Michael van Gessel
landscape architect
Michael van Gessel Landscapes

by Christa van Vlodrop

1. Background

Studied in Wageningen. After that I worked for Stedenbouwkundig Bureau Zandvoort and then Bureau B+B stedebouw en landschapsarchitectuur. Since 1997 independent consultant planning, mostly supervisions, and landscape architecture, mostly projects.

2. Why are you fascinated with
architecture / urban development?

Building, fabricating combined with the material, the tangible, the concrete and the tactile fascinate me. I don't like decorating, styling or trends. That is far too superficial. I love the spaciousness, architecture, creating environments and the sense of timelessness. Landscape architecture is fascinating because it works with live and constantly changing material. This requires knowledge of growth factors and how to deal with different processes. Again fascinating.

3. Best city

Difficult. There are so many beautiful cities, especially those on the water as Sydney, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro and Stockholm. But I know Amsterdam the best and it is a very livable city. It has everything: it is concentrated and mixed, it has history and is innovative, it's a city with beautiful rural area's that are relatively close and there is an ever-present cultural undertone.

4. Most beautiful building

In the world: the Chrysler Building in New York, the Salk Institute in San Diego, the Taj Mahal in Agra, the thermal baths in Vals, the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein in Vaduz, the hotel ESO Cerro Paranal, Chile, and the new Central Station of Antwerp. In the Netherlands: the Whale, the office of Claus and Kaan and Piraeus in Amsterdam and the towers of Jacques de Brouwer in Tilburg.

5. Most beautiful park or square

In the world: Central Park and the cliff in Teardrop Park, NY, the gardens at Giverny, the Flamingo Park in Rio de Janeiro, Blenheim Park near Oxford. In the Netherlands: the Vondelpark and the square of Borsele.

6. Best public facility / urban infill

The Eastern Docklands, IJburg and the Funen in Amsterdam, Mariaplaats in Utrecht and Buizengat in Vlaardingen. Careful in and expansions withstanding its own unique character.

7. Best 20th and 21st century innovations

The chip. Endless possibilities that have been created for mankind. In work, in art, in politics (see the Arab Spring). Wealth and abundance for all!

8. Next groundbreaking innovation

Renewable energies and energy-use. Ultimately, humanity will succeed to make effective use of solar, tidal and wind without compromising the environment or livability. The world will not perish from the lack of human ingenuity but the abundance of human selfishness and destruction.

9. About the future of cities

The city has proven its vitality and resilience for centuries and all developments point towards lasting development, an organism that is constantly renewing itself and has held up wonderfully and will maintain itself.

10. Personal contribution to urban development

Lovingly coaching the fascinating process of the city that takes possession of abandoned harbors, industrial areas and infrastructure as well as the fascinating process of transforming old neighborhoods. Transformation and intensification is the future our profession. And while not thinking in images but in the end structures and open processes whose outcome is uncertain but the result at any time fascinating.

11. Guerrilla in the city?

Guerrilla in the city? Sounds so romantic but it is not. What is really important is that there are 'fringes' are 'border lines' in both spatial, cultural and social sense to create tension, action and reaction, and discomfort. That keeps the organism, that is the city, in motion and constantly renewing itself.