes, Schama (1995) assumes the gradual destruction of nature. He writes 'For if the entire history of landscape in the West is indeed just a race toward a machine-driven universe, ….. where measurement not memory is the absolute arbiter of value, ……, then we are indeed trapped in the engine of our self-destruction'. Fortunately, according to him, that self-destruction is not the whole story. Instead of assuming that culture and nature are mutually exclusive, he points to the strong connection between the two. And he indicates that that connection is often hidden. That's also how I see it. With my work on landscape parks on garbage dumps, I make the connection between culture and nature visible again.

The search for new nature is centuries old. We first saw it in Dutch painting art (Van Os, 2008). And we saw it later in photography. For example, Piccarolo (2017) refers to the exhibition 'New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape', which took place in New York in 1975. Well-known photographers who took part are Robert Adams, Stephen Shore and Bernd and Hilla Becher. According to Piccarolo, the images in this exhibition presented a new vision on the landscape. This vision focuses on documenting the rapid changes that landscapes undergo through human intervention. Many contemporary photographers take this further (Ewing, 2014). Examples of this in Germany are the alumni of the Düsseldorfer Schule, such as Andreas Gursky and Ursula Schulz-Dornburg. An example in the Netherlands is Marie-José Jongerius.

My work is inspired by the New Topographics movement and its successors[1]. Not only does the execution of my work process resemble theirs, but also my substantive choices are similar. I focus on nature as a man-made play of shapes. What is striking about my work is the tension between the absence of humans in my images on the one hand and the interventions of humans on the landscapes on the other. I opted for black and white, to get even more away from natural nature.

I am interested in the contrast between natural nature and man-made nature. With my work I investigate the question to what extent the created landscape is experienced as new nature.




Ewing, W. A. (2014). landmarks. The Fields of Landscape Photography. New York: Thames and Hudson.

Lorzing, H. (2001). The Nature of Landscape. A Personal Quest. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers.

Os, H. van (2008). The Discovery of the Netherlands. Four Centuries Landscape depicted by Dutch Masters. Rotterdam: NAI Publishers.

Piccarolo, G. (2017). About New Topographics. In: Nicolin, P. (Ed.). Manufactured Altered Landscapes. Milano: Lotus International, Quarterly Architectural Review.

Schama, S. (1995). Landscape & Memory. London: Fontana Press.


[1] Like the photographers of the New Topographics movement and their successors, I use a technical camera when shooting. I do this, among other things, to be able to correct the visual perspective in the image where necessary. When creating my work, I follow a hybrid work process, consisting of a mix of analog photography and digital processing of the images.

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