In Huizen in Sint Laurens the reader has in his hands precisely what it says on the tin: a list, arranged by street and house number, of the houses in the village of that name on the island of Walcheren in Zeeland, the Netherlands’ south-westernmost province. On each page there is a black-and-white photograph and a description that might have been written by an estate agent.
With its floppy white cover and simple layout it is banal rather than special, and yet it is also a homage to Dutch housing. For this is a portrait of what most villages in the Netherlands look like: an uncoordinated collection of buildings that has grown organically over the years, from 1930s villas to bunches of semi-detached homes built in the fifties and sixties, to detached residences from the period since then. In the absence of any further explanation, the effect of this catalogue is slightly absurd.
Dry texts inform us which contractors built the houses and when, and what the occupiers themselves have altered. But creating an exact, accurate and neutral record of the history of construction in the village was precisely what artist Lara Almarcegui intended. This is not the first such neglected spot that she has portrayed. For this project (an artistic commission from the local authority in Middelburg) Almarcegui carried out extensive archival research, talked to residents and took the photos.