PLACES AND PATTERNS OF A FESTIVAL: IOPM – Interactive data collection project

Lecturer, Chair of Landscape Architecture. TU Delft.

Msc2 student


The contribution of the chair of Landscape Architecture to the Oerol Festival 2013-Sense of Place is called ‘The Institute of Place Making – IOPM’. The IOPM is an interactive project, built during the ten days of the festival, which explored and visualised the experiences of visitors and inhabitants within the landscape of the island of Terschelling. It is based on the idea of discovering the places and landscapes, which people appreciate most. Tagged test tubes and a website were used to communicate with people. About a thousand responses came from the more than six thousand visitors of IOPM. The responses were mapped, categorized and stored in cabinets in our ‘open air archive’ annex to our base camp on the island and on our website – The project on site is the result of a project developed by TU Delft in a master elective course offered by the chair of Landscape Architecture: Landscape Architecture ON site, as part of Oerol Festival 2013. It eventually developed into a project in which people were asked to take a closer look at the landscape in order to stimulate their awareness of the island.

The project has identified and created two interrelated patterns, on two different scales; the pattern of those places people appreciate most, and the pattern of the ‘open air archive’. The first pattern, on the scale of Terschelling, was identified by our ‘project-like research’, seemingly compromised by the festival. The second pattern was designed by the IOPM during the festival, on a local scale.

Both patterns are simultaneously real and virtual; they are the result of individual and collective manifestations. The small scale pattern was created as a place where collected information about people’s favourite places on Terschelling could be stored, classified and pointed out on a map. It developed into a platform for exchange among the public. The projections of intentions, desires, memories, stories of the festival’s visitors, on the landscape of Terschelling, turned mere sites into meaningful places. Landscapes became ‘containers’ of collective memory and desire, and places for geographic and social imagination to extend new relationships and sets of possibilities’.

Pattern of places that people appreciate most – a compromise between landscape formation, infrastructure and Oerol festival manifestations.

Layer Model Figure 1. Layer model of different factors influencing the collected data. a) landscape types and accessibility; b) path network; c) Oerol manifestations (locations); d) map IOPM - as a result of collected data (around 1000 points/places) during 10 days Oerol 2013.

Layer Model
Figure 1. Layer model of different factors influencing the collected data.
a) landscape types and accessibility; b) path network; c) Oerol manifestations (locations); d) map IOPM – as a result of collected data (around 1000 points/places) during 10 days Oerol 2013.

As a result of our project, the digital and analogue maps of Terschelling show close to a thousand places around the island. This data forms an important collection of places that people assign a special meaning to. By, different layers of influence on the end result were made visible. The places specified by almost a thousand participants of our project seem to have a correlation with the landscape formation of the island, with natural phenomena, with the network of paths, and with Oerol’s manifestations.

The present-day landscape of Terschelling is the result of thousand years of natural influences by the sea, wind and sand as well as the influence of man in varying degrees of intensities. This gradual process determined which places were made inhabitable and in what way. These man-made patterns have been used for a multitude of purposes, lately increasingly in a recreational and cultural way.

These patterns are the basic infrastructure people use to move between different functions such as sleeping, working, eating and leisure, and they form a precondition to appropriate places. It seems that where paths and roads (mainly bicycle paths) are clearly accessible, it is easier for people to take ownership of the place, rather than of those places further away or more difficult to reach, like the Boschplaat (an empty space on our map). This particular place has no paths as it is a protected natural area, and it forms an important piece of landscape in the imagery of the island.

Like the Boschplaat, the participants of our project named many other pieces of landscape and natural phenomena. For instance, the constant presence of the wind blowing through the island, the main colours of the landscape –green, blue and yellow, or the ‘draadgentiaan’. This freshwater plant grows on the island, one of the few places in the Netherlands where the species is resistant, because of the two eastward moving layers of primary and secondary dunes.

During the annual Oerol festival, the island of Terschelling is a stage for location theatre, land art and other forms of art manifestations, with a big impact on the island and its landscapes. During the festival some fifty thousand visitors come to the island. Most of them originate from urban areas elsewhere in the country. These visitors come here especially for the combination of art and landscape, for the proximity to others who think alike, and for the specific identity of the festival. During the ten days the festival takes place, the landscape of Terschelling becomes part of an urban public realm, belonging to the collective.

If we compare the map of Oerol locations with the map that shows the results of our project we can see a contour of Oerol places. We could say that the patterns (during those days) were created by processes originating from the activities related to the festival. The location of our project at ‘Duinmeertje van Hee’, a central place on the island and one of the locations of the festival which has shown a clear preference by the visitor. (This is where most points are located on the map). The location of our project turned out to be one of the places people appreciated most, along with the harbour and the beach on the north side of Terschelling (see map).

Considering the large influence the festival had on the final outcome of the project, it would also be interesting to see the formation of the same process when Oerol is not taking place. It is likely to assume that the experience of places and their surroundings would be different. The data collected in the institute would probably also show other results (Figure 1).

The ‘open air archive’- a projection of landscape perception

Apart from the final result, the digital and analogue map of the island, a flow of communication and influences among people took place in the ‘open air archive’ of the IOPM. The archive was built as a basic infrastructure installed to facilitate relationships among participants, and to store and show the material they brought back to us.

