Amsterdam, NetherlandsApril 15, 2015
In your city, how can we tell that it’s 2015?
In how it captures and makes the most of renewable energy. Holland has a great tradition in using wind energy; the great windmills to the Northeast of Amsterdam can even be seen from certain points of the city. Since the fourteenth century, the windmill has been an integral part of the Dutch landscape. There’s a “National Windmill Day” that is celebrated on the second Saturday of May, when many windmills open their doors to tourists and whoever else is interested in exploring their interiors and operations. In general terms, the Netherlands is far beyond 2015 in its understanding of the importance of ecological thought. The use of bicycles as the main method of transportation within the city, the sorting of solid waste and the constant civic education are examples of it.
What reminds you of the past in your city?
What building or intersection in the city would make us think we’re in the future?
The Eye Film Institute (IJpromenade 1). When you see it in the distance, it draws your curiosity; it’s like a spaceship about to blast off. It’s the best place to watch movies and see exhibitions related to the seventh art, without a doubt. It has a café-restaurant with one of the best views of the city.
What museum or cultural space is generally omitted from the typical cultural tour, but is definitely worth visiting?
Amstelkring Museum (Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder), also known as Our Lady of the Attic that is located on Oudezijds Voorburgwal 40. It was a clandestine church during the Reformation, since public Catholic worship was prohibited. In the back part, there’s an authentic seventeenth-century house that was home to people who offered religious services. To me, it’s one of the spaces that really makes you feel that you’re in the 1600s.
What bookstore has new or secondhand publications on art history, exhibition catalogs, or artist monographs?
Personally, I don’t think art is an autonomous entity, which is why I recommend the Architectura & Natura bookstore on Leliegracht 22-H, with two floors dedicated to the best of modern architecture. It also has a section on new Japanese architecture, with independent magazines and essays that aren’t part of the star system, and therefore include less known architects who nevertheless have very important work. Another bookstore is Broekmans & Van Poppel on Van Baerlestraat 92, specializing in music. Amsterdam has an excellent tradition in academic music and this bookstore reflects it.
What is a typical, local meal and where would you have it?
Ertwensoep is the traditional Dutch dish. It’s a traditional winter soup made with peas and slices of smoked sausage (rookworst), and it’s eaten with rye bread. I spent two years in the Rijksakademie and I always ate at the cafeteria where chef Bas Magnée worked. I also ate ertwensoep for lunch and Hutspot for dinner, a dish made with roast beef and served with mashed potatoes and carrots with an onion stir fry. Then for breakfast there are Stroopwafel, some waffle cookies with caramel filling that can be bought at any store in the streets of Amsterdam. It’s a cuisine with predominantly winter dishes. I like to go to Roopram Roti on Eerste van Swindenstraat 4, a Surinamese restaurant where my favorite dish is the chicken roti roll. There are also the Bitterballen, a traditional Dutch snack that go with a very cold, artisanal Brouwerij’t Ij beer.
Where can you find the best coffee or tea?
In Holland, bruin cafés (brown cafés) are very popular. They’re called that because the color and the atmosphere of the environment is a little dark, due to the old wood and the tobacco and cigarette smoke, which leave a mark. Some of these cafés have existed since the seventeenth century. Most are very touristy and are in the city center. I prefer the cafés that are removed from the tourist circle. Taking into account the quality of coffee as a beverage and of the café as a space, I recommend the following: 1) Café Brecht on Weteringschans 157, a special place to go with company to sit on their comfortable sofas and talk extensively. 2) Café Welling on Jan Willem Brouwersstraat 3, far from the center and from tourists, is a good place to be alone and mix drinking coffee with reading.
Where is the best place to watch the sunset in your city?
I think anywhere near one of the canals.
On Sunday, we’ll meet at:
Spring: in Pllek NDSM , Tt. Neveritaweg 59. Summer: in Vondelpark. Fall: Brouwerij 't IJ BV on Funenkade 7. They have six types of artisanal beers. Winter: at Tuschinski on Reguliersbreestraat 26
What inspires you most about your city?
The tranquility and silence. Amsterdam is a city that feels like a town; the only thing that interrupts the tranquility is the sound of ambulances. It has a slow rhythm of life, which is why I think Amsterdam is such a special city for music, because if you live in silence the ear becomes sensitive.
If you were commissioned to create a work of art “about” this city, briefly describe what your proposal would be.
The Pieter Jansz Saenredam Foundation has just commissioned a work for a public space that links art with Dutch architecture, a proposal that will be developed in the summer. The work doesn’t directly refer to Amsterdam, but it takes some of the formal characteristics of its new and old architecture. It consists of floating structures that will be in a Barendrecht-Rotterdam canal. It’s a project that’s halfway between sculpture and architecture, and makes a reference to how some cities have developed in Holland by building to win back space from the water. The total area of Holland is 41,500 km² of which 7700 km² are water.