Stretching…

Yesterday’s Pride Walk also broke a new record, while the front of the walk passed halfway over Rokin, near Dam square (the destination), the last people of the walk just left the beginning at Vondelpark, a stretch of 2 km (1.24 miles). Traffic and public transport was blocked for nearly an hour and a half.

You may think that’s not that far or long, but those of you that have visit the centre of Amsterdam, and have seen the traffic through the narrow streets, cyclists included, know how a great havoc this can become.

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The flags you see are from the 79 nations in the world where you can’t show whom you love, or live the life you want to live. In 12 of them you are killed for being gay.

I was somewhere half a kilometer behind this group, just turning up at  Munt square, driving my mobility scooter and Pink Noord banner, a local group of LGBT’s who meet for drinks. (BTW this photo was taken while we were still waiting in Vondelpark.
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Next to me is Els also in a scooter, she’s a huge supporter for human rights, who lives on the opposite side of town in the Southeast.

American friend Bob Newmark who lives in Amsterdam posted 444 photos of the Pride Walk on Facebook. You can find me and his photos here.

The Party Has Started…

DSC00695-1EuroPride 2016 in Amsterdam has just started.  My first thing today was attending the opening of the photo expo of Café ‘t Mandje (the Basket) @ St Olaf’s chapel on Zeedijk. This bar is Gay friendly since 1927, when it was still a crime to be Gay. I’m a customer of the bar but also a friend of the one who made the concept for the show.

Hi, I'm Amy Huiswijn and I present to you De Roze Poort (The Pink Gate)
Hi, I’m Amy Huiswijn and I present to you De Roze Poort (The Pink Gate)

Again I met many people I know, and told them about our new project, which includes the concept-maker, and we’ve had several people who want to contribute to our project. Especially after they heard what happened. First a residential care home would pick-up the bill, but they wanted total control, but never showed up when we invited them. Now we’re doing the same thing but on a private basis, and several care homes want to join in the concept.

Later today I’ll join the Pride Walk, not walking but driving in the mobility-scooter. Just as a few years back carrying the Pink Noord banner, a local group who meets each other every two months for a drink, and make plans for other activities we could do together.

 

It’s Hip To Be Square !

ezgif-square-plantsThe Japanese Baku Maede creative preferred medium is quite humble, whereby he transforms florals and other greenery into graphic visuals. His ‘bit flowers’ and ‘bit leaves’ art works are blooming evidence of this. Maeda has trimmed a variety of petalled plants and other foliage into square shapes, their geometric forms juxtaposed against the organic shapes found in nature.

See more of his art on Tumblr

An Underground Tank Full of Information

In the late 19th century, the toilet was introduced as we know it today. Previously most of Amsterdam households possessed a toilet cubicle in the courtyard of their house. The earliest mention of such a sanitary facility in the city, a heymelichede (secret) dates back to 1377. From 1528 it was officially obliged to provide every house with a crapper. Traces of these crappers archaeologists find regularly.

Cross section of a cesspool with dome and chute
Cross section of a cesspool with dome and chute

The round or rectangular walled container of the cesspit that had an average size of 2×2 m and 2 m deep, often it had a dome on top with an opening for the chute, which came out in the outhouse. A cesspool was often used by a single household, but it also happened that a well was connected through several chutes of privies from different premises. In addition to the sanitary function, the well was used in order to throw away waste. So these cesspools may contain large amounts of household waste, ranging from kitchen waste to crockery.

There were strict urban regulations for maintaining cesspools by homeowners. These full wells had to be emptied among other things. For this night workers were deployed. These workmen took their name in the night hours when they had to do their work because of the smell and inconvenience. The easiest way to empty a septic tank was to dig out these items from the chute. More dramatic was when the dome had to be broken and a mason had to restore the well later. The city took strict supervision of emptying these wells. In 1621 for example, the presence of a sworn superintendent by the mayor was made mandatory, to ensure that everything went properly and to prevent that the contents of the wells ended on the streets or in the canal. In practice of course, no-one was taken with such rules, according to a strengthening of the rule in 1623 which stated that the night workers had to be certified in order to practice their profession.

Appliances from a cesspool on Herengracht, 1675-1750
Appliances from a cesspool on Herengracht, 1675-1750

Emptying a cesspool was a costly operation and was often done only when it really had to. It often happens that cesspools that are found at archaeological investigations are often stocked. The utensils and food scraps literally give us a glimpse into the kitchen and on the table of Amsterdam households. Septic tanks are unique archaeological receptacles full of information that call many different, sometimes personal, aspects of daily life in the past visible and alive. In the past 40 years, the archaeologists of the Amsterdam municipality have unearthed nearly 400 cesspools.

