Editor's Blog

Holland, Holland?

There’s an amusing satirical novel by Julian Barnes called England, England in which the entrepreneur Sir Jack Pitman turns the Isle of Wight (a small island off the UK) into a theme park, crammed with replicas of England’s best known historical buildings, monuments, and icons of Englishness.

Eventually this theme park – called England, England - becomes a separate state, part of the EU, and prospers, while the real 'Old England' suffers severe economic decline and falls into oblivion.

It’s a skit on many things – including identity, nationhood, and how mass media and technology have produced endless simulacra of the ‘real’ thing (which often end up having a higher status than the original).

It’s also a far-fetched flight of fancy, right?

Maybe not. To prove that life often imitates art, development consultants IDS have been busily working on concept drawings for something called HollandWorld™, a 60-hectare ‘edutainment’ zone on the outskirts of Amsterdam, re-enacting the culture and history of the Netherlands.

The non-gated attraction, near Schiphol airport, is intended partly to act as a ‘break-out’ location for delegates attending meetings at nearby RAI Congress Centre. But its main purpose is to alleviate overcrowding in downtown Amsterdam, to provide a ‘second-gate city’ as it were, with 4,000 more hotel rooms, while further hotel development is blocked in the city centre itself.

Hans van Driem, lately of Netherlands Board of Tourism and the brains behind the project, has been quick to point out that the park - which will feature areas such as HollandFlowerWorld, HollandWaterWorld and HollandHistoryWorld – will not amount to ‘cultural barbarism’. The 4D technology, he assures us, is now so sophisticated that the monumental fakeness of it all will almost go unnoticed. I have my doubts.

But ultimately that will be for the punters to decide. One wonders, though, how it will go down with our learned friends in the association community. I imagine it will be a hard sell. As Thomas Reiser, executive director of the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis, notes in the June edition of AMI magazine: “If this is a proposed Disneyfication of cities, then I think it is a very bad and very sad idea. You may as well sit as home and visit a city in Virtual Reality…”

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