On January 18th, the exhibition 'Mansholt, Landscape in Perspective' opened at Bureau Europa in Maastricht in the Netherlands. For this exhibition, XML designed an installation of glass walls that divide the main exhibition space into separate rooms. These rooms represent consecutive episodes in the biography of the Dutch politician Sicco Mansholt, providing insight into the changing relationship between agriculture and landscape in post-war Europe.
Sicco Mansholt (1908 - 1995) was a visionary Dutch farmer, who later became Minister of Agriculture and European Commissioner. During the lean years after World War II, Mansholt was the driving force behind the industrialization of agriculture and the rationalization of the Dutch landscape. In later life, he converted from an advocate of growth to an activist for limitation, inspired by the Club of Rome's 1972 analysis of the negative social and environmental impacts of his own agricultural industrialization policies. This remarkable paradigm shift in Mansholt’s thinking was a major reason for Bureau Europa to use Sicco Mansholt's biography for an investigation of the changing relationship between agriculture and landscape in Europe since 1945.
The architectural design by XML takes this biographical structure of the exhibition as a starting point. The design uses the traditional museum typology of an enfilade to divide Bureau Europa's main exhibition space into a series of separate, thematically organized spaces. A grid of glass walls creates six different rooms that each focus on a specific moment in time. This grid references the rationalization and consequential bureaucratization of the landscape. Transparent walls allow visitors to make unexpected connections between different historical and biographical moments, so that past and future are always present simultaneously throughout the exhibition.
The six generic rooms have been made specific by the use of tables of various sizes containing unique historical material. A selection of films provides an overview of the changing representation of agriculture over the last fifty years. While the first four rooms focus on a collection of historical maps and photographs, the two final rooms present a selection of contemporary ways of thinking about the relationship between agriculture and landscape, including Christien Meindertsma's 'Flax' project and the 'Hunnie’ project by artists Sophie Krier and Henriëtte Waal. This way, the exhibition shows how changes in ideas about the organization of society can manifest themselves in the design of the landscape.
The exhibition 'Mansholt, Landscape in Perspective’ is on view until April 6th at Bureau Europe, Boschstraat 9, Maastricht, the Netherlands).