What are the key ingredients of our desires for nature? To which form of nature do we want to contribute, now that cows and greenhouses are disappearing from the landscape? In the course of a two year long field research, Hunnie (‘them’ in local slang) designed and tested new forms of recreation and maintenance in De Bovenlanden in the Dutch Province of Utrecht. The polder is destined to exchange its agricultural function for a nature reserve in the context of a European wide plan to link ecological zones and allow flora and fauna to migrate and diversify. Hunnie’s focus is the role of humans in relation to this man-made ‘new nature’. Hunnie is a collaboration with social designer and researcher Henriëtte Waal.

Aims: Address the urgency of new exploitation models for ‘nature’ in the Netherlands with policy makers; start a mentality change, particularly regarding the given ideas around paths/routes, the role of users and maintenance issues; make local entrepreneurs and nature volunteers more visible in the transformation process of this rural area into a new nature resort; promote expertise through experience by equipping participants with skills and knowledge of their surroundings; give another reading of the area (i.e. activate its hidden potential) through the knowledge and the products generated by the seasonal adventures.

Method: We invested time into acquainting themselves with inhabitants and local clubs with very specific knowledge of the area. Fishermen, hunters, historians, geologists, biologists, dieticians, artists, water engineers were given the role of guides, while scientists and thinkers were asked to provide a reflective framework. New nature lovers from the surrounding cities were attracted through a series of seasonal adventures and new products related to water, clay, grass, fauna, wilderness and willow. Thus, Hunnie links ‘them’ from De Bovenlanden to ‘them’ who are about to discover it.

Hunnie ran ahead of the Provincial realisation plans for new nature. This has made it possible to implement insights from the fieldwork into the decision-making process. In the course of 2014, we will advise on the detailing and routing of paths and the role of recreational users in the area. Also to ensure the durability of their ideas, we are currently looking into setting up a Hunnie Foundation with local and external experts as board members. Visit (Dutch website) for full credits, products and background information.

Hunnie talks to The Pearl Diver, DESIS Philosophy Talks, 2017
Hunnie Hunting re-enactment, “Des formes pour l’environnement”, EHESS, Paris, 2016

Commissioned by Centrum Beeldende Kunst Utrecht (Ella Derksen) and supported by Programmabureau Utrecht-West / Provincie Utrecht , Stichting DOENFonds voor CultuurparticipatiePrins Bernard Cultuurfonds. Administrated by Landschap Erfgoed Utrecht. With special thanks to all guides, guest speakers, ground leasers and hunnies, Bertus Ruitenbeek (Zorgboerderij Amstelkade) and Staatsbosbeheer. Images courtesy Hunnie, photo Sjoerd Knibbeler, Roel van Tour, Arjen Damen.