We derive part of our identity from our environment. In the two western provinces of The Netherlands, that identity is very pluralistic, with urban and suburban areas clearly predominating. In it, rural and natural areas have become almost like reserves and are under severe pressure for further urban infill and the desire for rural living. Outside the Randstad, those relations are different. There we see that urban areas are still often a core in mostly open landscapes. Different landscape types can be distinguished that consist of farmland and, in addition, an increasing number of (new) natural areas.
Landscape as heritage
The distinctive farmyards containing the farmhouse, stables, and groves combine to form a central configuration in otherwise mostly undeveloped landscapes. This division of land did not take shape until the twentieth century as a result of land consolidation and agricultural scaling. Voor veel mensen is het onderdeel van ons nationaal erfgoed. It is essential to the way we see and relate to our landscape. As Dutch people, we become extra aware of this when we drive through the Flemish landscape that is so much different in many ways.
New interpretation of farming
Yet there are developments underway that have a major impact on spatial planning and the landscape experience. Every year in the province of Friesland alone, there are about 100 farms that stop for a variety of reasons. Zantman Architects and Onix NL are dealing with this spatial task in Friesland. They have joined forces with Bugel Hajema Advisors to form the collective Transfarm. Maintaining the distinctive open landscape and farmyards as the core within it, they are exploring alternatives. Combining and integrating new, collective housing in the existing buildings offers many opportunities in this regard. Consider senior housing, recreational housing, care housing, possibly combined with small-scale service businesses. The farmer himself can also be a part of this as a heritage bearer. Shared amenities such as green energy generation, water storage, appropriate yard planting, recreational opportunities and small-scale organic farming are the connecting factor in these co-living concepts.
Zantman Architects put its own money where its mouth is and converted a former farmhouse near Leeuwarden into living units for two families. The accompanying stable was completely converted into modern offices for the residents while respecting the existing buildings and structure. Architect Bart Zantman aims for a modern design that embeds itself in the local context. There are opportunities to convert other farmhouses into smaller housing units for starters or the elderly. For example, in the form of collective private commissioning. According to Zantman Architects, repurposing farms in this way benefits the livability of the countryside. Moreover, it offers the farmer an alternative to farming and keeps the cultural-historical value of farm and yard intact.