A couple of years ago, architect Jakob Tigges proposed building an artificial mountain on the grounds of the defunct Tempelhof Airport in Berlin. The outsized ambition not only matched the building's monolithic swagger but also provided a provocative alternative to the mediocre plans the city was considering for the site.
Perhaps inspired by Tigges, sports journalist Thijs Zonneveld wrote a column a couple of months ago proposing that the Netherlands builds its own artificial mountain. Like Tigges's, Zonneveld's mountain would serve as a recreational space, an iconic landscape with spectacular views, and a popular destination for climbers and ramblers. It's nature reconstructed into a pleasure machine.
But this one “caught the public's imagination.” In fact, there are serious plans in the making.
That many people are taking Zonneveld's idea seriously shouldn't be a surprise, because according to him, the Dutch are “obsessed” with mountains. More significantly, this monumental terraforming is not unknown to them. They're even experts at it.
Take Flevoland, for example, the youngest and flattest of all Dutch provinces. The province, which was created starting in 1916, lies to the east of the IJsselmeer artificial lake, and much of it is below sea level. Cornelis Lely, an engineer, spent more than 30 years devising a plan to reclaim more land from the sea, in tried-and-true Dutch fashion. He wanted to drain the Zuiderzee, a bay with an area of more than 5,000 square kilometers (1,930 square miles). The megalomaniacal plan succeeded, creating the IJsselmeer and Flevoland — and the Netherlands gained an additional 2,412 square kilometers of land mass.
Flevoland is the proposed site of the mountain, and its construction would just be a continuation of Lely's project.
One wonders if there's a new geological meme brewing, albeit one with a lineage we can trace back to the heroic age of literal nation-building and to the topographical fantasies of aristocratic gardens. Will it be popping up all over the place much like another meme, the artificial island? Although with sea levels on the rise and cooler latitudes migrating to warmer coordinates, might the exuberant and cooler contours of artificial mountains become the more popular plaything among the megalomaniacs?