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Buytenpark, Zoetermeer, Holland /

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I regard the city as a semi-extinct form... I think the suburbs are more interesting than people will let on.  In the suburbs you find uncentred lives... so that people have more freedom to explore their own imaginations, their own obsessions.                                                                                                                                  J.G. Ballard (1930-2009)

This is the only hill in Zoetermeer - Dutch for Sweet Lake - with the remains of old window frames coming up from the centre of the image.

It is a peculiar fact of Zoetermeer that many residents of a certain age, even those that have lived in the city for decades, still qualify their status as Zoetermeerders by telling you where they moved from to settle in the city.  In most cases the hometown mentioned is Den Haag.
Of course, to anyone that knows the history of Zoetermeer the connection is not one that would surprise.  Designated as an area of urban growth in 1962 the village saw expansion thrust upon it by the national government as it tackled the problems of the post-war inner cities.  In Den Haag this meant wholesale demolition of enormous areas of outdated housing - the rubble from which became the underlying landfill that is today the Buytenpark providing Zoetermeer with a large piece of Den Haag in its foundations both physically as well as socially. 
In Zoetermeer targets of growth were strictly planned around the new-town philosophy, seeing a city of 100,000 citizens envisioned, not simply as a dormitory suburb but as an independent, self-sustaining community.  It was always planned that the city would develop its own infrastructure, community and identity separate from its larger neighbor, however, over the years it has become clear that the time it takes to build that identity is a lot longer than initially envisaged.
Although the 100,000 mark was reached in 1991 Zoetermeer was then still very much a city in the making and, as a result, many people who made the move to the town still worked, socialised and identified more strongly with its older neighbour.  However, today twenty years on from its graduation to a true urban centre, those connections are slowly beginning to erode seeing the passage of time soften the hard edges of a constructed history to be replaced with a notion of place that lies more in the lived and local present than with an authority at the horizon of the past.
In many ways the hills that make up the Buytenpark tell the story of this connection and embody the changing relationship between Den Haag and Zoetermeer.  Beneath these hills lies the rubble of the old inner-city, a little piece of the parent still visible at the edge lands of an adolescent town growing into its own character. Though still present with each passing year the nature around Zoetermeer takes a few small steps to erase the outlines of the ruins of Den Haag - allowing the landscape to take on a character all of its own - one that is unique, local, and wholly Zoetermeer.

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

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