Landscaping in felt

In the foyer of the Architecture Faculty, a curious exhibition is on display. At first glance, it may strike you as modern art. Wooden crates decorated with scraps of blue-green fabric.

Look closely though. Every scrap has a distinct geographical shape, with layering and texturing a lot like polders. That’s exactly what they are. Water and land recreated in soft felt.

Called A Study of Polders in Felt, the exhibition is the result of an interesting excursion held earlier this year. In February, MSc students of Landscape Architecture were taken to the Nieuwland Museum in Leystad for a three day workshop. No run of the mill scientific workshop, this one was led by an artist.

Artist Cora Jongsma, who has worked extensively with felt, introduced students to the fascinating similarities between two seemingly incongruent occurrences: the creation of felt from wool and the creation of polders.

“Essentially, polders are created when water is pumped out of land. Similarly, to create felt, wet wool is flattened with a rolling pin. The constant rolling shrinks the fabric to create a smooth surface,” explains Inge Bobbink, Coordinator of Education atLandscape Architecture. “Going through the process of making this fabric themselves gave students an insight into the process of how polders were created,”she adds.

During the course of the workshop students were first taught how to make the fabric and then about mixing colours, creating layers and texturing. On the final day they were asked to recreate some polders using the felt and colours made by them. Each student also works on a design for a recreational waterscape in a polder.

The final effect is definitely remarkable. After walking through the exhibition, the scraps of fabric begin to make sense. One is a landscape surrounded by crisscrossing water bodies; the fabric has been dyed in different hues of blue to create a sense of depth. Another is a greener landscape – a park on a polder. One looks like a prize-winning landscape garden.

Overall, it is equal parts scientific and aesthetic. “The making of felt is for me the same as cultivating the landscape… I keep this natural process in mind with my Experimental Polders of Felt, with the only difference that felt softens instead of hardens… I try, as an alchemist, to transform the area into gold, and to say the least, in felt,” says Jongsma, in an introduction to the workshop.

Bobbink says that since the workshop she has noticed a marked improvement in how the students engage with the course. That’s not all. “Playing with designs, using technical know-how with imagination is something that will be handy to them in the long run as landscape artists,” she adds.

You can see the exhibit until April 26th in the West Wing of the Faculty of Architecture. 

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