Het Parool Review – Ode To The Bijlmer
Het Parool Fifty-year-old neighborhood in Southeast honored
New light on the Bijlmer
CBK Southeast is organizing an exhibition about fifty years of Bijlmer. Eleven artists reflect on the history of the most famous and infamous new-build neighborhood in the Netherlands (Het Parool).
Het Parool: Bijlmer nostalgia is complicated, as appeared last Saturday at the opening of the exhibition Ode to the Bijlmer. The dingy photos and videos that Patrick Koster (1967) and Thérèse Zoekde (1972) made in the Bijlmermeer in the years 1989-1997 confirm the image of a scary neighborhood where danger lurked everywhere. The work of photographer Brenda de Vries also shows another side. She took on the role of her alter ego Syd D. Doscher and went in search of her childhood memories in the Bijlmer. The photographed fragments of concrete flats, children playing and newly built houses are loosely attached to each other with needle and thread, resulting in ephemeral images full of melancholy.
This year it is fifty years ago that the first residents in the Bijlmer were given the key to their ultramodern homes. The honeycomb-shaped flats were designed by Siegfried Nassuth (1922-2005), according to the very latest urban development insights. Nassuth was inspired by the modernist ideas of the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier. There was a separation between living, working and recreation. The new district had to become the green city of the future, with light, air and space for all residents.
In the drawer
As is known, such utopian ideas turned out to be a bit naive, after which a large part of the high-rise flats was demolished. When artist Hans van Houwelingen (1957) was approached by the Zuidoost district in 2006 to create a monument for the Bijlmer, he came up with an image on a viaduct along the Gooiseweg, near the Daalwijkdreef. Van Houwelingen: “The Gooiseweg should have been twice as wide. The plans for that broad road were changed, but the foundations are still there. They tell something about the ambitions and ideology of the neighbourhood.
When the high-rise flats were demolished, I proposed putting a model of a Bijlmer flat on the foundations of that viaduct.” Van Houwelingen wanted to dedicate his Bijlmer monument to Siegfried Nassuth, but the planners in the area were busy polishing his designs away. It was not the right time to honor the old high-rise buildings with a monument and Van Houwelingen’s design disappeared in the drawer.
Now he presents his model again, in addition to a photo montage of what the artwork might look like. “Now apparently the noses are pointing the other way. During the opening of the exhibition I received many positive reactions. I have just spoken with a number of politicians who are going to see whether the monument can still be realized.” Graphic designer Floor Wesseling (1975), founder of Studio Wesseling, grew up in the Bijlmer. He designed two light boxes, one and a half meters high. Letters in the shape of that used to hang from the garages in the G and K neighborhood. “I lived in the G neighborhood and if you came out of the city at night, you could see the name of your flat looming in the dark.” (Het Parool)
When you came out of town at night, you could see the name of your flat looming up in the dark (Het Parool)
Opposite the blue G is a red K, the neighborhood where Wesseling’s friend and colleague Marques Malacia used to live. The font is Futura medium, designed in 1927. A modernist design, but according to Wesseling also timeless. “It is just as future-oriented as the Bijlmer, the ideal city. The letters are actually a neutral portrait of the atrocities of my youth. Because there were many youth gangs who identified with their neighbourhood.
That’s how it became G against K. At the end of the eighties we looked at street culture in America, at hip-hop and gangster rap.” The red of the K and the blue of the G are also a nod to the Bloods and Crips in Los Angeles. Although the rivalry in the Bijlmer was not so fierce, Wesseling admits. “But there were some serious fights and street fights with guns. So those letters are an abstract typographic image with a very personal charge.”
As part of the exhibition, Studio Wesseling will also present a new, temporary work on the square opposite CBK Zuidoost on Saturday 29 September. It is a reinterpretation of the disappeared artwork The great slide by Karin Daan (1944), which used to be close to the metro stop Ganzenhoef. It consisted of two slides under a viaduct, which were eagerly used by children. Wesseling: “When my parents went shopping there, I always played there. Because there were two lanes next to each other, you could compete with other children. The ding dong we heard as the subway pulled away was our go-ahead.”
Exhibition Ode to the Bijlmer, CBK (Centre for Visual Arts) Southeast.
Kees Keijer, Het Parool, AMSTERDAM
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