World war II, the beginning, a poem

original text from Derek Jan Otten, in Dutch is beneath.

In the name of anyone who was killed, or was left alone
When infernal whistling ink spots made history on a blank city
Nobody was found death that day, because nobody was looking
One lived only in a city/fortress blown into waste, which till then was bravely fighting


Hands raised up to heaven, without heart no reanimation,
But if the city died that day, she proved the existence of reincarnation
Those who went from hands to heaven to hands on the plow
Who went from horror to emerge, from mourning to building
In name of anyone who decided to help, then
In the name of anyone who decided to do the apparently impossible things
Eyewitnesses disappear quietly, but here the story keeps on building
Look, the battered harbour-city reborn
They preceded, we push through
Stories and history will never disappear,
In name of steady work, straightened backs,
Not a bed of roses but building bridges
Through the eye of the needle and a hole in time
Weaker because of then, stronger through struggle,
That abstract look and romanticized rawness just are the heritage
Black and white images of your city of birth learn about a city in shards

laurens 1940_2

Our screams in cranes, our pain created houses and office buildings as pillars breaking through the sky
Form abominably to phenomenal, a huge city where time keeps ticking
In the name of heavy charges, infeasible ideals and unbridled dreams
In the name of the people of Rotterdam, who were, are and will be
In the name of north and east, from south directly to west,
In the name of not special, but different from others,
In the name of May 14th 1940, and more what came after that
In the name of former times we live in the future, Rotterdam


In naam van een ieder die het leven liet, of alleen achter is gebleven
toen hels fluitende inktvlekken op een onbeschreven stad geschiedenis schreven
Niemand vond de dood die dag, want er werd niet naar gezocht
men leefde slechts in een tot resten geblazen veste die tot dan toe dapper vocht
handen naar de hemel geheven, zonder hart geen reanimatie
maar als de stad die dag overleed vormde zij het bewijs van reïncarnatie
zij die van handen naar de hemel naar klauwen uit de mouwen gingen
die van afgrijzen naar oprijzen en van rouwen naar bouwen gingen
in naam van iedereen die besloot te helpen toen
in naam van iedereen die het ogenschijnlijk onmogelijke gewoon besloot te doen
ooggetuigen verdwijnen stilletjes, maar het verhaal blijft hier in aanbouw
aanschouw, de gehavende havenstad herboren
zij gingen voor, wij zetten door
voor later gaan de verhalen nooit verloren
In naam van noeste arbeid, rechte ruggen
Van niet over rozen maar over bruggen
Door het oog van de naald en een gat in de tijd
Zwakker door toen, sterker door strijd
Die abstracte aanblik en geromantiseerde rauwheid hierzo vormen slechts de erfenis
Zwartwit beelden van je geboortegrond leren je wat een stad in scherven is

Ons gekrijs ging in hijskranen, onze pijn vormde woningen en kantoren als pijlers die de horizon doorprikken,
Van abominabel naar fenomenaal een kolossale stad, waar de tijd blijft doortikken
In naam van zware lasten, onhaalbare idealen en tomeloze dromen
In naam van rotterdammers die waren, zijn en komen
In naam van noord tot oost, van zuid zo door naar west
In naam van niet bijzonder, maar wel anders dan de rest.
In naam van 14 mei 1940, en vooral van wat daarna kwam
In naam van vroeger wonen wij in de toekomst, Rotterdam


Review: In ‘That Sugar Film,’ a Bitter Truth

(repress this review from NY times, written by Daniel M. Gold)

In “That Sugar Film,” Damon Gameau, an engaging Australian actor-director who has been off refined sugars for years, shifts his consumption for two months to include 40 teaspoons of sugar a day, the average Aussie’s intake. And he isn’t scarfing candy and soda: Instead, to highlight the hidden sugars in so-called healthy alternatives, he consumes products like low-fat yogurt, juice and cereal.

If this sounds like Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me,” in which Mr. Spurlock ingested McDonald’s menu items for a month, it should; Mr. Gameau has followed Mr. Spurlock’s playbook almost page for page. Like “Super Size Me,” Mr. Gameau keeps a team of doctors and nutritionists handy, and the health effects are alarming. Within three weeks, he starts to develop fatty liver disease, and by the end incurs early Type 2 diabetes and increased heart-disease risks.


