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During the temporary closure of Het Nieuwe Instituut, a weekly newsletter provides an update on our online programming and a selection of our online content. This web page is based on Newsletter #8 - 14 May 2020.

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Animation by Moriz Oberberger.

Flower Power

“The cry of ‘Flower Power’ echoes through the land. We shall not wilt. Let a thousand flowers bloom”— Abbie Hoffman in the magazine Workshop in Nonviolence, May 1967

Flowers seduce us, flowers astonish us. They are often ascribed a romantic or ritual meaning and may even have medicinal properties. Yet millions of flowers have been destroyed every day since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. Because of Covid-19, the Dutch flower industry, which generates billions in turnover, is experiencing a drastic decrease in the worldwide demand for flowers. This is affecting the whole chain, from the grower and the auction to the designers, including the florist.

In this context, there are increasingly loud calls for a flower industry with a more local character, in which growers and florists play a sustainable role. The pandemic offers every reason to renew our appreciation of local – possibly even wild – flowers. For planting seasonal crops and to strengthen organic forms of agriculture and horticulture, in which worker safety is also of the utmost importance. Now that so many ingrained habits, production systems and patterns of consumption need to be revised, instead of mourning how things used to be, wouldn’t it be an idea to let a thousand alternatives bloom?

Now Online at Het Nieuwe Instituut

Every week, we announce new programme items in this newsletter –  this time, a video conversation about garden design –  while at the same time revisiting the richness and lasting relevance of the institute’s public web archive. An archive that has grown to more than 6000 pages and 250 ‘web magazines’ and that is characterised by a social perspective on design.


Garden Icons

Listen to a live video conversation about the diversity of garden designs in the collection of Het Nieuwe Instituut. From her own home, curator Hetty Berens will discuss the views of various designers on the role of flowers and plants in a healthy environment. Listen in via this link on Monday 18 May from 8.30pm to 9pm.

Garden Broadcast: Speculative Value from Tulips to Bitcoins

‘Value’ is often no more than an agreement or a concept, unless people agree that a (designed) product or object is valuable in itself. Then you can buy a canal house for a tulip bulb, for example, or invest with a piece of encrypted code. In this 2018 podcast from Het Nieuwe Instituut and online radio station Ja Ja Ja Nee Nee Nee, design researcher Tamar Shafrir, botanist Christel Schollaardt, designers Mario Minale and Alexandre Humbert and cryptocurrency expert Livaneli Yildiran take a closer look at how Dutch design has transformed the design market into a field of playful speculation about the meaning and circulation of objects.


Global Flower

As part of the Dissident Gardens programme, visual artist and designer Frank Bruggeman researched the latest products from the Dutch floriculture sector. Every week, a different ornamental flower took centre stage – most of them grown year-round under glass. The installation in which these ornamental flowers were placed reflected the logistical character of the industry, while also offering scope for decay and transience – processes that are carefully left out of the picture in the traditional floral showpiece.

From the collection: Michael van Gessel

Het Nieuwe Instituut recently acquired the archives of garden and landscape architect Michael van Gessel. Many residents and visitors to the Netherlands come into contact – often unknowingly – with his versatile oeuvre, including public parks, redesigned estates and public spaces in new residential areas.

Sicco Mansholt: A Good European

Pay an online visit to the exhibition about Sicco Mansholt, the Dutch farmer and social democrat who became an influential post-war Minister of Agriculture. After 14 years in the post, he took office as the European Commission’s first Commissioner of Agriculture. In that role, Mansholt became one of the founders of today’s European Union. His policy has had a major impact on the economic position of farmers, the unification of Europe and the design of the Dutch landscape. In his later years, Mansholt became a radical lobbyist for nature and the environment.

On Microbes, Cities and Landscapes

Pay an online visit to this Reading Room, programmed by Het Nieuwe Instituut’s then research fellow Andrea Bagnato, Giovanna Borasi, director of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and artist Nabil Ahmed. Historical examples were compared to recent epidemics, well before Covid-19, to show that the microscopic scale of viruses and bacteria is directly related to the large scale of globalization and environmental change.

Visit The New Garden

Visit Het Nieuwe Instituut’s New Garden, a public place with a flourishing ecosystem of herbs, shrubs, birds and insects. With their design, artist Frank Bruggeman and ecological gardener Hans Engelbrecht make the case for the ecological management of urban green areas, with room for rewilding and natural processes.

Commissioning in the time of Covid-19

Every week, Het Nieuwe Instituut invites a designer to create a web cover for the online web magazine in response to the question: What’s occupying you now? Designer Teresa Rudolf: “I created a ruler – a classic tool – that I adjusted to the recent global policies of distancing. With a total length of 1.5 metres (the distance to keep as recommended by most governments), it includes various units that have become particularly relevant lately. […] Nowadays in many cities space – especially private space – is a luxury. […] All of a sudden, the achievements of modern civilisation appear as a negative of their intention. For the first time, I feel I’m experiencing that ‘systems’ are not valid forever.”

In addition to the web cover by Teresa Rudolf, designer Moriz Oberberger created this week’s animation on the theme of flowers, at the top of this newsletter: “My animation focuses on the feeling of the flowers during this global pandemic, their own perspective. I was imagining this psychedelic fast-paced sequence of various flowers that don’t know what will happen to them next. As if they were questioning themselves: what is my purpose? why do we grow? where are we heading to? where we will live? They are confronted with a lot of uncertainty, just like us.”


Learn more about the Tulip Pigments of designer Tjeerd Veenhoven, who extracts useful dyes from petals that are thrown away as waste in the production of tulip bulbs.

For Rotterdammers wanting to take a (solitary) walk: check out the Aquarian Gardens Soundwalk, which artist Annika Kappner developed for The New Garden.

Join People@Home by supporting the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and get a personalized animation by Moriz!

“In the current sterile and digital world, smell is the most frequently forgotten of all our senses – even though it has always helped us to survive.” Read The Scent of Danger on the work of experience designer Leanne Wijnsma.

Every month, artist Teun Castelijn becomes a one-man flower parade in North Amsterdam.

Must browse! The first colour-by-colour reference, the Flower Colour Guide.

Must read! Indoor Green. Living with Plants, on life with houseplants and their influence on interiors.

Order your books from NAi booksellers and get a 10% discount with the code: HNI.

In the series The Rebirth of the Dutch Flower, Dutch photographer Isabelle van Zeijl uses flowers that would otherwise be destroyed because of the pandemic.

On 21 May, Thursday Night Live! will discuss the background of the official Dutch contribution to the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia: Who is We?