Dykes, of course, are one of the most important features of the man-made landscape of the Netherlands. When you come to think about it, it’s curious that there has never been a comprehensive atlas of the ‘architecture’ and engineering of dykes.
The panel compared a number of different atlas-style books to see how the designers and editors present data and arrange the diverse range of information these works contain. The method used here uses a layered system and is a model of clarity. At the same time, panel members were impressed to find that the book is aimed not just at those in the field but is designed to appeal to broader interests. However, that is not to say that Dutch Dikes will appeal to everyone: it is full of maps and plans, schematic representations of typologies and profiles, comparison maps and cross sections – not the sort of material to reveal itself to a swift uninformed glance.
Even so, the editors and designers have succeeded in creating a clear navigation system that lets you easily find your way through the book and dig as deep as you want. The system consists of printed bands and triangles that are bled off to left and right on the pages, making them identifiable on the fore-edge. For the rest the book contains a generous assortment of beautiful Dutch landscape photos, historical images and enlarged map sections. This makes browsing and comparing an armchair journey through the Netherlands. One minor point of criticism is that this eagerness to impart information sometimes goes a little too far and then it becomes almost decoration: the fiddly dyke map printed on the cover with UV varnish clashes with the otherwise bold cover – and the vertically placed dyke profiles on pages 106-38 are somewhat over the top. But all in all there was much praise for this convincing and attractive way of opening up such a layered and kaleidoscopic subject.