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, Utrecht's guild of poets and volunteers
Year2012 (2012)
TypeSocial sculpture
LocationUtrecht, The Netherlands
CoordinatesCoordinates: 52°5′10″N 5°7′19″E / 52.08611°N 5.12194°E / 52.08611; 5.12194
OwnerCity 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,[1] with the intent to continue for as long as there are Saturdays. It takes about three years to publish an average sentence. Every year the poem grows by about five meters.[2] Every few years another poet extends the poem.[3]

The poem is created by members of Utrechts Guild of Poets and was started by Ruben van Gogh, Ingmar Heytze, Chrétien Breukers, Alexis de Roode, and Ellen Deckwitz.[4] The poem was continued in February 2013 by Mark Boog,[5] in December 2015 by the Iraqi-Dutch Baban Kirkuki,[6] in December 2018 by Vicky Francken[7] and in March 2022 Anne Broeksma[8]

The first 648 letters (one for every Saturday since 1 January 2000) were unveiled on 2 June 2012 by Utrecht's mayor, Aleid Wolfsen, who contributed the letter hewn on location that day.[9] Since this opening, stone masons from the Lettertijd guild have hewn the characters into subsequent stones every Saturday. The font was designed for the purpose by Hanneke Verheijke of Avant la Lettre.[10] 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 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 project is expressly intended for the benefit of future people. It is funded by contributors who donate Letters and add stories to them, which results in a growing number of people with an interest in the project's continuation and generates excess funds for practical good causes.[11] The effort is driven by a not-for-profit foundation, Stichting Letters van Utrecht and run by volunteers.[12] The concept for the Letters of Utrecht grew out of Milliongenerations' work of and was 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[13] in Texas where the 10,000 Year Clock is being built. That stone now carries letter number 1 (a "J").[14]

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-machine').[15] 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.[16]

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,[17] which hopes to let people consider their reputation among posterity rather than their status among contemporaries.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The new Letter is published on the project's website on Saturday. (Retrieved 7 April 2019)
  2. ^ Hajer, Charlotte (2012-03-29). "Long Poetry: The Letters of Utrecht". The Long Now Foundation. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  3. ^ Video in which poet Ruben van Gogh explains the Letters of Utrecht (in Dutch). Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  4. ^ The poem on the projects web page. (Retrieved 7 April 2019)
  5. ^ The Letters of Utrecht news item, 2 February 2013. (Retrieved 17 Feb 2014)
  6. ^ De Letters van Utrecht news item 12 December 2015 (Retrieved 12 June 2016)
  7. ^ The Letters of Utrecht news item, 8 December 2018. (Retrieved 7 April 2019)
  8. ^ The Letters of Utrecht news item, 23 February 2022. (Retrieved 28 April 2022)
  9. ^ See Opening of the Letters of Utrecht and a television news item. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  10. ^ De Letters van Utrecht news (Retrieved 18 Feb 2018)
  11. ^ Good causes supported by the Letters of Utrecht. (Retrieved 7 April 2019)
  12. ^ Foundation Letters of Utrecht. (Retrieved 26Apr2021)
  13. ^ Jeff Bezos' site on the 10,000 Year Clock. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  14. ^ Stone from Long Now for De Letters van Utrecht. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  15. ^ Armin Zweite, ed. (1991), Joseph Beuys: Natur, Materie, Form (in German), München: Schirmer-Mosel, ISBN 3-88814-453-1. Cited in Joseph Beuys, "Energie",, retrieved 29 June 2012
  16. ^ Milliongenerations' Letters page. Retrieved 26 April 2021
  17. ^ List of Letters and Sponsors. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  18. ^ Milliongenerations' Letters page. Retrieved 29 June 2012

External links[edit]