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

Already many small buildings and complexes had been innovatively redeveloped by us and became rising cultural places in Amsterdam. They are popular and delivering significant new 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 are transforming these old buildings into harmonic ‘new-old buildings’. Very attractive new hot spots for the cultural Amsterdam experience!

Since 1984 I am working with experimental designs and new economic models. Of many ‘new-old buildings’ in Nijmegen and Amsterdam I was board member. The legendary Silo was my 10th project to do this transformation too. Also the guild for ‘new-old buildings’ was in public dominated by our Silo. I became member of the urban think tank ‘Podium Working at the banks of the river IJ’, a multi-disciplinary working committee, advising the local government in renewing the river banks. In June 1997 the municipality of Amsterdam summoned me to help her.

Amsterdam’s alderman for urbanism, Duco Stadig (PvdA) and CEO Maarten de Boer, town planning, infrastructure and city management (ROIB), consulted me about the cultural urban challenges and the 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? What about the city’s reputation, its attractiveness and what about the financial spin-off from the creative industry?

Maarten de Boer asked me to develop for the Amsterdam prospects project (ROIB/TVA 1998) a functional and practical model, including a clear vision to make a starting-point for realising over 600 ateliers and studios in Amsterdam. To make a model to connect empty buildings, unused real estate and deserted industrial territory with creative people, start-ups, cultural organisations and related enterprises. I became very happy and enthusiastic for this mission and for this possible brand new city-policy in housing creative inhabitants.

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 payable places for new culture and economic activities. To supply working spaces to designers, musicians, artists, app-makers, architects, comedians, producers, DJ’s and other talented people. Those who realise beautiful plans and creative dreams themselves in functional ateliers and studios. If possible with many together in nice big buildings.

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

After several project meetings with Maarten de Boer, Rosita Mertens (both ROIB) and Jurgen 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 in Dutch ‘Een complete stad swingt’. In the meantime many friends had made a strong statement at the City-hall to support my mission with a Council paper. This statement together with the policy paper gave my project extra 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. My ambitious project is officially launched!

See map of breeding grounds of Amsterdam

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 workspace 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 workspaces have been realised at about 65 locations in Amsterdam and it is still increasing. Together we can be proud of this fundamental new cultural infrastructure!

I have started the project ‘culturele broedplaatsen’ as a model for Amsterdam, to be able to 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 creativity was not that important and artists are too marginal. Resolute and with more force of conviction, I kept on fighting and lobbying for the project ‘Breeding grounds’ and did some impressive publishings abroad. Finally the Economic Department of Amsterdam understood me very well and believed my conviction. They helped me and the project truly! Then people began to talk more and more about breeding grounds and many “officials” got jobs of the project. At that moment Richard Florida had still not published anything about the ‘creative industry’. Nowadays 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 economy and its spin-off. For city’s health, its well-being and for the visitors to get the real city experience!

Workspace for yourself, places to express ourselves, Breeding Grounds or Broedplaatsen, are essential and necessary in our cities, in our society! To develop ourselves who we are, to work out our new ideas, to create what we feel. It is important for us to grow and follow our vocation with ambition and passion. Workplaces to work, with equals in creativity and lifestyle are more powerful, have better synergy. Then every individual work is stronger! Already the Dutch cities The Hague, Utrecht, Rotterdam, Den Bosch, Eindhoven, Tilburg, Zwolle, Groningen, Maastricht, Arnhem and Nijmegen have copied these ‘Broedplaatsen’, and policy makers from abroad are visiting us to see what’s all happen in The Creative Netherlands!

Hub Bongers