A Highway Landscape as a Monument to a Painter
Keywords:Land of Chabot, interstitial space, metropolitan garden, Henk Chabot, highway, landscape theatre
In the contemporary metropolitan landscape of Rotterdam, the open landscape spaces that once surrounded the city have been reduced to components in a hybrid field. When the polders were still expansive, with an omnipresent horizon, and big skies, they were depicted extensively by the Dutch landscape painter Henk Chabot (1894-1949). Chabot is the Rotterdam painter of an oeuvre that is associated with angular, realistic expressionism of many layers of paint in hard colours, who painted heavily emphasised skies over poor countryside, or monumental portraits of refugees or farmers. For fifteen years, he lived and worked in a studio by the river Rotte. Now, only a relic of the farmland where he lived remains: an interstice between motorways, recreation parks, and suburbs that seemed to be overlooked in the frenzy of urban planning processes. The reason this interstice still exists is that it has been reserved for a future motorway for the last 30 years, and in the not-so-distant future will become the tunnel entrance for the new A16 motorway. As a left-over space, the terrain seems non-descript. However, it does have the implicit characteristics of a ‘landscape theatre’: introducing the processes and the scale of landscape as self-evident elements of the city, and heralding the open polder landscape twenty minutes away. It borrows its physical boundaries from the Rotte river dyke, the heemtuin (botanical garden) adjacent to the Ommoord apartment blocks, the access road to Ommoord, the industrial estate, and residential area in Terbregge. Such a “borrowed boundary” can be seen as a defining trait of the landscape theatre. The open space that is defined by this borrowed boundary and the central point of the tunnel entrance, is a secluded, self-contained place, removed in time and space, insulated against the everyday reality and, aside from the public realm of streets, squares, and parks, from the hustle and bustle of urban life: a place “outside”.