The Atlantic Wall in a New Perspective
Hidden behind the gates of the water abstraction area south of Katwijk, a massive concrete wall cuts mysteriously through the landscape. Sometimes as a barrier, high and visible, sometimes lower to the ground, camouflaged in the surrounding dune landscape. The 1.5 kilometres long tank wall in Katwijk is a historical remnant of the Atlantic Wall, built in the Second World War. It is s one of the largest defense works (5.000 km) Europe has ever known. The Atlantic Wall was a sophisticated three-dimensional system in a new era of warfare. Where the enemy was not only on land, but also in the sky and at sea.
Looking at our way of dealing with cultural heritage, we see a changing movement in how we approach it. At the beginning, after the war, we wanted to destroy everything. The main goal was progression and the objects along the coastline reminded us of the occupation. That is also why the tank wall in Katwijk is unique because of its remaining length and authentic state. This is because it was only about 10-15 years later when we realised that some elements were actually worth keeping. As monuments to remember all the victims, for example, or museums with educational objectives, such as telling the next generation that this must never happen again. We are currently focused on victims and witnesses who have experienced the war, collecting all their stories before it is too late.
In my project, I want to show that this way of collecting stories from witnesses could help us determine how to deal with cultural heritage. Because this beautiful piece of cultural heritage does not only bring us the past, but it can lead us to an understanding of our attitudes about and feelings for what persists (sometimes not too well) in the present (Michael S. Roth). For example, when I was standing in front of the wall, it took me out of my historical research into the present where at that moment a huge wall was built between Turkey and Syria.
And for me the whole project is about this: creating that moment of personal interaction between person and object. But to create that moment of interaction, I think it is necessary to look at the object as a (silent) witness. I see it as my job to create an environment where the object can tell its story and speak to you, and where you feel safe to receive the story and listen.
The design seeks a balance between object and interventions. By maintaining the authenticity, but allowing usage. By creating a context, but also the freedom to interpret and discover it for yourself. One of the main interventions is making the area around the tank wall publicly accessible. This creates a new route across the dunes.
Where once the wall was whole, new interventions reconnect the remaining structure of the wall to the coast. Stairs are placed along the route, to have a moment of confrontation with the wall. Sometimes from a distance, sometimes close by, which makes it possible to walk along or on top of it. The route ends in the higher sea dunes, where as in the system, land, sea and sky meet and where the local structure of Katwijk hits the giant European line of the Atlantic Wall. The whole route creates a moment of reflection, a new perspective. Just imagine.
Commission members: Dingeman Deijs (mentor), Marieke Timmermans, Ronald Rietveld. Additional members for the examination: Eric Luiten, Bram Breedveld.