Coupure Knardijk

  • commissioning and public space

Ever heard of Strukton? It is a Dutch construction and rail company with over 6,600 employees and annual revenues of about two billion euros. They deal with the design, financing, construction, management and maintenance of (large-scale) infrastructure. In short, a business world in which (very) large sums of money are involved and all kinds of interests are constantly at stake. Not an obvious client. Yet Jacqueline Verhaagen was commissioned by them to create a large integrated work of art.

In January 2020, Strukton was commissioned by the Province of Flevoland to convert an existing traffic circle into a flyover intersection; traffic had to flow faster and better on the N302 (Lelystad/Harderwijk - Zeewolde/Dronten). To realize the intersection, - very unusually - the water barrier Knardijk was rigorously cut through. This Knardijk is historically significant, as it is the ring dyke that underlies the reclamation of Flevoland. The art application had to beïntegrated with the area surrounding the road and waterfront modification.

Verhaagen was asked by Strukton to create three sketch designs

Verhaagen was approached by Strukton; there were no other candidates for the job. Someone from the company had seen her work The Blue Dreamer near Zeewolde, liked it, and so she was called. This pragmatic approach perhaps characterizes the entire process of creating the work of art: the realization of an art application was included in the province's assignment to Strukton. They had to provide an art commission and then they do it. The Blue Dreamer is a large monumental work, Verhaagen is excellent at handling large (landscape) areas, and that is what this commission at the N302 called for. So the province did not want to be the commissioner of the artwork itself, but it did want control and the ability to choose. Verhaagen was therefore asked by Strukton to make three sketch designs and these were submitted to an art commission composed by the province.

She chose to create sketch designs for three very different situations around the traffic point

Verhaagen chose to make sketch designs for three very different situations around the traffic point and she managed to make two that she could really stand behind; a plan for the adjoining recreation area where a work of art by Charlotte van Pallandt has so far failed to come into its own and the one that was ultimately chosen: Coupure Knardijk.

photo: GertJan van Rooij

A radical cut through a dike is called a coupure. To make it perceptible to passers-by that they are driving along a dike cut, Verhaagen continued the walls of the coupure at the ends of the dike cut and at the top. For the implementation, she chose basalt, a robust and recycled material taken from the dikes in Flevoland that were being widened at the time. For Coupure Knardijk, the basalt had to be bricked up, a craft that not many people master anymore. Verhaagen found Serge Ligthart willing to do this, scion of a family of stonemasons, his grandfather having been involved in the construction of the Afsluitdijk at the time.

photo: GertJan van Rooij

Verhaagen is convinced that if there were no art commission attached to this infrastructural intervention, the walls of the coupure would have been made of concrete slabs. A considerably cheaper material but already unsightly after a few years due to the tarnish from passing traffic.

photo: GertJan van Rooij

Coupure Knardijk is not recognizable as an autonomous work of visual art, but is that a bad thing? Because of its monumentality, it gives a special appearance to the place; the quality of the surroundings is significantly improved by the artist's intervention. In Verhaagen's original plan, the basalt was highlighted from below. Especially at dusk and in the evening, this would give a beautiful effect and perhaps emphasize more that it is a work of art. However, the art budget was not sufficient for this. And although the province was enthusiastic about the light, they saw no chance of realizing it financially.

Coupure Knardijk is not recognizable as an autonomous visual artwork, but is that a bad thing?

Jacqueline Verhaagen found both Strukton as client and the cooperation with the province to be enjoyable. She was involved at an early stage and worked on an area vision, together with the architect and landscape designer, also hired by Strukton.

Making the dike palpable to passersby has always been the starting point, and it has succeeded. Or to quote the deputy who officially opened the intersection in September 2022: "It is not only an engineering feat, it is also a work of art. The basalt walls are under the viaduct, but they are also extended another 12 meters. It symbolizes that you can dór the dike enters Flevoland".

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