The Letters of Utrecht

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The Letters of Utrecht
Dutch: De Letters van Utrecht
The beginning of The Letters of Utrecht.jpg
Artist, Utrecht's guild of poets and volunteers
Year 2012 (2012)
Type Social sculpture
Location Utrecht, The Netherlands
Coordinates Coordinates: 52°5′10″N 5°7′19″E / 52.08611°N 5.12194°E / 52.08611; 5.12194
Owner City of Utrecht

The Letters of Utrecht (Dutch: De Letters van Utrecht) form an endless poem in the stones of a street in the center of the Dutch city of Utrecht. Every Saturday at 13:00, the next letter is hewn into the next cobblestone, intended for as long as there are Saturdays. It takes several years to publish an average sentence. Every few years another member of Utrechts' guild of poets extends the poem.[1] The poem was started on June 2, 2012 and Utrecht's mayor, Aleid Wolfsen, contributed the first letter hewn at the opening.[2] To predate the beginning of the poem to January 1, 2000, the city works department had previously laid 648 stones with the letters of the contributions of five poets into the street.[3] Since the opening, stone masons from the 'Lettertijd' guild have hewn the characters in a font designed for the purpose by Hanneke Verheijke of Avant la Lettre into subsequent stones every Saturday. [4] Since early 2013 Mark Boog has continued the poem as its sixth poet[5] and since late 2015 the Iraqi-Dutch Baban Kirkuki (nl) became the seventh poet to continue the poem.[6] Stones with year numbers mark the planned route and turn the growing line of letters into a meter of time. If the citizens continue to fund the making of stones for long enough, the line of poem will itself draw the letters U and T on the map of the city, and future citizens can decide on the future route beyond the year 2350. A future there will be, but it is unknown: the poet keeps the continuation of the poem beyond the most recently published letter secret.

The monument is expressly intended for the benefit of future people. The effort is driven by a not-for-profit foundation, Stichting Letters van Utrecht and hopes to generate excess funds for practical good causes. The concept for the Letters of Utrecht was originally inspired by the efforts of Danny Hillis and the Long Now Foundation to build a 10,000 Year Clock to promote long term thinking. The Long Now Foundation had contributed a stone cut from the Sierra Diablo Mountain Range[7] in Texas where the 10,000 Year Clock is being built. That stone now carries letter number 1 (a "J").[8]

As a social sculpture, The Letters of Utrecht refer to the 7000 Oaks of Joseph Beuys in Kassel, Germany. Beuys named his work City Forestation Instead of City Administration and conceptualized man's dependency on nature, referring to it as a 'Wärmezeitmaschine' (Heat-Time-Engine).[9] The Letters of Utrecht evoke civilizations' growth of knowledge and the dependency of future inhabitants on the actions of contemporaries and visualize the passing of time and the reality of the future.[10]

The continuation of the Letters depends on the willingness of citizens to sponsor the creation of a letter in return for having a name or dedication engraved in the side of the cobblestone and on a website,[11] which hopes to let people consider their reputation among posterity rather than their status among contemporaries.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Video in which poet Ruben van Gogh explains the Letters of Utrecht (in Dutch). Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  2. ^ The first letter that was hewn at the opening carries number 649 because of the preexisting part of the poem. See Opening of the Letters of Utrecht and a television news item. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  3. ^ The starting poets were Ruben van Gogh, Ingmar Heytze, Chrétien Breukers, Alexis de Roode, and Ellen Deckwitz. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  4. ^ De Letters van Utrecht news (Retrieved 18 Feb 2018)
  5. ^ The Letters of Utrecht news item Feb 2, 2013. (Retrieved 17 Feb 2014)
  6. ^ De Letters van Utrecht news item 12 Dec 2015 (Retrieved 12 Jun 2016)
  7. ^ Jeff Bezos' site on the 10,000 Year Clock. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  8. ^ Stone from Long Now for De Letters van Utrecht. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  9. ^ Armin Zweite, ed. (1991) (in German), Joseph Beuys: Natur, Materie, Form, München: Schirmer-Mosel, ISBN 3-88814-453-1 
  10. ^ Milliongenerations' Letters page. Retrieved 29 June 2012
  11. ^ List of Letters and Sponsors. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  12. ^ Milliongenerations' Letters page. Retrieved 29 June 2012

External links[edit]