Westland is an area of 14,000 hectares south of The Hague known mainly for its area of glasshouse horticulture, which accounts for 5,000 hectares. Pressure on the area is immense. Villages and towns in and around Westland are all seeking to expand to accommodate housing, business facilities and recreation areas. Current plans for Westland include a reduction in the area of glasshouses to cater for such functions, with new glasshouse areas established elsewhere in the Netherlands. There is also a general feeling that the horticulture sector is in need of restructuring.
The candidates in the final round were asked to come up with a physical development strategy that included proposals for future agricultural activity in the Westland, and for the function and layout of public space as an alternative to glasshouses. The four proposals differ greatly from one another but all choose to retain the dominant presence of the glasshouse industry in the area. The most radical proposal, entitled Kas en Land ('Glasshouse and Land'), was made by Jago van Bergen. He analysed the most important factors influencing glasshouse horticulture, integrated these, and arrived at three new forms of production activity. One of these is the kaskantoor ('Glasshouse office'): above the motorway is a tower containing a core of office space enclosed by glasshouses. Traffic exhaust fumes are utilised in the cultivation of plants.
In his project Allocated Grounds #03, Paul Toornend shows how the system of land ownership influences the structure of the land. Restructuring land ownership is deployed as a design strategy for physical redevelopment. Whether this approach is desirable is a question that Toornend deliberately leaves open. Nikol Dietz argues that there are a number of areas in the Netherlands that derive their identity from their large scale and single function. In this way the Westland is comparable to the Veluwe, the Waddenze, and Rotterdam harbour. To allow the area to retain its identity, she proposes in her design, entitled On the necessity of gardening, a number of interventions intended to preserve the viability of the area, such as changes in water management and the construction of new roads to improve access. She also drew up rules for plots of land offered for sale: these may not be divided, and 75% of their area must be planted with trees. In Shifting Horizons, a proposal for non-deterministic urbanism by John Lonsdale, winner of the Prix de Rome Urban Design & landscape Architecture, five local interventions reveal the stratification of the soil, and thereby the area's invisible history, geographical origin and archaeological past. The addition of new layers allows for the area's gradual transformation.
The question is whether physical planning has a role to play in such processes of restructuring. In the 1960s and 70s physical planning exerted a major influence on the agricultural sector. The economic value of the sector to the Dutch economy was so great that the costs of physical interventions were easily outweighed by the advantages. Changes in the world market, such as the abolition of product subsidies, necessitate far-reaching change in the Dutch agricultural sector if it is to remain viable. But that is not the only reason for change. The cost of agricultural land in the Netherlands is the highest in Europe. Intensification of the sector is an obvious option, but current environmental regulations demand less intensive production. The sector is forced into a two-way split according to landscape architect Dirk Sijmons. Moreover, the physical planning community would seem to have washed its hands of the agricultural sector, given that the Fifth Policy Document on Physical Planning makes no reference to it. For Sijmons that is regrettable, since there is definitely a future for glasshouse horticulture in Westland. That is largely due to the autocratic character of the area, but social aspects are also important. According to Sijmons, Westland demonstrates a collective lack of professionalism. To maintain the viability of glasshouse horticulture in Westland, there needs to be a more centralised form of (self)regulation. For instance, businesses cannot possibly regulate their water management individually. The autocratic and collective character of the area almost acquired the mythical proportions of a utopia. Landscape architect Eric Luiten advocated increased collectivism. And the 1995 winner of the Prix de Rome Branimir Medic stated that the area is interesting because its people are central to it, with generations having lived and worked there. This was a reaction to the technocratic approach taken by Winy Maas and Jago van Bergen.
Sijmons argued that the most beautiful landscapes were created by maximising objectives and not by mixing objectives, as occurs today. He also wondered just how many politically correct objectives you could implement in Westland without genuinely altering the area. In his view the greatest threat to Westland is economic prosperity. The world is viewed through the aesthetic eyes of the urban dweller, who is astounded not to find Arcadia is his back garden but glasshouses where people work, where things are produced that are not part of the dot.com world. Or, as a Westland gardener put it, people would prefer to see a flock of sheep with a shepherd than glasshouses. Sijmons brought the evening to a close with a call to protect Westland from this form of moralism.