He also travels across Australia and the United States, investigating the consequences of a high-sugar diet and discussing health and business-related issues with scientists, physicians and journalists (including Michael Moss, a former reporter for The New York Times and author of “Salt Sugar Fat”). Mr. Gameau’s breezy blend of computer imagery, musical numbers, sketches and offbeat field trips makes the nutrition lessons easy to digest.

The food-doc shelf is crowded with good-for-you movies, including “Fed Up,” “Fast Food Nation,” “Food Inc.” and, yes, “Super Size Me.” “That Sugar Film” is a worthy addition, entertaining while informing. Timely, too: Just last week, the Food and Drug Administration proposed requiring companies to list added sugar in their labeling.

Sustainability and profitable business


These days sustainability is a hot item. But what is it exactly, can we measure it? Lots of people talk about sustainability, they all know something about it, mostly about low energy use and renewable energy, but there is much more to it.

In my view sustainability is not a target, but a tool to reach a target. I think owning a firm you will look for making profit, how will the firm develop itself over the next few years and over the next generation, but also how can processes be improved, smaller costs, lower impact. Minimalising waste, use less energy or green energy, reduce transport costs, waste and pollution by using local products, all perfect exemples of how your business can be improved and become more profitable.

One of the best descriptions/defenitions for the term sustainable development still is the one given by the Bruntland Commission of the UN: “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. This includes someway everything, from corporate social responsibility to water, waste and energy use, from fairtrade and biologic to education.

There is a wide range of systems and concepts to measure and support this, such as Fairtrade, Cradle 2 Cradle, Organic, Greencalc, life cycle analysis(LCA), BREEAM, planetree, and so on. Here I would like to talk (shortly) about BREEAM, because unlike the other systems which are often focused on just one thing ( greencalc-energy, LCA- materials, etc) BREEAM has a wide range of focus points.

Looking at BREEAM a wide range on subjects/tools is offered to get to a more profitable business. BREEAM, short for Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology is an original British method to measure sustainability, now used in over 60 countries. BREEAM includes 9 sustainability categories: 1. Management; 2. Energy; 3. Health & wellbeing; 4. Transport; 5. Water; 6. Materials; 7. Waste; 8. Land use and ecology; and 9. Pollution. With these categories the method tries to encompass the whole life cycle of buildings from planning to in-use and refurbishment. for each of this categories there is a number of things you can get creditpoints for. BREEAM scores following the next table:

stars score % creditpoints
* pass >30%
** good >45%
*** very good >55%
**** excellent >70%
***** outstanding >85%


Taking back the streets of Beirut

Photograph: Yazan Halwani’s ‘Fairuz’ in Gemmayze “There is an alternative voice rising,” says Yazan Halwani, the young Lebanese street artist. “I’m not going to say that what I do is going to free Lebanon or change the sectarian political system, or fix any regional problem, it’s far from that. But it tells people that you don’t […]

My favorite books read this year

Below I want to mention in a random order a few books I read lately. these are really worth reading and highly recommended! Most of the books I read in Dutch, since that’s my native language.

The Rosie Project by Greame Simsion (writer from Australia) is a story about love, life and lobsters…
This is really a pleasant and funny book to read, good for a summerday at the beach.  It is a funny story about an autistic professor, Don Tillman. He tries to find himself a wife and has a long questionnaire intended to weed out anyone who’s unsuitable. When he meets Rosie, one thing is for sure, she isn’t suiteble for his ‘wife project’.

The hen who dreamed she could fly by Sun-mi Hwang (writer from South-Korea). This is the story of a hen named Sprout. No longer content to lay eggs on command, only to have them carted off to the market, she glimpses her future every morning through the barn doors, where the other animals roam free, and comes up with a plan to escape into the wild—and to hatch an egg of her own. An anthem for freedom, individuality and motherhood featuring a plucky, spirited heroine who rebels against the tradition-bound world of the barnyard. A lovely fairytale, opening a window on civilisation in Korea.

The taliban cricket club by Timeri N. Murari (writer from India). It is a story about a female journalist, Rukhsana, in Afghanistan living under pressure of Taliban. about how important freedom is, worth fighting for.

