This autumn, Centraal Museum presents Dreams cast in concrete, an exhibition about two utopian construction projects with turbulent histories: Kanaleneiland and Hoog Catharijne. Both projects were once hailed as solutions to the problems that the city of Utrecht was facing. Kanaleneiland was supposed to solve the housing shortage, and Hoog Catharijne would take care of the traffic problem. Yet within a few decades, both projects seemed to have become symbols of problems, rather than solutions. Other Dutch cities were experiencing similar problems. And even today, we are struggling with dilemmas about sustainability and how to deal with the increasing pressure on the housing market. Centraal Museum takes stock of the issues from the perspective of design, history and contemporary art.

An ideal city on paper

Artistic director Bart Rutten: “Hoog Catharijne and Kanaleneiland have a lot to tell us about how quickly our preferences and ideas about living and working change. Both projects went from adored to detested, and are now on the way back up. In this exhibition, we ask what influences underlie this phenomenon and, especially, what role people personally play in it. It is important to us that we allow visitors to form their own opinions by presenting them with various perspectives. That is why we are collaborating with three curators, so that we can show the visitors new ways of looking at the subject from the point of view of urban history, design and modern visual art. Among others, the museum has commissioned visual artists Zachary Formwalt, Mounira Al Sohl and Jan van de Pavert to create works that offer surprising perspectives in their own, unique ways. And we are diving into the past with designs by Gerrit and Willem Rietveld, Gispen, Pastoe, Artifort and Martin Visser.”

Video Zachary Formwalt

Personal stories

Personal stories are an important part of the exhibition. The stories told include those of the early residents of Kanaleneiland and the original business owners and residents of Hoog Catharijne. In addition to modern art, Dreams cast in concrete includes photography, film, fashion and furniture. Various related programmes will be organised during the exhibition.


De Vrijervandongen


  • Centraal Museum, Utrecht, Merle Smeets, (Metropolis M, 6, dec./jan. 2019/2020), pp. 50/51 en op de voorpagina.
  • Dromen in Beton : Kanaleneiland / Hoog Catharijne, Natalie Dubois en René de Kam, Centraal Museum (Utrecht, [2019]), [24] p.
  • Situatie gewijzigd : De stad, het PMB & de verandering, Voorw. Marjon Nooter, tekst: Anneke van Huisseling, Gemeente Utrecht (Utrecht, 2006), 152 p.

Collection in this exhibition

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