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Stories of estates in the Netherlands

In 2015, Berit Piepgras (heritage architect), Thomas Vroege (independent film-maker) and Gerdy Verschuure (Delft University of Technology), made a series of films on the ‘stories’ of estates and country houses in the province of South Holland (Netherlands). These short films, made for the Heritage House South Holland (Erfgoedhuis Zuid Holland), varied from the story of a lost statue by a famous Dutch author, the typical growth of a tree, the typical reason on being buried in the garden and many others and can be found on many websites.

This film-project is part of a larger series of policy and project in the province of South Holland (2013-2016). Due to decentralisation of national spatial policy, provinces are now in charge of preserving their unique identity, which is a pro for heritage. To structure heritage policy, the province recognised seven major lines of (important) heritage in the province: the Roman border Limes, the Old Dutch Waterline, The German Atlantikwall, Barges and rivers, the island Goeree Overflakkee, the Water triangle Dordrecht (with the windmills Kinderdijk). The seventh one wasEstate zones, which was defined as a group of estates situated in the coastal landscape between The Hague and Leiden as a coherent group of connecting estates. The group Estate zone is a ‘table’ of participating owners and organisation on estates, which come together to connect and work together and to decide how to split provincial funding. This is a truly bottom-up approach. One of the key topics within this table is communication, connection and recognisability. This led to an estate passports for young children, ‘(open) day of the castles and estates’ (Whitsunday), maps of estates, films for collecting memories, a traveling library, data collection of the position of estates, transformation and restoration projects and many others.

The reason these short films were made were multiple. First, it was part of the visualisation of the history of this area, collecting historic knowledge on these estates (a ‘digital library’) and to inspire people to visit, especially younger people. But it is part of a underlying idea in the Netherlands, ¬†that new heritage project should cross link the physical spatial development s together with the narrative of the place to inspire and to be used in new developments. All though, new developments were not planned, this was a good moment to start this. This new approach is called the vector- approach, which was presented in 2013 by the Network Heritage and Spatial Development and is all about collecting stories of a place to improve quality and local/ regional identity in new developments. The first step was a series of small films, which we hope to continue in 2016.

More information:

Films can be found on:

Article on policy on estates in province South Holland and Utrecht (in Dutch):



Gerdy Verschuure

Assistant professor

Chair of Landscape architecture and Heritage

Delft University of Technology