25 juni 2017

The origin of the Amsterdam Art factories

1 • Grain silo buildings

2 • Government contacts

3 • HUB Culture Model

4 • A complete city swings

5 • No culture without subculture

The beginning of Culturele Broedplaatsen, the new Cultural Hotspots in Amsterdam

The grain silo, better known as The Silo was last century, in the nineties, the most famous cult underground art and dance factory of Amsterdam. An experimental new cultural city hotspot. Weekly thousands of mostly young visitors enjoyed our environment, the art, theatre, design, food and drinks. Our ambience, great dance events or just our independent, free city life style.

Many other small buildings and complexes had been already innovatively redeveloped and became rising cultural places in the city. They were popular and delivering significant urban contributions, not only for their own neighbourhood but also for the city as a whole and far beyond! With many people and much creativity we were transforming these old buildings into ‘new-old buildings’. Very attractive new hot spots for the cultural Amsterdam experience.

I was board member of many ‘new-old buildings’ and the legendary Silo was my No. 10 project. I was also member of ‘the guild for buildings to work in at the banks of the river IJ’ and a member of the urban think tank ‘Podium Working at the banks of the river IJ’. In June 1997 I was asked to visit the municipality of Amsterdam for consultancy.

Amsterdam’s alderman for urbanism, D. Stadig (PvdA) and CEO M. de Boer, town planning, infrastructure and city management (ROIB), consulted me about the cultural urban challenges and economic possibilities in re-using empty buildings, abandoned industrial complexes and the temporary use of unused industrial sites in the city. They asked my expertise what the international position of Amsterdam could be when the city would become an open, unlimited creative city? Especially its reputation, its attractiveness and how about the financial spin-off if so?

Since 1984 I am working on the new economy and to new designs. I became enthusiastic and very positive for this possible brand new city-policy. M. de Boer asked me to develop for the Amsterdam prospects project (TVA/ROIB 1998) a functional and practical model, including a clear vision to make a starting-point for realising over 600 ateliers and studios for Amsterdam.  A model to connect empty buildings, unused real estate and deserted industrial territory with creative people, start-ups, cultural organisations and related enterprises.

The model became the ‘HUB Culture Model’ (ROIB/March 1998). Vision, guideline and practical conditions as the starting-point to offer cultural start-ups and creative inhabitants affordable space by transforming real estate into places for culture and economics. To supply space to work to designers, musicians, artists, app-makers, architects, comedians, producers, DJ’s and other talents. They realise their dreams themselves in ateliers, studios and if possible together in big buildings.

I called the creative hotspots and cultural factories consistent, wittingly and wilfully ‘breeding grounds’ or ‘Culturele Broedplaatsen’ in Dutch, because breeding is essential in a creative genesis or –process of making. By the people in the street, in the Town Hall and in politics the project is continued to be called ‘Broedplaatsen’ or ‘Breeding Grounds’!

After several project meetings with M. de Boer (ROIB), R. Mertens (ROIB) and J. Hoogendoorn (Housing Dept.), it took more than 1 year at the municipality before in April 1999 my model and project was followed by a policy paper called ‘A complete city is swinging’ or ‘Een complete stad swingt’ in Dutch. With this policy document, my project received more support and much more progress was made.

June 2000 became a landmark! The historical plan of approach for breeding grounds, called ‘No culture without subculture’ or ‘Geen cultuur zonder subcultuur’ in Dutch was accepted by the Amsterdam City council and got into force.

The officials of the municipality started in autumn 2000 with their own managers the project ‘BroedplaatsAmsterdam’ or ‘Breeding grounds Amsterdam’, realising hundreds of payable ateliers, studios and workshops for our creative citizens with a starting budget of € 40 million.

In 2007 an official city department ‘Bureau Broedplaatsen’ was established for a professional business in facilitating the creative industry with a structural yearly budget of € 2 million. At this moment over 1500 payable spaces are realised at about 65 locations in Amsterdam and is still increasing. Together we can be proud of this fundamental new cultural infrastructure!

See map of breeding grounds of Amsterdam

The project ‘culturele broedplaatsen’ I started as a model for the inhabitants of Amsterdam, to be able to be applied in other cities. At the City Hall of Amsterdam it was a heavy childbirth because alderman Stadig and his staff initially saw nothing in my project. The argumentation against was that artists were marginal and creativity was not that important. Resolute and with more force of conviction, I kept on fighting and lobbying for the project ‘Breeding grounds’! Finally H. Duimelaar from the Amsterdam Economic Department understood me well and believed my conviction. He helped me and the project truly. After that people started talking more and more about Broedplaatsen and many “officials” became in charge of the project. At that moment Richard Florida had still not published about the ‘creative industry’. These days everywhere everyone talks about creative industry and the inspiring creative generation! How important creativity, knowledge and proficiency is for a city, for its inhabitants, its business, its spin-off, for health, well-being, for visitors and the real city experience!

Places of our own, places free to express ourselves, space for ourselves, Breeding Grounds or Broedplaatsen, are essential and necessary in our cities, in our society! To develop ourselves who we are, to create what we feel, to work out our new ideas. Important for us to grow and to follow our vocations with passion and ambition. Places to work in common, with equals in creativity and lifestyle are more powerful, have better synergy and each individual work is stronger! Already the Dutch cities The Hague, Utrecht, Rotterdam, Den Bosch, Eindhoven, Tilburg, Groningen, Maastricht Arnhem and Nijmegen have copied these ‘Broedplaatsen’, and policy makers or high guests from abroad are visiting us to see what’s all happen in The Creative Netherlands!


Hub Bongers