love at first sight

Dear family, friends, and friends of friends,

Some of you already know that we have bought a little piece of mudland in Zunderdorp with the plan of building our own house there. In this blog you can follow the whole process of designing and building. I have already been working on the design for a few months, so I will first go back in time to start at the very beginning: The discovery of the building site.

It was the last Friday of September, when I drove Kanna to the farm in Zunderdorp for her horseriding class. She has been going there since her 6th birthday, which we celebrated on the farm. At that time, our friend Sietske had a horse which she lodged in Debbie’s stables and every time we saw her she insisted that Kanna should come visit her on the farm. I had no idea where Zunderdorp was, and even though she mentioned it being not far from Amsterdam, I somehow confused it with the birthtown of Vincent van Gogh, which is not exactly around the corner. So we never visited her there. Until Kanna’s birthday came up and we asked her what she had in mind for her party….

On the way to “Ons Verlangen” or “Our longing” which is the name of the farm, we drive past this tiny village in the countryside. People who have the habit of cycling in their free time all tell me they know it but I had never seen it. which is strange because it is practically still part of Amsterdam. The northern border of Amsterdam is defined by the partly elevated ringroad highway beyond which a green history land. The area is called Waterland, an appropriate name for the entire country but this specific landscape here is doing an excellent job expressing its name. The land lies at least 3 meters under sea level and it has seen desastrous floods in a past when photography already existed. After that last flood in 1920, the land got a protection belt in the shape of a dike. But still, it is quite a wet business over there, with lots of ditches, canals, waterways and canals. Every Friday as we pass underneath the highway and the sign of Amsterdam striked through with a red line appears, Kanna cheers YIHAAA in celebration of this wonderfully abrupt transition of grey urbanity to rural arcadia. It reminds me of the scene in Studi Gibli’s “Sen to Chihiro” when the family passes through the tunnel to arrive in another world. It is the moment we open all the car windows and the birdsongs and greenery dolby-surrounds us providing for instant mood improvement. We cheerfully drive on through the fields, curving around the golf course, passing the ecological farm where Sembo once attended a birthday party and all those fashionable city kids helped the farmer milk the cows. At a point the farmer was squeezing the milk out of the udder straight into the mouthes of the kids. Sembo must have been three but he still remembers the warm creamy taste. Here Zunderdorp is already visible in the distance. A pittoresque village with the kind of wooden houses you can still find everywhere in the rural villages in ths part of the country.  A church tower completes the picture. We are talking 1km away from Amsterdam. So, for almost one year, Kanna and have driven past this open air museum without me even giving it a second look.

So it was the last Friday of September, sorry for the detour, when my curiosity provoked me to take a closer look. I dropped off Kanna with her boots and cap and drove back to the village. There are only three streets and I decided to take the middle one which leads to the church.  I parked the car and explored the other two streets on foot. I remember seeing an Indian canoo in front of a house and in front of another house there was a small table with home-made marmelade for sale. I bought one and deposited the money in a tincan, fishing out the change myself. I mean COUNTRYSIDE. When I explored the street which forms the southern border of the hamlet, I came accross this open piece of land. It was obviously not being used, overgrown as it was with weed. I knew immediately what it could be for me: a place to build my own house. I was almost shocked by this idea. I looked around nervously and casually walked on not to look suspicious. My outrageous thoughts went on: it is about the same size of the sites we have built nice houses on in Tokyo. Even bigger probably. And with a much much better environment. First and most important feature: it is oriented to the south with a gorgeous free and far view over this Waterland landscape of fields and water. Ok, there are also the giant electricity poles and the highway in the background, but that doesn’t bother me too much. In Tokyo we lived practically NEXT to the highway… Another minus: the neighbour at the back is using the land as storage space for his contractor business. But it is also a plus because behind that land lies meadow which forms the green heart of the village. A house on this place would therefor look out onto green fields and animals from both sides, at least from the first floor that is. So here you have me dreaming off, while there isn’t even a questions of us moving, let alone building a house, let alone being able to afford it. And most importantly, the land isn’t even for sale! There is no for sale sign and the land obviously belongs to the small house next to it.

In the weekend I forget about it, but on Monday I check out the Funda website for the first time in my life. I search for Zunderdorp on the map and shiver. There are only two flags and one of them is tagged on”my” site.  I click on it and discover that the ad has been freshly put up for sale: Since last Friday…