Exhibition opening:

A Canon of Change: how the Dutch delta reached 2100

Coming January 29, the Ministry of Modesty proudly opens the exhibition A Canon of Change: how the Dutch delta reached 2100. The exhibition provides various perspectives on the changing relation between land and water, and its consequences for the Dutch delta: the internal migrations and refugee crisis, the shifting power balances, and sometimes painful societal adjustments. The exhibition is launched with an event to debate the key themes that have defined the 21st century.

From hubris to modesty
2100: we find ourselves at the turn of a century. And an eventful century it has been...

Eighty-eight years ago, in 2012, the then Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment presented the first Canon of Spatial Planning. This canon displayed ‘icons’ of Dutch ‘spatial planning’ (the old word for spatial sounding, formally used until 2073), such as the famous ‘Delta Works’ at the time. These icons did not only represent the pride of many delta inhabitants, but also showed their unshakeable trust in the control over nature’s forces. In the thinking of the time, water was ‘managed’, food ‘produced’, and energy ‘mined’. This engineering mentality also defined how the Dutch looked at the future: there was no problem so big that, in the end, it could not be tamed and managed. After all, the Dutch ‘made their country and made it well’.

The period just before storm Mia in 2065 is now often seen as the zenith of hubris in Dutch spatial planning. Shortly afterwards, parts of the country had to be sacrificed to the sea. This meant the beginning of a period characterized by ‘policy wars’ with respect to how and where the Dutch Delta should be rebuilt. Should we continue the path of finding ever more innovative, technical solutions, or accept a new reality and ‘move along’ with sea-level rise and other consequences of climate disruption? Was there a way to combine innovation and technological fixes with a different approach, one of radical modesty?

A Canon of Change
The exhibition displays 16 ‘icons’ of Dutch ‘spatial sounding’, representing different responses to the consequences of climate change. It invites participants to look back at that 21st century we are leaving behind and to appreciate, amidst all catastrophic changes we learned from, the fundamental novel approach to living in a delta that emerged. It is an attempt to acknowledge what has happened, but also to celebrate how delta inhabitants have redefined their lives in a world that could no longer be controlled

On January 29, the exposition of the Canon will be launched with a collective event.

The programme:

Part 1 of the Manifestation (2100)

13.00 – 14.15 Opening of the online exhibition. A Canon of Change: How the Dutch delta reached 2100. This includes 4 small-group presentations icons of Dutch Delta Development and an interactive plenary debate:


1.     To the rescue! (groups 6 and 7 – WACU en Emergency Flats )
2.     Scary things across the water. (groups 1 and 5 – Community Pool Dock & Rock in the Waves )
3.     The Anthropocene lives in us. ( groups 4 and 8 – Rhine Parliament & Arnhem)
4.     Technology is the answer, but what was the question? (Groups 2 and 3 – Farming & 9G)

14.15 – 14.30 Break

Part 2 of the Manifestation (back in 2021)

14.30 – 16.00 Six parallel sessions on the future of urban development in the Netherlands

Session 1. Bouwen aan een duurzame toekomst. (NB: in Dutch) Er wordt momenteel hard gewerkt om de aankomende nieuwbouw in Nederland circulair te kunnen gaan doen. Wat zijn wenselijke toekomstbeelden die we hierbij voor ogen hebben? Samen gaan we op zoek naar welke stappen er mogelijk zijn om daar dichter bij te komen en eventuele obstakels te overwinnen.

Session 2. Utopian cities for walking beings.
In this session we will have a futuristic dive into the urban environment of three future cities in the 21st century. Together with the participants of this session these cities are being shaped by using techniques of futuring.

Session 3. Een nieuwe kijk op de inrichting van Nederland: scenario's voor 2050. (NB: in Dutch) In deze sessie willen we je vragen mee te denken over de ruimtelijke inrichting van Nederland 2050. We ontwikkelen 4 verschillende scenario’s, allemaal voorstelbaar en gaan daarover in gesprek.

Session 4. The big sponge in the Dutch Desert.
In this session we will look at drought challenges in the Netherlands from different perspectives. What are the biggest challenges now and in the future, and how are policies made towards these challenges? These and other questions we’ll be discussed at the end of the session, feel free to join us!

Session 5. Wijk om Water: Ontwerp mee aan een waterrobuuste wijk in de A12-zone. (NB: in Dutch) Idealiter wordt in alle nieuwbouwplannen water en klimaat meegenomen bij het ontwerp. In de praktijk blijkt dit nog een lastige opgave. In deze sessie proberen we samen met een ontwerper een maximaal klimaatadaptieve en waterrobuuste wijk in de A12-zone te ontwerpen.

Session 6. Youth participation in the planning of rivers for the long-term future in the Netherlands. In the session we will have a futuristic view for the next 100 years on how to use games to create youth participation in dilemmas of river management.

The museum exhibition ‘A Canon of Change’ is developed by students of the Mixed Classroom Techniques of Futuring, an initiative of the Urban Futures Studio (Utrecht University), in collaboration with the Ministries of Infrastructure and Water management, respectively of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations.

This event is part of the Sustainability Dialogues series. The strategic theme Pathways to Sustainability organises this series of dialogues around interdisciplinary topics that play a role in the theme and in society. With this they want to facilitate the discussion and stimulate new collaborations.

The Museum for the Future is a project created by the Urban Futures Studio