De Nollen

It has become a tradition that we organise a reunion with my siblings and their partners during my visits to the Netherlands. This time my sister was the host and she had planned a visit to a museum in Den Helder, about 20 km north of where she lives.

A museum?  In Den Helder? Some of us were slightly skeptical, but it turned out to be a fascinating visit of De Nollen , the life work of a Dutch artist, Ruud van de Wint (1942-2006).

A nol is the Dutch word for a sand hill, a dune. In this Google Earth image you can still see these sand dunes. Once this was an island! From 1980 until his untimely death, van de Wint has been transforming this wasteland into a Land Art park.

Here is a view of the Nollen. Van de Wint not only put his artworks here, he also did a lot of landscaping.

A monumental gate forms the entrance of the park, a good location for a family picture..:-)

After paying an entrance fee, you can walk around in the park on your own, but to enter the structures, you need a guide. We had an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide, a friend of my sister.

She took us on a 2-hour walk through the park. It was stormy autumn weather with an occasional shower, but we were lucky, during a rainy spell we were inside a structure…:-)

Visible from far away are three needle-like structures.

Notice the small “tunnel” in the foreground.

Created by the artist, so you could have a view of the needles, looking through this peeping hole.



Stormy weather, nice cloudscapes…:-)

The needles look solid, but on closer inspection it turns out that they have been made of wound copper wire!

Many of the artworks are made of corten steel

This structure which looks like an orange peel, was very suitable for a group picture, taken by our guide.

These green structures were slowly moving in the wind, but very sturdy.

The Nollen terrain contains many bunkers, some of them dating back to Napoleonic times, others to WWII. Some of them have been transformed in artworks, like this dome structure with an oculus at the top of the dome.

The interior of the dome has been painted and is lit by the light falling through the oculus. Fascinating

Here is another spectacular structure. On the Google Earth image a whitish lemniscate-like shape can be seen. This artwork is not based on a bunker but has been built by the artist. In the left picture we are walking to this construction.  A narrow passage leads to  the two entrances.We visited one of the halves

Here I am standing in one half of the lemniscate. No windows, the light enters  through a transparent roof. Beautiful, it made me think of Mark Rothko

Another structure. Two thatched domes, which can be entered through tunnels and spiral staircases

Here is the last structure we entered, constructed in corten steel and accessible through tunnels and again a spiral staircase.


The interior looks like a cathedral, with one single (tiny) painting behind a monumental grille.

The painting looks not accessible, but…

It can be opened 🙂


The grille was of course another good location for a family picture “in prison”

The most impressive work of art was this structure in corten steel.

It can actually rotate on a pivot! Unbelievable..:-)

You need quite a few people to bring it in motion. Fascinating.

On our way back to the entrance we passed another artwork of the artist

Back in the entrance hall we had a look at scale versions of his artworks. Van de Wint has been a prolific artist. An exhibition hall for his paintings is under construction. And we had coffee and cake, another family picture…:-)

It was a very rewarding excursion, advisable to anyone who is interested in art!

Here is an article about the Nollen project in English: Project De Nollen  And an article in Dutch (pdf file): De Nollen: grote kunst in een klein kustlandschap

4 thoughts on “De Nollen

  1. What a very nice report of your visit at “de Nollen”. It was a pleasent day with your family on this day in autumn time.

  2. quite an unbelievabe transformation of an island and sand-dunes. I loe the scuptures especially the interactive cocoon-like structure what was it meant to be I wonder? It’s wonderful and it has reinforced the thought of the power of one. The artist is one year younger than I am

  3. This looks wonderful! Thank you Jan. You know that we often go to the island of Texel, crossing by ferry from Den Helder, but we have never been to the Nollen … what a shame. But one day we will go there now that we have seen your inspiring photographs!
    By the way the word ‘nol’ is still used on Texel and the word Fonteinsnol (fountain near the sandy hill) makes some Dutch smirk ….

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