HOUTEN (NL) - A tabula rasa approach to new-build locations is almost unthinkable nowadays in the Netherlands. The fact that the landscape invariably has a history, is something that planners looking for an identity for their new-build projects have learned to take into account. So, too, in Houten, on the southern edge of the city's most recent suburban development.
Although there are no obvious physical signs in this landscape, a pre-construction archeological survey for a new bicycle underpass turned up the remains of a stone foundation, probably of a Roman dwelling. Because of the find, the 11.4 hectare site will remain undisturbed in order to preserve the subsoil and the uncovered traces for future research. The area, dubbed Site 14 and accorded listed status, is part of an archeological cycle route. Each of the places of historical interest along this route is marked by an artwork. Houten city council asked the Rotterdam firm JSA to come up with a concept that would represent Site 14 without encroaching on it too much. Their installation, which stands on the site of the archeological find alongside a road, was unveiled in June. An enormous metal structure supports a 3D pixel billboard bearing the text: 'Working on history; meanwhile time is passing, irrevocably'. The pixels are three-dimensional to allow different images to be displayed in two different directions. This involved attaching 6500 black-and-white cubes by hand to horizontal and vertical wires. Depending on the angle of viewing, the text changes into an outline of the Roman dwelling that once stood here, a kind of 'watermark' in the landscape. At 11.5 metres wide and eight metres high, the structure approximates the actual size of the villa. In addition to this poetic message, the 'Villa of Houten' also has a practical function; a stair leads visitors past reproductions of earlier excavations to the top, where a platform offers a view of the site and the surrounding area that is now meadow but which may one day be a Roman excavation.
Objects, Places, Words |