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DE TIEN GEMEENTEN (Water tower) Zoetermeer /

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It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical.
Of all things human and super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heart, of the soul,
That the life is recognisable in its expression,
That form ever follows function. This is the law.
                                Louis Sullivan (1856 – 1924)
The flatness of the Dutch landscape could be considered a gift to architects.  Against a backdrop that only rarely presents natural geological features of any significant elevation the built environment has the chance to shine uninhibited.  

Amidst such a generous canvas, structures considered purely functional elsewhere have been afforded the opportunity to become iconic landmarks of the uncluttered horizon. A fact exploited to the fullest by the Dutch water companies who, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, constructed over 250 water towers throughout the country - structures that would become as much about ensuring the flow of fresh, clean water as they were about announcing each company and their importance to the locale.

Rokkeveen Water Tower was no exception to this rule. Built by the Stichting Drinkwaterleiding De Tien Gemeenten on the fringes of Zoetermeer between 1927-28 the tower stood not only an important monument for the utility company, but declared the region ready to embrace the efficiencies of modernism and with it supply its residents with all of the luxuries promised by the maturation of the industrial age.

Sadly today it suffers the fate of so many of our rigidly purposed industrial relics. Retired as an integral part of essential infrastructure, there is a reluctance to spend stretched city resources on a grand monument that could be viewed as little more than an ornament.
Nevertheless, it stands as an anchor, a footprint of old Zoetermeer south of the A12, cementing the people of Rokkeveen to a shared history, memory and identity as Zoetermeerders, while local wildfowl make their roost atop the tower as we pontificate how to maintain the structures we no longer know what to do with, but somehow still need.

Made in collaboration with producer Andy Brydon from Curated Place, for the Stadsmuseum Zoetermeer.

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