Ambiguity

Adriaan Geuze’s rearrangement of the central Schouwburgplein (theatre Square) in Rotterdam created the basis for a new stage-set for various groups of young people who have claimed spots on and around the edges of the square, where they exhibit themselves with their particular lifestyles: breakdancers on the square, the parade of Antillian youngsters driving round the edge of the square in front of De Dolen concert hall and congress centre in their cars on Friday and Saturday evening, groups of young women who cluster toghether on the long benches opposite the multiplex cinema. This is how, dynamic cultural geography evolves, one in which meanings are not fixed but in an ongoing state of flux development.

This shift towards a cultural geographic approach involves a departure from the notion of absolutism in ascertaining the value of meaning of spaces. The essence of a cultural geography is precisely that analysis of the ambiguity or, in more political terms, the struggle between various meanings. Designing public domain can then become a question of stimulation of informal manifestations of diversity and the avoidance of interventions that are intended to make such manifestations impossible.

Maarten Hajer & Arnold Reijndorp, In Search of a New Public Domain (2001)

477-Marc-Heeman

Adriaan Geuze + West 8, Schouwburgplein (1996) (photo Marc Heeman)

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Islands

A requirement had been that the brutal charm of the still-present trenches, concrete elements and anti-tank walls remain intact. At the same time, the preservation of the site’s ecological value was a priority, in which regard the client supplied Bureau B+B with detailed information. B+B took on the challenge of designing on these terms, with the result that the opposite poles of recreation and nature conservation were both taken fully into account in the design. With regard both to the existing wood landscape and military paraphernalia, little was changed, and simple interventions turned out to be sufficient to turn the rough area into a park. The firm’s free approach to the landscape – for instance the addition of recycled green glass to the loose-fill pavement, which sparkles by day and is illuminated by countless embedded solar-cell lamps in the evening – turned out to be an eye-opener for the German client. The terrain’s different biotopes were classified according to their respective degrees of sensitivity. Thus, the number and location of paths was ultimately determined by how intensively the park is used. Where nature needs more protection, there are, quite simply, fewer paths. There are even a number of spots that are entirely inaccessible to the public. Interestingly enough, though, these were not the ecologically most valuable spots, but those that, due to breaking branches and the danger of falling trees, were selected for clearing. These ‘islands’ are surrounded by fascines and are now used by the University of Brandenburg as research locations. However, despite the no-go areas, the circa 5-km-long network of paths gives visitors the feeling that they are free to wander wherever they wish. The intensive program was concentrated on the park’s periphery, around four ‘terminals’: large, brick-red concrete elements equipped with slides, climbing holds or trampolines. (…) Their form and use are not immediately clear at first glance. This is indeed their strength: you can sit, sunbathe or picnic on them or just look around; they can be used as décor for theatrical productions or outdoor concerts. The magical attraction of the terminals brings the recreational function of the Waldpark into focus – only nature lovers penetrate deeper into the park.

Bureau B+B, Waldpark Postdam (2001)

Bureau B+B, Waldpark Postdam (2001)

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