When I moved to Utrecht, already more than four years ago, the Neude square was one of the first central orientation points I remembered whilst trying to find my way around town. Since that day I’ve been crossing Neude square almost daily on my way to university or to have a drink in the city center. What happens most of the time with places you pass daily is that you aren’t really aware of their special features. Of course I spotted the beautiful building of the old post office and the nice cafes and their sunny terraces. But it was only since lately when I spotted the statue of the thinking hare sitting solemnly on his rock overlooking the Neude square.
Why is the hare there and who put him on his rock on the Neude? I did some research to satisfy my own curiosity and to tell you the story behind an important inhabitant of Utrecht. Let’s take a closer look at the hare!
In 2002 the hare entered the Neude square, but the moving did not go by smoothly. In the late 1990s the city council decided the Neude square deserved a statue especially made to fit in the surroundings. To find such a statue they held a competition, several artists were asked to come up with a sculpture. One of these sculptures was The Thinker on the Rock, by the Welsh sculptor Barry Flanagan. The sculpture is a combination of Bugs Bunny and The Thinker of August Rodin.
In this competition the hare was the chosen winner by the official jury, to great discontent of the people of Utrecht. They did not feel like planting a big statue of a hare in the heart of their beloved city, or like the city councilor J. Scheffer put it: ‘’Why do we need this cartoon figure which isn’t symbolic to our city? A hare is vermin, it damages the crops. And think about these negative sayings like: as scared as a hare. Maybe we can put it in Leidsche Rijn. Not next to the Amsterdam-Rijn canal, but ín the canal.
An official referendum was issued in which the people of Utrecht had to choose between two abstract works of art and the hare. Finally Utrecht did choose for the hare, but they rather would have seen a fountain at the Neude. When the statue of the ‘Thinker on the Rock’ was placed, most people thought it looked kind of creepy with its edgy features and long ears. But with the time passing Utrecht embraced the hare; when it is snowing people wrap a scarf around his neck and when Sinterklaas is in the country they give him a bundle of carrots.
The Thinker on the Rock became an intrinsic part of the city center of Utrecht and nowadays it feels like it never has been any other way. Sitting on his rock the hare sees each one of us passing by every day on our way to school, friends or other fun things. He oversees all these things and deserves to be seen as well. So next time you pass by the hare you might take a better look at him now you know his story as well!