Thursday, 6 March 2014

Erectile Disfunction

You know there's that saying that dog owners look like their dogs? (watch 101 Dalmatians, you'll see exactly what I mean). Well Dutch people have managed to produce their architecture in such a way that holds a striking resemblance to it's inhabitants. During the sixteenth century the Dutch government levied taxes from citizens that were contingent on house width, predictably resulting in very tall and very narrow houses. So this is the first way in which the Dutch look like their architecture. The narrowest is reported to be around 80cm wide, which, interestingly is approximately the average American waistline, further suggesting that houses are built for their specific nationals and not for outsiders. Here I envision a scene from Alice in Wonderland when Alice eats the enlarging cake and bursts out of every orifice of the white rabbit's house. Perhaps the Dutch have to employ dodos to smoke overly engorged American's out of their houses too. Doubling up as a defence mechanism against foreigners. This can also be applied to staircases of Dutch houses which are notoriously steep. Dutch residents' heads are already at the top of the staircase whilst their feet are still at the bottom so it's just a case of their legs catching up which isn't an issue for them. For the vertically challenged among us, however, climbing the stairs is like scaling Vesuvius without any official safety equipment and as a result bruised shins are a regular occurrence.

I imagine that very tall people are subject to a fair amount of buffering on particularly windy days, tilting wildly like lanky blades of grass in a storm, so it's no surprise that their bricky counterparts have begun to lean in all manner of directions too. This is obviously most famous in Amsterdam and whilst strolling through the city streets it became a little difficult to distinguish where buildings ended and people began. I do of course exaggerate, but I couldn't avoid imagining the different reasons for the slouchy stature. The streets were congested with people walking almost horizontally having taken advantage of that certain famous substance. It was almost as if, by some sort of atmospheric osmosis, the buildings had absorbed the second hand haze from the air and consequentially synced up with the people in a mass lounge. I think it was no coincidence that one of the least upright houses | witnessed was integrated with a coffee shop. It is unsurprising that the Dutch are so laid back because I for one found it impossible to be uptight when even the buildings were radiating easy vibes. I'm sure there is plenty to say about the building-person relationship in regards to the red light district too as that is a less than vertical (in some cases) affair, but we'll assume that there might be some reference to structural erection innuendo and move swiftly on.

The traditional attire that we have come to associate with the nation is also, believe it or not, reflected in the architecture. Due to the boggy texture of Dutch ground (definitely a sign from nature that the land is not ideal for human settlement and urbanisation which the Dutch just went right ahead and stuck the V's up at) houses need to be reinforced by big wooden poles which are essentially, if you think about it, just variations of giant clogs. Talking of giant clogs:

The classic bonnet type headdress, or 'Dutch cap' associated with old fashioned Dutch clothing is also incorporated into the design with roofs sharing qualities with the women's heads in classic Vermeer paintings. Once you realise this, you can't unrealise it and I can tell you first hand it's a little unnerving to walk through a residential area in the Netherlands with the distinct feeling of being eye-balled by many rows of the working women of Holland's past.

If only walls could talk, eh?

1 comment:

  1. Great post :) I love quirky bits of history and the taxes thing made me smile! Look forward to reading more of your Netherlands adventures :)