One day she has to come to the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. She thinks she has crossed a line, a law she didn’t know of or something like that.  The Minister announces the Taliban’s intention to hold a cricket tournament. However, the Taliban could never embrace a game rooted in civility, fair play and equality. And no one in Afghanistan even plays cricket—no one, that is, except Rukhsana, the female journalist.


The tea lords by Hella Haasse (writer from the Netherlands). This book and the book of Helga Ruebsamen I stumbled upon reading in ‘De Gids voor wereldliteratuur‘ by Pieter Steinz (a guide for world literature, only available in Dutch) looking for some books about indonesia. It is a family story, portraying three generations of Dutch colonial experience in the East Indies. Rudolf Kerkhoven takes ship for Java and plunges into the uncleared jungle foothills of the mountains of west Java to follow his father as a tea planter. Beautiful written pageturner, gives an insight on how you can not plan life.


The Song and the Truth by Helga Ruebsamen (writer from the Netherlands) is a beautiful story about a girl growing up in Indonesia, with the mysteries of indonesian nightpeople. because of something she says the family moves to The Netherlands right before WW II starts. In the war the girl has to hide because she is jewish, total opposite of the freedom in Indonesia.  Not a happy story, but a beautiful one!

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (American writer, now Italian) is a story about two brothers who grow up in Calcutta, India. One of them gets involved in a local communist guerrilla group the other moves to America and pursues a peaceful life of scientific research. With the extremist brothers untimely death, the American brother returns to India and marries his brother’s pregnant widow, and takes care of raising the child.


I run into Jhumpa Lahiri books when she had a tv interview about her last book, in altre parole,(in other words) which she wrote in italian. This is also a good book by the way, a novel that could be a biography of herself.

Hallo muur by Erik Jan Harmens is the only book in this list I think only is available in Dutch but I still want to mention. Hallo Muur in English means hello Wall. It is a really beautiful written description of someone recovering talking all his stories to the wall of his room. except having been an alcoholic, he had a burnout, lost his dad and some of his friends and got a divorce. a real and impressive story!

Inhabit the world, vernacular architecture. 

The earth is the serving bearer, flourishing and prosperous, florid and fruitful. Endless wide fields of stone and water, giving place for growth to plants, animals and humans. Human beings living on the earth, brought to peace, building and cultivating the earth. Us mortals, we inhabit the world, we dwell and we live on the earth.  How we live in or inhabit the world goes back till before ancient times. So the story tells, after tohu vavohu man lived in paradise, in harmony with nature.

After the first agricultural revolution people had enough food to stay in one place for a longer time, long enough to build them a shelter, a home. These were simple huts from natural materials such as adobe, clay, stone, straw, wood, animal skin or a mixture of those. This is where vernacular architecture started, as shelter for wild animals and weather conditions around a fireplace for cooking and warmth.  Having enough food for a group of people, they got time to do other things than taking care of food. Trading, writing, money and cities developed, civilisation started. This civilisation started in several places at about the same time: in Mesopotamia, India, China, Egypt and with the Maya culture in Meso-America.

Cities grew in a natural way (along a river, around a holy place or temple) and there were actually two types of people: those who lived in or around a city/village and those who travelled around (nomads, traders, etc). This was the situation till right before the industrial revolution, when trains, cars and airplanes made traveling available for everyone.

Even before the industrial revolution there is a strong call for authenticity. Society or civilisation should be less appearences, show, extravagance and more simple, honest, real and transparent. One who had a large influence on that movement was Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778), who plead for going back to nature. (In French: retour à la nature). This in basic romantic thought had a large influence, not only on his contemporain (baroque) architecture, but also on modern architecture of the 20th and 21st century.


As Frank Lloyd Wright puts it (1910): the true base of every study about architecture taken seriously still is the aboriginal, humble building, which is for architecture what folksongs are for music, fabels and fairy tales for literature. Lots of aboriginal architecture is earthly and natural. Their functions mostly refer to the inner life of humankind, true and honesty, intimate and connected to the context.

So in order to go back to the original idea of living in nature with architecture as shelter one might consider going forwards to an architecture which uses local and natural building materials and techniques, where the plan is functional (without need to look for symetry or other forced modes of esthetics)  and ornaments not part of the structure are left out, still creating a unity in form and enclosed space.  Contemporain architects working with vernacular architecture are for example Glenn Murcutt (Australia, picture below) or gunnar Daan (The Netherlands, picture above).

glenn murcutt