The Netherlands – A Tradition of Innovation

The Netherlands is a nation internationally recognized for a history of innovation that has led to break-through developments in architectural planning and engineering, significant contributions in all areas of the visual and performing arts, and a progressive social and cultural policy. The Dutch are major world players in the arts, sciences, and economics.
One of the world’s most densely populated countries—16 million Dutch occupy just over 16,000 square miles—the nation has conquered overcrowding through thoughtful urban planning and architecture. A low-lying country at the convergence of three major rivers, The Netherlands is prone to flooding. Over centuries, the Dutch have mastered hydraulic engineering and bridge building in order to control the surrounding water and maintain the integrity of the land. The many bridges, dykes, windmills and pumping stations that mark its landscape illustrate the nation’s long struggle against water, the crowning achievement of which is the Delta Project, a chain of dams constructed between 1953 and 1997. Today, Dutch engineers and water management experts continue to offer advice and assistance to the reconstruction efforts following Hurricane Katrina.

This tradition of innovation of The Netherlands however is not limited to technical advancements. The Dutch spirit of experimentation has contributed to a rich cultural history that encompasses all areas of the arts. The 17th century, a time of great prosperity for the republic, is known as the “Dutch Golden Age.” Some of the most well recognized Dutch visual artists—including painters Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen and Frans Hals—lived and worked during this time. Their innovative approach to realist painting set a standard for their contemporaries and many generations to follow. The 19th and 20th century brought works by painters Vincent van Gogh, Piet Mondrian, and Willem de Kooning, again, all of these innovators amongst their peers due to their unique combination of craftsmanship and originality.

The Dutch are heralded for their contributions to the world of design. The simplicity and economy of design that characterized the Dutch approach is illustrated in the works of groups such as the De Stijl artists and designers in the 1920s. In recent years, the Droog design collective, currently on exhibit in New York at the Museum of Arts and Design, added the innovative use of materials, humor and startling originality to De Stijl’s precepts.
The integrity of The Netherlands’ architectural history is exemplified by the nation’s commitment to its historic buildings—the government helps to maintain 50,000 buildings that are currently listed as protected monuments. The Dutch are also known for a leading and exploring role in the development of modern architecture, most recently celebrated in the work of Rem Koolhaas, whose latest work in China is currently on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Musically, The Netherlands again has a great tradition of innovation—many well known ensembles like Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, and the Schˆnberg Ensemble excel in their representation of classical music. In the field of contemporary music, composer Louis Andriessen is internationally recognized as one of its foremost pioneers. In 2005, Lincoln Center programmed an entire Louis Andriessen festival to celebrate his music. Dutch opera is also known for it innovative approach to the medium, as are its practitioners of early music, improvised jazz, and many forms of popular music.

The Dutch are also leaders in the fields of contemporary dance with major companies like the Netherlands Dance Theatre enjoying international recognition, along with an increasing number of smaller, avant-garde companies, who have enjoyed a recent upsurge in attention in the United States. Dutch theatre, with its daring staging and ensemble-driven production methods, is garnering increasing attention in the U.S, with several Dutch productions, Dutch-American co-productions and guest directorships on the horizon. Children’s theater and children’s literature from The Netherlands are known and praised for their combination of charm, technical expertise and willingness to tackle children’s real-life situations.

Where to stay
To check where you would like to stay, whether it is in Amsterdam or Groningen or any city throughout The Netherlands, visit