Wadlands: Wicker & the Wadden Sea

Unitec Study Tour 2013

WORDS & DIAGRAM Claire Liesching and Robert Nairn

IMAGEs Adrian Noortman, Lecturer at VH Larenstien University, Netherlands

The end of 2013 saw a group of excited Unitec students travel across the world to Europe as part of the department’s bi-annual study tour elective. Admittedly, we thought we had signed up for a month of playing the kiwi tourist; shopping, practising photography and experiencing all the fine food and beer that Europe has to offer. The last thing anybody was expecting was to spend a weekend on an island in the Netherlands hammering sticks into the muddy salt marshes, in temperatures near zero degrees. But clad in gumboots and gloves, braving the onshore wind along with fellow Dutch students from the University of VH Larenstein and the Academy of Architecture, we found ourselves engaged in a two-day workshop exploring the salt formation process of the Wadden Sea.

The weekend began with an introduction to the leaders of SLeM (Foundation for Landscape Theatre) and Oerol (the island’s annual art festival) on Terschelling Island - the largest of the West Frisian Islands in northern Netherlands. The collaborative workshop was experimental, putting the island’s salt marshes into motion through affecting sand deposition, using only wicker to create our structures. Divided into several teams composed of both Dutch and Kiwi students, we collected large bundles of wicker and ventured out onto the tidal flats. The notion was to design and develop willow structures, which would withstand the coastal processes over a 24-hour period, whilst affecting the flow of water and encouraging silt deposition.

The aim of the SleM and Oerol experiments are to reveal the essence of a landscape through artistic installations; allowing events to take place on the land which have either a temporary or lasting effect on it. Transforming an ordinary landscape into something extraordinary, this ‘landscape theatre’ forces people to experience places through new eyes. And while a temporary landscape will disappear, the memories of that place are forever stored in the landscape. The end result inspires richer landscapes, which through human interchange, develops memories.

The opportunity to participate in the Wadlands workshop was an incredible experience, developing our understanding of how humans can drastically change nature. The process of working in a foreign landscape with students from different cultures embraced the idea of exchange.

For more information on SLeM and the Oerol Festival
visit www.slem.org and www.oerol.nl