A metro line that’s eight years overdue and counting, ugly late twentieth century buildings already being demolished and questionable clothing brands: downtown Amsterdam is too crowded with tourists and the prices are going up, pushing the locals out.
Urban and architectural geographer Mark Minkjan compares Haussmann’s clean up of Paris’ in the nineteenth to what is happening in Amsterdam today:
The city wants to get rid of its famous Red Light District, which lies just a few metres behind the Red Carpet [Damrak, as you step out of Central Station]; the number of coffee and tourist shops is being confined. In virtually all urban situations, temporary creative projects are parachuted-in to imperfect places to attract new audiences and new investments. It signifies the direction in which Amsterdam is going: it’s on its way to becoming an incredibly liveable, comfortable, clean and pretty city; but of course, the cost is its soul.
Dutch journalist Peter Veenendaal recently produced the documentary ‘City of Light’ about the design, construction, and social effects of Willem Marinus Dudok’s De Bijenkorf in Rotterdam. De Bijenkorf (‘The Beehive’) opened in Rotterdam in 1930 (the picture is above is from 1935), and after barely surviving WWII, it was destroyed in 1960 to make way for a subway station and a new department store designed by Marcel Breuer.
‘City of Light’ presents Dudok’s department store as an important model for retail architecture, including interviews with historians, former employees and local enthusiasts to bring the building back to life. Before the war, Dudok’s building was the first in Rotterdam to have escalators and an electric mat to automatically sweep shoes. The roaring twenties movies of Rotterdam before the war is a reminder that Rotterdam had to seriously reinvent and rebuild itself while other Dutch cities were more fortunate.
In Dutch with English narration and English subtitles:
Startup company MX3D that does 3D printing of metals and resin in mid-air has plans to print a steel bridge in Amsterdam without any additional support structures. Using ‘multi-axis’ industrial robots and an advanced welding machine, MX3D can print with steel, stainless steel, aluminium, bronze and copper in mid-air. In September the city of Amsterdam will announce where the bridge will be built.
“The robots will begin printing the bridge on one side of the canal and will create rail supports as they go. They will be able to gradually slide forward on supports, literally creating the bridge upon which they are crossing the canal.” MX3D’s bridge will be made of a new steel composite designed by the University of Delft.
The jagged roof of this warehouse and office space in Meppel, Drenthe was designed by Dutch architect Arnoud Olie to reference a 1950s weaving mill, Weverij de Ploeg (photo) in Bergeijk, Noord-Brabant thought up by world famous Dutch architect and designer Gerrit Rietveld.
Olie wanted to avoid the traditional ‘square box’ buildings that are typical for the region and therefore went with an upgraded Dutch design classic.
Designed by Koen Olthuis at waterstudio, a studio specialised in water-related architecture, this residence was built following strict regulations on limiting the height of the single storey structure. It features subterranean floor space, providing extra surface within the limited dimensions of the building envelope.
Located in Westland, not too far from The Hague, the house has a minimalistic look and a back terrace. Oh, and a great view of the surrounding water landscape.
Dutch artist Rob Voerman has set up a silver space module artwork called ‘Into the Grid’ in the oldest shopping mall of the Netherlands and Europe, Presikhaaf in Arnhem, which is 50 years old this year. Presikhaaf was once a prize-winning bit of architecture, but is now semi-vacant.
Last week saw the big opening of Into the Grid with Bas Bron, member of Dutch electro group De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig and a whole bunch of children with silver coloured cardboard boxes as robot outfits.
The interactive artwork was commissioned by curator and founder Claudia Schouten of Motel Spatie A.I.R., which holds lectures about ‘engaged autonomy’ and urbanism.
Rotterdam architectural firm MVRDV has won a contest to design a new skyscraper in Vienna by proposing a 110-metre tower with an “elegant, hourglass figure” that will reduce the impact of its shadow. The contorted form is said to prevent any of the surrounding blocks being in shadow for longer than two hours a day.
The initial comments on this building is ‘maybe it is possible to use too much glass’. The heat that will generate in summer would required specially treated glass, and ‘the bit about being concerned about shadow is creating a problem where there isn’t one’, although in some Asian countries like Japan it’s a huge deal.
MVRDV are well-known for other much talked about projects, including Rotterdam’s horseshoe-shaped market hall that will be getting a Jamie Olivier Italian restaurant soon, even though there are already two pasta places.
Anyone who has been to Charleroi, Belgium knows its particular mix of worn and torn houses, industrial greyness and general sadness that is contagious if you stay there too long. The city has a reputation for crime and violence, but has many good sides related to food, culture and even sightseeing if you give it a fair chance. However, it is a huge contrast to other nicer and possibly more economically sound Walloon cities like Namur and Liège, and surely like nothing you’ll ever find in the tidy, shiny Netherlands.
The film ‘Bienvenue à Charleroi’ (‘Welcome to Charleroi’) was shot by Dutch director Jelle Dijkstra and his good friend co-director and co-editor Derk Zijlker.
Charleroi was voted ‘ugliest city in the world’ in 2008 by readers of Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. High unemployment, crime and poverty rates, political and social scandals, abandoned factories and ghost undergrounds all contributed to this negative image.
Watch the film here and find out for yourself if it’s really that bad (English subtitles). At 5:59 there’s a sign in French that roughly reads ‘Life isn’t easy when what you see is black’ (as in being depressed).
Started in May 2013, but currently gaining momentum, a bunch of Dutch gamers have decided to build a large part of Amsterdam on a 1:1 scale in Minecraft using Google Maps and Google Earth.
“People called us crazy when we decided to build our own City Amsterdam on 1:1 scale. We started out with a giant map we built with World Painter. After that the building begun.” The group has completed Central Station, Dam Square and the Nemo museum and have about 90% more to go.
If you want to help out, ‘hop into the creative server’, say the makers on www.planetminecraft.com and start building typical Dutch Amsterdam houses.
“In ,’7685 Frames of Netherlands’, filmmaker Pengcheng He documents the beauty of the old cities of the Netherlands in a charming series of tilt-shift time-lapses. He shot the video in Delft, Rotterdam and Amsterdam.”
Many people don’t see Rotterdam as one of the old cities, mainly because few old buildings were left in the city after the WWII. Delft and Amsterdam join cities like Haarlem and Nijmegen as old cities.
Amsterdam’s IJ river ferries kick it off, then the Stopera, but I’ll let you play guess the city on your own because I could possibly describe the entire video location by location (yes, that is a bit scary) having lived extensively in all three cities. Sometimes, the film even has a miniatures feel to it.