The ‘open air archive’ was built in the forest at ‘Duinmeertje van Hee’, where nine thematic cabinets were installed in accordance with the old dunes’ topography, the raster of trees, and the patterns on the forest floor forming a group of ‘objets trouves’ with tagged test tubes as a tool for communication. Through the contribution of each visitor and the interaction between visitors an exchange of information was created. The visitors affected/influenced each other, directly or indirectly, by a constant exchange of information, and thereby determined the direction in which the subject (of the cabinets) evolved. The visitors were brought in contact with each other through the observations that they left behind in a tagged test tube, and through direct confrontation with each other in the archive. In the end, the archive with its test tubes formed the conditions for the growth of a soft network of data and relations.

The archive was built far away in the forest, a place by itself, thus creating silence and isolation. The entrance was placed at the base camp. Here a path of about fifty meters gave access to the forest. The path, a corridor made by bushes, trees, sounds of birds and rustling of leaves, gave the visitor time to appreciate the surroundings. The archive room was where the interaction among people took place, a place that grew from a forest covered by pine cones and needles to a system of cabinets and paths made by the users crossing each other, and materialising relations. Over the course of the ten days of the festival, with more than six thousands visitors, a pattern of paths was formed between the cabinets, going up and down the old dunes and connecting in all directions.

The cabinets transformed similar places in the forest into special ones. By introducing these new elements- the cabinets- with a potential significance, a new meaning was introduced to the place. Each cabinet and the group of them became like a sacred place by itself. All cabinets differ from each other, are distinct entities, formally and thematically, and placed in special moments in the landscape. Such diversity is, according to Dupuy, axiomatic and necessary to create a network. The tension created between these points allows the movements to materialise. By placing several cabinets on strategic points within the same distance of each other, a field of tension is created among the objects with a geometry mostly determined by straight lines, as a result of the human habit to choose the shortest, most accessible routing. Those straight lines are deformed by the topography of the old dunes (with high level differences of about six meters) and by the location of the existing grid of trees, forming a web of, curving and unequal paths avoiding those height differences and trees. The adaptation of the straight lines formed by the simple tension between the objects and the conditions of the geography created a new geometry where the human scale, the anatomy of the landscape and the sandy, slippery material of the dunes are the decisive factors.

(The substrate materials and the slight slope of the dunes can be seen as indirect factors that influenced the creation of the patterns of paths in the archive. It would be interesting to see if those patterns would change with a different surface.)

Figure 2. The 'open air archive' in the forest: paths made by visitors.

Figure 2. The ‘open air archive’ in the forest: paths made by visitors.

Communication tools – test tubes, website, cabinets, archive, basecamp and overall map

The base camp, the archive with the cabinets, and the website created conditions which were needed to develop the project. In the base camp test tubes and tags where handed out and information was spread. The test tubes were the main tool used to collect data from the visitors and turned out to be a very successful way to let people participate in the project. Their participation was a crucial factor in the process of identifying and determining a pattern..

In the cabinets all the test tubes were collected and displayed by the visitors themselves. In this way the cabinets worked as a communication tool between the visitors in an indirect and direct way. Indirect information about places on the island was shared through the contents of the test tubes and the writings on the tags. When visitors met each other in front of the cabinets, they automatically shared their thoughts and opinions about the archive, the cabinets and their content. In this way a platform for communication about meaningful places was created.

Through the virtual infrastructure, the website of the institute, data was collected and shared with all people interested in the final outcome of the project. The map of the island did not only make patterns visible, but was also used as an inspiration and as a means of communication. Visitors could add their own pictures, videos, stories, and sound recordings to the map in order to show more about their special place on Terschelling.

Although the Institute of Place Making was a temporary project developed specifically for the Oerol festival, it gave us a very interesting look into the mind of people and the way they think about places. The method we used turned out to be a very appropriate one to collect data, and a functional way to let people participate in the project.

Social networks certainly have the capacity to form themselves; enlarging or shrinking, forming new branches like the Cabinet of Nonsense, where the visitor could make his or her own category (in the other cabinets the categories were made a priori), actually initiating a new branch of categories within the already determined ones and initiating an interrelation on another level of scale, similar to fractals structures often found in nature. It was like a discussion among the participants about which categories should be added to the already present categories in the other cabinets and as such, it was also a way to address us, the designers, to make a critical addition.

Something extraordinary happened on Terschelling that was far beyond our expectations. The ‘open air archive’ became a meaningful place that related the scale of Terschelling with the local scale of the archive. What started as one test tube and one tag grew to almost a thousand tubes and tags, each one with a very different content and approach. The growth of the archive was an interesting process to see, both for the designers of the Institute as for the visitors, who sometimes came back to the archive to see the latest developments of this kind of loop feedback among patterns at different scales.

Figure 3. Test tube tool to collect data.

Figure 3. Test tube tool to collect data.


Denise Piccinini and Michiel Pouderoijen, tutors of Elective MSc2 – Chair Landscape Architecture at the TU Delft. Students: Kaegh Allen, Ilse van den Berg, Erik van der Gaag, Charlotte Grace, Bart de Hartog, Rogier Hendriks, Doris van Hooijdonk, Marleen Klompenhouwer, Emiel Meijerink, Eva Nicolai, Pépé Niemeijer, Sarah Roberts.

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