AMSTERDAM – Thirty-five white perforated sheets gently sway in the wind in an alleyway between two Amsterdam canal houses. A white wooden door – also perforated – allows access into the alley. Narrow typography on the wall beside the door gives the name of the installation: Tussen-ruimte (In-between Space) #1. Tussen-ruimte is a collaborative installation project by Office Jarrik Ouburg, Non-fiction and TAAK, in partnership with Castrum Peregrini.
‘Amsterdam celebrates the 400th birthday of its canal belt this year,’ says architect Jarrik Ouburg, who initiated the project together with multidisciplinary firm Non-Fiction. ‘Since 2010 the canals of Amsterdam have been classified a Unesco World Heritage Site, which means that the conservation area is more heavily protected against changes than ever before. With this installation, we want to challenge the static state of affairs that comes with preservation.’
‘There are fifty-six in-between spaces within the Unesco World Heritage Site,’ says Ouburg, who one day decided to start ringing the door bells of Amsterdam canal house residents to assess possibilities for the project. Ouburg decided to do something with the alleys in between the canal houses, since altering the structures themselves was out of the question. He drew elevations of a series of canal houses opposite the art project, using different colours to show changes to the façades over the years. ‘Amsterdam’s ring of canals never reached a final shape,’ says Ouburg. ‘It is a living body that changes over time.’
Willem Muller, who lives next to In-between Space #1, was the first resident to react positively to Ouburg’s ideas. The alley next to his house used to be used for bike parking. ‘It looked like a metal junk yard,’ says Ouburg.
With financial help from the Amsterdam Municipality and the Amsterdam Art Fund (AFK), Ouburg got hold of used, white camouflage sheets – which the Swedish Army used to use to hide structures in the snow. He cut them into different lengths and hung them in the alley with help from exhibition builders Landstra & De Vries, creating the first in a series of planned interventions.
‘We already received a note from the municipal planning department, saying that the changes we made to the building are illegal’ says Ouburg, ‘That’s funny, because the project was partly funded by the same municipality. That is exactly the kind of contradiction we want to make explicit with this project.’