A vibrant art scene has begun to reclaim and transform abandoned heavy industrial ruins in Amsterdam’s often-overlooked Nolde district.
There is a sunken submarine in the shallow water next to the NDSM pier in Amsterdam. If it were in another European city, it would probably be hauled off to a prominent tourist honeypot and renovated into a major attraction. The only additions to this boat are some tasteless graffiti and an orange couch on the hull to suit anyone who owns a small boat and loves exploring the city.
As an introduction to Amsterdam’s Noord district, it fits perfectly. The area was ridiculed and ignored by most of the ‘Damers as a post-industrial wasteland, ravaged by the decline of heavy industry such as shipbuilding. Many even consider it to be outside the city, even though it is only 200 meters from Centraal station.Like flowers taking root and sprouting on cracked tarmac, artists began moving to Notre Dame, citing the low rents and large open spaces, among other things, that breed all art communities. Today, it has become one of the most exciting emerging art districts in Europe, with the potential to rival Berlin as the best gathering place for artists on the continent.
Noord is a vast area of the city where there are large tracts of unused land, or barren warehouses and factories. The area’s commercial potential seems to have been abandoned long ago, so arts groups and small start-ups are beginning to thrive on the wave of industrialization.
The inherent problem with art movements is that they are conspicuous. The attention they attract inevitably makes the areas in which they are concentrated increasingly popular with hipsters, which attracts investors. Undeniably, this is the case with Nord. Already a number of cranes are beginning to pierce the skyline. But a lot of the investment into Nolde is embracing creativity because it wants to profit from the city’s upcoming area.
Clink has just opened their impressive 750-bed flagship hostel, ClinkNoord, and Clink is one of those hostel companies that is truly ahead of its time in many ways, and ClinkNoord is where they intend to be. They allocate 20 percent of the space to guests as a common area, and in keeping with the tone of Nord’s collaborative art scene, they even have a dedicated art space in the hostel that showcases the work of local artists. Soon, this will become a residency program that will provide support, housing and exhibition space for artists for three months at a time.
ClinkNoord’s interior is a testament to their respect for the local community. Stunning stained glass windows illuminate the stairwell, which was part of the original design of the building in the 1920s. Young, enthusiastic local architects were involved in the interior design, which in itself was a great showcase for local creative talent in Amsterdam. There are also plans to start a “stay and play” program similar to the artist residency, but for musicians, to help take them on tour and provide them with a great soundproof club as part of the dorm, which is an ideal performance space.Gallowstreet, an energetic new brass band, played at the opening of the dorm. This event is a great way to get great local music to an international audience.
Just behind it, the EYE Film Museum is an ode to the beautiful cinema of Amsterdam. This art center juts out over the water like a snake’s head. Not only is it an architectural marvel, but the contents of the building are also attractive and inspiring. In addition to interactive art displays using cameras and special effects, there are more complex installations that explore the evolution of the film.
It’s a great development for Noord, and it opens more doors for artists, rather than closing them by raising rental costs like London’s trendy areas.
Porters and painters.
Two years ago, Jason founded XYZ AMS Art Collective, his studio housed on two floors of an unassuming old warehouse. The walls of his studio are lined with photographs and artwork. On one wall hang two photos of Snoop Dogg in a smoky haze. Upstairs, five artists are busy working on their latest work. Piles of canvases, sometimes as deep as four layers and in various states of completion, are piled up, and in this covered workspace the two artists are immersed in an interpretation of life’s acrylic work.
“We want to be the face of Amsterdam art to the world, where we can influence each other and create something unique that doesn’t get attention elsewhere.” Jason said as he watched with pride as Steven stirred on a canvas laid horizontally with a thick layer of gray latex.
“It seems to me similar to the collaboration and anonymous association of Impressionist painters, sculptors and sculptors.”
“Exactly! That’s where my idea came from. The other day I was reading about them and felt that we need to have a place where people can fully focus on their work every day.”
Paint industry carcasses
Behind the NDSM, the ruins of the former shipyard seem to stand desolate. The brightly colored graffiti reflected double the light in the large puddle, drowning out the empty pile. But in one of the factories now known as IJ Hallen, another man-made thing is being born. Although the place is currently officially used as a flea market venue, on the day I visited, lanky models were posing for elegant photos.
In the vast space, the already faded crane towered over the ground like a calcified mantis. They used to hoist huge metal plates onto half-formed hulls, now they become powerful canvases. Graffiti artists from all over the world have flocked here to add their work to the plans for the world’s first graffiti gallery. At one end of the factory, two artists set up cans of spray paint on a raised platform, working on a canvas that would dwarf many modest houses.
Strolling back to the dock and submarine, a huge cargo crane was transformed into a hotel. It’s a testament to the power of creative thinking, and it’s the freedom of expression that’s been given to that creativity through the ruins of the past that has allowed Nord to begin to flourish.The Faralda Cable Car Suite may just be the most unusual place in Europe, and if someone decided to do something creative with a submarine, it could have some competition.