Tracy Metz

Journalist, Director John Adams Institute

'Building with Nature: the Dutch Approach'

August 18, 2017
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Mastery over water: the Dutch have it in their genes. It is a condition for survival in the Netherlands ( = ‘low lands’), as a third of the country would flood without the centuries-old protective system of dikes, dunes and pumps. But the Dutch attitude towards water safety is changing. The country of tulips, cheese and watermills is being confronted not only with global warming, but also with the consequences of all those centuries of interference in the natural system. As a result, the Dutch are moving away from the traditional defensive, high-tech ‘heroic’ approach towards the new concept of ‘building with nature’. Engineers are working together with urban designers and landscape architects to use water to prevent damage and to improve the quality of urban life and of the landscape.

Water is no longer an enemy, and not altogether a friend – but rather a ‘frenemy’ on which they keep a vigilant eye. In her book ‘Sweet&Salt: Water and the Dutch’, journalist and author Tracy Metz charts this transformation and shows designs inspired by the new Dutch ideas about living with water.

Asian cities are following this process with keen interest. In her talk Metz will show how Seoul, Manila, Ho Chi Minh or Singapore are also directing their efforts to face the challenges of flooding, and water supply and management.

Tracy Metz, a native of California, is a journalist, author and presenter based in the Netherlands. She is the director of the John Adams Institute, an independent foundation that brings the best and brightest of American culture to the Netherlands. She writes about urban issues for the quality national newspaper NRC Handelsblad and the weekly magazine De Groene Amsterdammer.

Metz also has a monthly live talkshow in Amsterdam called Stadsleven (‘City Life’) and a weekly radio column. She is an international correspondent for the American magazine Architectural Record and was appointed a visiting fellow at Harvard, subsequent to her year as a Loeb Fellow (‘06- ‘07) at the Graduate School of Design.

She was a member of the Delta Commission, created by the Dutch government in 2007 to advise on water safety for the coming 100 to 200 years. Metz is the author of a number of books on our built and natural environment, most recently Sweet&Salt: Water and the Dutch, about the ‘extreme makeover’ of the Dutch landscape to accommodate a new, more natural relationship to water in times of climate change.


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