Floriade Horticulture Exhibition in Almere
The Floriade of 2022 in Almere will not go down in history as the most successful edition. The visitor numbers are disappointing and the budget gap is approaching 100 million. When all Almere’s aldermen resigned for that reason at the end of June, it was even feared that the world horticulture exhibition would have to end prematurely.
At the opening, there was also quite a bit of criticism about the character of the exhibition itself. It would all be a bit meager. Due to covid19, a number of participating countries had dropped out. Work was still in full swing at a number of other pavilions. The site therefore made a bleak and unfinished impression.
At the beginning of July, traveling companion R. and I traveled to Almere to see it with our own eyes. Because we were curious. Because we wanted to support the municipality of Almere. And because we were just building a tradition. Ten years ago we also visited the Floriade in Venlo together. And that visit is cherished in the memory as a particularly beautiful day.
In any case, there is something about an event that only takes place once every ten years. Nice, those Olympics once every four years. Cool, this Sail Amsterdam, once every five years. But a decade, that’s really a period. A lot can happen in ten years. And in an average human life one can only consciously experience about seven Floriades. In other words, events with such a long interval should be cherished.
The main eye-catcher of the Floriade, the ropeway, is certainly not disappointing. In a few minutes we float in our cabin over the highway and then to the other side of the horticulture exhibition park. Along the way, the entire urban development plan of MVRDV unfolds before us. And just before landing, we suddenly see a few old acquaintances: the trees on buoys of the bobbing forest that until recently floated in the Rijnhaven in Rotterdam.
The bleakness has disappeared by the time of our visit, in early July. In fact the whole site is extremely colorful and lush. The relatively wet and cool weather of the previous weeks will certainly have helped.
We do not see much unused land either. Okay, Ukraine’s place is a bit empty, but that’s understandable. Other than that there is something to see on almost all lots. Of varying quality, but that is actually one of the charms of such a world exhibition.
The participating countries were probably completely free to fill in their lots as they saw fit. In any case, there seems to have been little guidance and coordination. Thailand has built an over-the-top kitschy pavilion. Some other countries, I won’t name them here, have little more than a souvenir shop 2.0.
On the other side of this spectrum is, for example, the German pavilion: a beautiful wooden construction with an inner garden and a lush green roof. We also like the pavilions of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, with modern versions of traditional architecture. Belgium has a fairly small and modest but therefore also very beautiful pavilion.
The Floriade has long ceased to be a simple flower exhibition without obligation. The theme of this edition is Growing Green Cities. That’s very relevant indeed, I don’t have to tell anyone that. So the green facades, sedum roofs, urban agriculture, organic materials and other creative innovations are everywhere. It makes one optimistic. Maybe it’s really possible: building cities in harmony with the planet.
One day is not enough to see everything. And certainly not to give everything the attention it deserves. When, somewhat tired, we make our way to the exit, we pass a large greenhouse that has hitherto escaped out attention. Looks interesting too, but our heads are full. Back home I read that the planting on the site forms an alphabetical arboretum; I would also have liked to study that more closely.
When the horticulture exhibition is over in October, the site will be transformed into a city district, Hortus. In fact, there are already a school building, a care center and a residential tower on the site. It is unclear exactly how many homes there will be in the new neighbourhood. Winy Maas, from MVRDV, is talking about 3000, but 600 are planned for now. It’s going to be a nice area for sure. A good reason to come back to Almere. My expenses in the local catering industry can be counted on.
The last one?
Did we witness the last Floriade? After this one, it will be difficult to ever get a city council to support such a project. It would be a shame if this ends the tradition. And not just because traveling companion R. and I have to come up with something else in 2032.
Dear reader of this blog, in any case, don’t let the bad publicity be a reason not to visit the expo. Just go and judge for yourself. Or go because it is in fact quite pleasant that it is not so crowded. Or if all else fails go because it might be the last time you can visit a horticulture exhibition in the Netherlands.
Update: April 15, 2023
My fears turned out to be justified. On April 12, 2023, the Dutch Horticultural Council announced that no new Floriade will be organized. Sad, but understandable. If you expect 2.3 million visitors and just under 700,000 show, you may doubt whether the country is still waiting for a world horticultural exhibition. And the question is certainly justified whether a medium-sized municipality should bear the costs of such a piece of Holland promotion.
Anyway, traveling companion R. and I will have to find another educational outing in 2032. But I’m sure that won’t be a problem. Maybe can go take a look what the Hortus district looks like, ten years after the Floriade.