See a map with all the cesspools they’ve found here

DIY Through The Centuries

Self-assembly on IJburg
Self-assembly on IJburg

On June 18 and 19, the Day of Architecture Amsterdam was marked by self-assembly. Building a house on your own land*, where the design and execution are entirely separate from the house next door is back. Unique solutions within reach, tailored to individual needs. Who would not like that?

After a long period of stagnation, the Netherlands scrambled back to building in the late nineteenth century. Increasing urbanization caused great need for housing. Investors and contractors went to work and stamped barracks from the ground, often with small, stuffy homes with low light and poor quality as a result. This so-called revolution construction was already getting bad press. In response emerged in the twentieth century modernism, with rational buildings, attention to light and hygiene, but also the endless repetition of townhomes with Vinex as an end.

Illegal wooden houses outside the Haarlemmerpoort by Anthonis van den Wijngaerde (1547-1561) Amsterdam City Archives
Illegal wooden houses outside the Haarlemmerpoort by Anthonis van den Wijngaerde (1547-1561) Amsterdam City Archives

Who wanted to live in the city had the choice between existing buildings and often new too uniform constructions. Only in recent decades there has been a change. More and more people choose to build their own home, even if they share the sides with the neighbors. Looking further back in time, there’s nothing new under the sun. In the sixteenth century, when Amsterdam had a huge growth period, there was no space left inside the city walls, so people build their illegal dwellings outside the walls. A survey in 1564 showed that as many as 964 illegal houses and structures could be found outside the walls of the city.

In the construction of the canals, from 1613, they made a virtue into a necessity. Because the city needed money to dig canals, build bridges and to build new defenses, plots of lands were auctioned by district. Anyone with interest and money could buy a lot and build his own house. The city gave the embankments and some building heights of the terrain. Also, the city council gave the builders some simple rules in the seventeenth century, which everyone must adhere. Those rules related mainly to keep open the courtyards, the height of the buildings in the radial streets and the soundness of the fundaments, on which they held close supervision.

View of the Golden Bend in the Herengracht by Gerrit Adriaensz. Berckheyde (1671-1672) Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
View of the Golden Bend in the Herengracht by Gerrit Adriaensz. Berckheyde (1671-1672) Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

In terms of design and performance it was fairly free to build whatever they wanted. This led to wide and narrow facades, high and low gabels arose on Herengracht, initially even facades of wood! But of course, soon facades of brick and stone prevailed and an endless variation and adaptation to the rich variety of gables which we can be still admired every day. The individuality of the homebuilder led to an urban monument of world class and provides inspiration for the homebuilder now.

*Own land is a big word in Amsterdam, you have the plot on lease from the city.

Palaces for Workers

AMS-museum-het-schipAt the Spaarndammerplantsoen you’ll find three Amsterdam School housing blocks designed by architect Michel de Klerk. The most striking, and well-known block of the three in the complex that he designed last, Het Schip (The Boat). Who goes to this spectacular block will have more associations with a fairy tale than laborers.

Spaarndammerbuurt in Amsterdam West emerged at the end of the nineteenth century and was set up for the workers who worked in the nearby ports. In the beginning it was a shabby neighborhood where landowners earned from poor homes. But after the onset of the Housing Act in 1901 the streetscape changed. With the implementation of this law a special Dutch housing tradition started. In response to the appalling living conditions of the workers a unique collaboration was created between government, corporations and architects, with the aim of achieving the highest possible, affordable quality housing for all.

Masonry and sculpture on Museum Het Schip
Masonry and sculpture on Museum Het Schip

The by Spaarndammerplantsoen, Zaanstraat, Hembrugstraat and Oostzaanstraat enclosed residential complex Het Schip was designed by De Klerk in 1917, commissioned by housing association Eigen Haard (Your Own Place). In addition to the original 102 laborer houses, it also included a school building, a clubhouse and on the side of the Spaarndammerplantsoen, a post office. The latter was an idea of Arie Keppler, director of the Municipal Housing Agency and driving force behind the construction of these housing units. Early twentieth century, the workers received their weekly pay cash in the pub. A portion was immediately squandered. With a post office nearby he hoped the workers would save some more.

Amsterdam School details in the School-house
Amsterdam School details in the School-house

Het Schip may be a spectacular example of how attractive a housing project could be. All features of the Amsterdam School are present here: sculptural, expressive forms of brick, lots of variety of volumes and materials and rich carved decorations. There is a link between mass and individuality. It is a large block of houses, and yet every house has something unique.

On June 12, Museum Het Schip was Amsterdam School Monument of the Month. In recent months they worked hard on the renovation of the museum. Visitors were given on this day a unique opportunity to see this iconic monument in a way that was not previously possible. Parts of the renovated building were for the first time open to the public.