Blog post from 2017 written for Wandering in Cities
I arrived into the Hague for the first time via bike. The cycle path we had taken from our point of origin, Leiden was almost entirely comprised of forest terrain. The path shrouded in dense trees and greenery, with speckles of sunshine breaking through to line the path. so beautiful you couldn’t imagine that you were accumulating miles at the same time.
I wasn’t responsible for navigating our route and this meant I had little idea of the route we were taking. I was enjoying being a sheep.
Through signage along the path, it became clear the city was near afoot and before I knew it we emerged directly out of the forest terrain to be confronted of 2 skyscraper buildings. We had arrived in the Hague, straight into the centre of the city.
Its interesting, as when travelling via plane / train even us into a City the place is framed for us y these official arrival points, gateways. Gateways that about invariable announce you are here/ welcome to X. At these official boundaries, meshed in with the welcome signs, you will often find a council-led scheme – in the form of a creative sign / billboard – that seek to convey aspects of the city’s character (some with more of an overt agenda than others).
Arriving by bike, you escape all of this. The boundaries are porous and uncontrolled. We are allowed the find the character of the city ourselves. No meddling hands to curb, at these gateway points anyway. But you find these meddling hands elsewhere.
But in the Hague I didn’t care as Mondrian is the brand, and I really loved it.
I first realise as a hoardings for a new development has the Mondrian print spread across it. In a wonderfully tasteful way I might hasten to add.
As point of comparison I think to London and the hoardings boards there. The overtness of the messaging that these homes were investment. The aspirational visuals of white-middle classes sipping prosecco and looking out onto the shared, that white-washed over the existing demographic. Costings loud proclaimed and crass language about buying into a luxury lifestyle.
This aggrvated me so much I made a blog, as an outlet: Crap adds for urban redevelopments.
Since the close of the blog developers (on their PR teams) upped their game, embedding spot lights into designs or making them cut out – so to mimic the shape of the new building, and skyline.
None of this in the Netherlands, always tasteful and modest.
I next saw the Modrian flags: the official piece of state-led branding, flying proudly in the wind:
Then as we cycled more I saw his designs were all over: embedded in the facades of buildings
It worked to link the pieces of the city together, united under the subtle design. Not done through words like you might see elsewhere but through 4 simple colours and I approved of it all.
As an after thought, I suppose this reaction might have been very different had I not liked Modrian….