Retract Replete

The deserted region of Eastern Groningen as a new frontier, where voids are filled with new opportunities.

“When I traveled along the small dike in Eastern Groningen, I found myself on a route leading from Finsterwolde to the salty marshland of the Dollard. Big dark volumes arose along my way from the arable land that is so typical for eastern Groningen. Where ones small villages were situated along the dike now only the shapes of building-volumes are left. It appears as people inhabited this area, but the vast open landscape took over these former settlements. Natural processes like tidal canals and mudflats are taking over the agricultural landscape. The towns of Ganzendijk en Hongerige Wolf are transformed into contemporary ruins, casted out of Marine clay. They provide a new story to these abandoned Dollard-villages.”

Date: March 2018
Project details: Entry Prix de Rome 2018
Status: Long list selected


This is a proposal how to deal with the side effect of gas mining in Eastern Groningen. It will be impossible for the region to solve the difficult problems that they are facing on a short term. But they can create more awareness and keep addressing their challenges in different ways. Because repeating the message in innovative ways will help to create change on the long run.

Mud Castings

To visualise the voids people are leaving behind, an act of repletion to contradict the retraction that is taking place. A familiar matter will be used to create new volumes out of the emptiness. A material that forms the fundamentals of this agricultural region: Marine clay. To execute the act of turning empty houses into mud-castings, the landscape of the Dollard comes in as opportunity. The occurrence of earthquakes are used as phenomena to give emptiness its new shape.

Revitalising the Eems Dollard

The mud-casts are not only a visualisation of abandoned towns and earthquakes, but they are also a result of another problem that can be solved on a shorter term: the deteriorating ecological situation of the Eems Dollard. The Dollard consists of over one thousand hectares of marches and seven hectares of mud flats. The ecological challenges consist out of a growing amount of dredging in the water, which prevents the ecological food chain to thrive. By ‘mining’ dredge to replenish the empty houses, the water quality is improved and ecology can thrive.