The town of Houten, Utrecht features two roundabouts meant as landing pads (‘air strips’) for alien ships, installed some 15 years ago. One of the roundabouts is a kind of traffic tower for the UFOs, similar to what you would see at an airport, while the other is the actual landing pad, a bit like a helipad, but once again for a flying saucer.
A local politician of the SGP, the same religious sad sacks that regularly complain about metal music, paid parking on Sundays and more recently clutched their pearls over a poster of women kissing, forgetting that the law is not the Bible in the Netherlands, said “a landing pad for UFOs has little to do with reality”, at which point I laughed out loud for a few minutes, wondering if the guy realised what he was saying.
The politician said the art has little to do with what Houten has to offer and should be replaced by references to cycling, fruit or forts. The artist, Martin Riebeek is not from Houten, but lives in Breda, Noord-Brabant and is originally from Haarlem, North Holland, and why is this used as an argument is beyond me.
The ‘U’ on the landing pad in the picture does not stand for UFO, but for ‘you’ in the polite form in Dutch (‘U’) according to Riebeek.
Ten years ago (where does the time go?), we told about the Rotating House (‘Draaiend Huis’) on a roundabout in Tilburg, North Brabant, made by John Körmelings. For quite some time now, the house hasn’t been turning anymore, as it’s broken, and fixing it would cost about 45,000 euro. The artwork cost 400,000 to build, and according to article on Vice.com (see link below), it broke down three times already. This would mean it has been fixed at least twice.
Sadly but not surprisingly at the moment, the Netherlands has a government that doesn’t like high art too much and feels that much of it is overrated. Since Dutch cultural institutions are dependent on government grants as opposed to endowments, sometimes people who don’t like art get to decide what lives or dies art-wise.
There’s currently a discussion about whether the rotating house should be fixed or destroyed. The city of Tilburg wants to fix it, but local youth politicians say the money can be better spent elsewhere like in healthcare. If the house is destroyed, then a lot of money would have been spent for nothing, whereas fixing it up means keeping a world-famous artwork turning for others to drive past and talk about.
Here’s a timelapse video of the ‘Draaiend Huis’ (‘Rotating House’)
In 2009 some angry welfare recipient had to be removed by the fire brigade from the roof, and last December someone wrote ‘waste of money’ on the roof, while in 2008 someone has written ‘a food bank would be better’.
The rotating house cost 348,000 euro, which apparently many people thought was an expensive use of tax payers’ money. It seems to me that since the artwork looks like an overpriced house (as in for 348,000 clams in Tilburg you’d get something bigger) has made it an easy target.
The city of Eindhoven wanted to change the roundabout at the Noordbrabantse laan back to a regular intersection, but figured that this would be too dangerous for bicyclists. Their novel approach? To keep the roundabout for bicyclists, but shift it a couple of metres up into the air.
The engineers of ipv Delft designed a bridge that hangs off a giant pylon in the middle. The pylon is 70 metres high, and 24 cables support the bridge. A concrete nubbin appears to protect the pylon from adventurous heavy goods vehicles.
This video by Omroep Brabant shows what the bridge looks like from above:
The bridge was opened for the first time 3 weeks ago, but closed down again when it turned out that the wind caused the cables to vibrate dangerously. Since then dampeners have been installed that should fix the problem.
Eindhoven could have opted for bicycle tunnels instead of a bridge, but the city felt tunnels lack ‘social safety’, which Fietsberaad describes as “the extent to which (in this case) bicyclists feel free of threat or confrontation with violence”. (In other words, tunnels are dark and may be full of bad guys.)
Every roundabout needs its artwork, and here is Yasser Ballemans’ proof.
The photo shows workers putting in the centre piece of the roundabout near Hoogeveen airport.
I especially like the spiky bits that mirror the obligatory ‘shark’s teeth’ painted on the street (to indicate you must yield) and that just make the one in ten million chance that you crash through the front window of your car and impale yourself that much more interesting.
A rotonde is a roundabout in Dutch, so when Tijs van den Boomen and Peter Jonker set out to create a website about roundabouts and the often ugly art that is in their centres, they of course called it rotondologie.nl. (The Flemish say rondpunt.)
Trendbeheer unearthed a quote from the site about a Doesburg roundabout that exemplifies the wrongness of moral rights (a part of copyright):
“I thank God that [the centre piece] is not art,” alderman Fred Jansen told De Gelderlander. “If it had been, we would not have been allowed to touch it for sixty years. Everybody thought it was garbage, citizens, entrepreneurs and visitors.”
(Photo of a roundabout in Venray by Google Streetview, immortalised because this is presumably the location where the Streetview car made an infraction that caused a police car to stop it two blocks further)
Earlier this year, at age 62, traffic engineer Hans Monderman died of cancer. The Wilson Quarterly profiles the man behind Shared Space, the counter-intuitive idea that dissolving the artificial segregation of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers can make traffic safer.
And Monderman certainly changed the landscape in the provincial city of Drachten, with the project that, in 2001, made his name. At the town center, in a crowded four-way intersection called the Laweiplein, Monderman removed not only the traffic lights but virtually every other traffic control. Instead of a space cluttered with poles, lights, “traffic islands,” and restrictive arrows, Monderman installed a radical kind of roundabout (a “squareabout,” in his words, because it really seemed more a town square than a traditional roundabout), marked only by a raised circle of grass in the middle, several fountains, and some very discreet indicators of the direction of traffic, which were required by law.
As I watched the intricate social ballet that occurred as cars and bikes slowed to enter the circle (pedestrians were meant to cross at crosswalks placed a bit before the intersection), Monderman performed a favorite trick. He walked, backward and with eyes closed, into the Laweiplein. The traffic made its way around him. No one honked, he wasn’t struck. Instead of a binary, mechanistic process—stop, go—the movement of traffic and pedestrians in the circle felt human and organic.
What I assume to be Monderman’s own Youtube videos are still up. In them, he explains what Shared Space is:
John Körmelings’ house on rails was unveiled yesterday in Tilburg. The artwork is an actual, yet uninhabited house on rails that travels along the inside of a roundabout, the Hasseltrotonde. Originally the speed was planned at one round per hour, and currently it is turning at that speed for testing purposes. However, the city council thought that was too fast and the house will be slowed down to 0.000758 RPM (or 1.09 rounds per day) later on.
Körmeling’s idea behind the house was to reverse roles: at a roundabout the cars tend to run circles while the background remains static.