Right to the Wind (13 Apr)

De Zandweg windmill in Charlois, Rotterdam. Photo by Sander van Wettum, 2020 featured in issue #3 Aeolian Urbanism of Taming the Horror Vacui, Haseeb Ahmed’s long-term project at Rib, Rotterdam

In the 18th century the Dutch implemented the Windrecht (the right to the wind). This ensured both a free airspace related to air capture needed for the windmill to function and a tax associated with it. Right to the wind still exists in the Netherlands and internationally. 

A wind relayed in Issue #3 of Taming the Horror Vacui reads as follows:

A Miller’s Wind Tale Easter Monday should, of course, be a day off, but it was the only day we could catch a bit of wind, so I milled the whole afternoon. You have to catch those days; when there’s no wind, there’s no flour, and so there’s no food! I have been a volunteer Miller at Zandweg for 46 years. When I was 12 years old I helped for the first time, and as I got older I started doing regular shifts and later even manning the grinding mill-stone, which is still a pleasure. On Saturdays, if there’s enough wind, which we always need on a windmill, I grind flour that is then picked up by all the people in the neighborhood who bake at home. If there isn’t enough wind we cannot turn the large mill-stone necessary for flour—this is a real problem in the park. Before I started here in the 50s of the previous century, the urban expansion started getting threateningly close to the mill, which would cut it off from the wind. In 1951 the miller at the time protested, and appealed to exercise his Right to Wind (windrecht), which had been abolished by Napoleon! He tried his best anyway, stating that there should be a certain amount of empty space for the wind to reach his Mill, but it was all to no use. The city had been bombarded, so new houses needed to be built. They kept some free space for a while until in 1957 plans started to build a park there, which was finished in 1974. I have been working here for 46 years, so I have seen the whole park grow higher and higher—and of course, some trees have been blown over!—but a lot of trees block the wind out, and that is really a pity. Normally you grind a few hundred kilos of flour an hour, now I sometimes have to put in a lot of effort to get a bag full in half a day. On Easter Monday there thankfully still was quite a lot of wind, and I had a good time. When I’m working at the mill, it’s always just fun. I’m busy with nature, with the wind, and visitors often come to watch, which I think will also start happening again soon.

Contribution: the wind story is told by Leendert Sprong. Edited and transcribed by Jakob van Klinken, supported by Rib, Rotterdam.