Dutch mountain: Joke or triumph?

The Netherlands, a country known for its windmills, cheese, wooden shoes, Delftware, dikes, tulips, bicycles and its giant two kilometer high mountain.

Huh? A mountain? I thought the Netherlands is the flattest country on earth.

Nope. Not any more. At least, not if a Dutch organization gets what it wants. This organization (Die berg Komt Er) proposes a two kilometer high mountain which will be erected somewhere in the Netherlands. Newspapers report ‘there’s probably enough space for such a mountain’. Also ‘there probably won’t be any negative side effects for the environment’. Yeah, right. Costs are expected to be around 70 billion euros (that’s over 90 billion Dollars). What the mountain will be used for? Agriculture, housing and skiing to name a few. Also the giant Dutch mountain will be used as a power plant. It should generate enough energy to power the entire city of Amsterdam with 100% renewable energy.

I thought the era of mega projects in the Western world was over. So kudos to the design team who had the guts of coming up with such a bold plan. Or is it just a publicity stunt? Are the architects of this Dutch mountain out of touch with the rest of the country? To be fair, the Dutch created 20% of their country themselves, by creating land from water. So there’s no doubt we’re technically capable (or find a way) of creating a two kilometer high mountain. But… let’s be honest, we (the Netherlands) don’t need such a mountain. Why not spend 60 billion euros to make the Netherlands the first carbon-neutral country on earth? Or why not build the Roadmap 2050 design of a carbon-neutral Europe, designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas? There’s a saying, God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands. It’s ever more true when the Dutch create their own two kilometer high mountain… which I hope will never be the case.


Map of Eneropa, Rem Koolhaas’ renewable world: how a new power network could solve Europe’s carbon crisis. (image courtesy: OMA)

OneMinute – Vienna, Austria

December 19, 2010. It’s the day I returned from Vienna after doing an internship at Coop Himmelb(l)au. I remember this day very well. Not because it was my last day in Vienna, but because of the flight back. Europe experienced extreme winter weather. Temperatures dropped below minus ten degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit). Almost no international flights were possible from and to most European airports. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, my destination, shut down for a period of several days. Tens of thousands of passengers stranded at airports throughout Europe.

I was worried my flight would get cancelled too. At 5AM, a cab drove me to Vienna Airport. It took less than ten minutes to check in, drop off my luggage and get through customs (my personal record). Relaxed as I was (I was prepared for the worst), I made my way to the gate. It turned out my flight was one hour delayed, which made me really happy. Why? Not because it’s delayed, but because this meant my flight wasn’t cancelled!

It turned out all passengers who would use Amsterdam as a stopover were denied access to the plane. Only 16 passengers (out of a sold-out 100 seat plane) boarded the plane. Since I’m tall, I immediately asked for a seat with more legroom. “Of course”, the stewardess answered. “We have many empty seats, so you can sit at 1A”. And that’s how I ended up being in business class, together with just one other passenger. Immediately after take off, the blue business class curtain closed and all business class people (yep, thats two people) were catered by our private stewardess.

Before this day started, I prepared myself for any scenario imaginable (believe me, I have a big imagination). This included (but was not limited to); overcrowded airports, no flights at all, not being able to land in Amsterdam, spend a night at the airport, boarding the wrong flight, flying to Amsterdam via Dubai or the States, you name it, I thought of it. There was just one scenario I didn’t think of. I mean, who can imagine an almost empty airport, not having to wait in line at all, an almost private plane, business class seat and a personal stewardess. Wow, it was the best flight I ever had.

Anyway, this story is meant to introduce OneMinute number thirteen. It’s a video about Vienna, the city I lived in for several months. This video starts with a 28 seconds long shot (no, it’s not boring at all!). I attached my small Panasonic camera to my bike and filmed the exterior of the Austrian Parliament in one single take. Enjoy!

An offer you can’t refuse


Here’s the deal. You pay me 150 million euros and you receive 300 million euros back. And it’s no scam. For many all people, this would be ‘the perfect deal’. What would your answer be?

Surprisingly, many people (or companies for that matter) answer ‘no’ to this question. BMW, the German automobile company, did not. They decided to go for it!

Back in 2000, they were in need of a new corporate headquarters. After consulting several architecture companies, they picked Wolf Prix’s Coop Himmelb(l)au as architect of their choice. In 2007 their new headquarters, BMW Welt, opened for business. The building had a staggering price tag of over 150 million euros.

When I worked for Coop Himmelb(l)au, I spoke with someone who had been involved in this project. This architect told me there was quite some debate within Coop Himmelb(l)au and BMW. Is it worth erecting a building worth over 150 million euros? Can we build it for half the money? Does BMW Welt have to be this spectacular? Ultimately Wolf Prix convinced BMW to spend the money and build this ‘temple for BWM’ as he called it. The result: In the following years, BMW received free exposure and media coverage worth hundreds of millions of euros because of their new headquarters.

I’m not suggesting bigger is always better. However, sometimes, it can be worth spending a bit more money to reach your goal. Ultimately vision and courage of the client are factors that matter most. Which is even more true during times of economic hardship.

It’s not the smoke you make, it’s the smoke people see…

It’s not the smoke you make, it’s the smoke people see… Huh? What smoke?

One of my favorite sayings is: It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear. This saying simply means we have to consider our message from the listener’s perspective and not our own. It’s not enough to be correct, reasonable or even brilliant. Nope. It’s about what they, the people hear.

Has nothing to do with smoke? Well, it does. Just read on.

Last week I, as director, spoke with a lighting technician. We were discussing the design and layout of the stage at VBG Bethel for Christmas. The stage has to look a bit mysterious. Also this lighting technician wanted to use awesome light beams. Since a beam of light is only visible if part of the light is scattered by tiny particles, like smoke, he needs a smoke machine. Such machine essentially turns water in smoke. So far so good. But this guy told me the moment he starts to use a smoke machine, some people in the audience start to cough.

If ‘it’s not what you say, it’s what people hear’ is true, you could also say ‘it’s not what you do, it’s what people see’. Which is essentially the case with the smoke machine.

People generally associate (any) smoke with irritation of the lungs. Even though the smoke is water based (thus being harmless to your lungs), people have to cough. They see smoke so they have to cough. This results in the audience complaining about something that isn’t there.

The solution: This time he rents a haze machine. It generates the same light beam effect, but the smoke is invisible. There’s only one downside. This invisible smoke is oil based which sounds less healthy to me compared to water based smoke. But people won’t see smoke, so they don’t have to cough… It’s not the smoke you make, it’s the smoke people see

Did you know that the use of color at train stations has an impact on the waiting experience of travelers? Probably you did, or you guessed this would be the case.

So how does the use of color affect travelers? First of all, travelers name green, red and purple as warm colors. When these colors are used at train stations, people have more fun and a more positive attitude while waiting for their train.

Research also shows high-intensity colors result in people perceiving their waiting period as shorter (in reality, their waiting period stayed the same). On the contrary, travelers feel more happy when colors are used in a low intensity. In that case, they experience waiting as more enjoyable.

— This is according to research done by Dutch organization ProRail.

What color intensity should be used at train stations?