Rotterdam Biennale / Activism! A better world / NAI

Report #1 on the Architecture Biennale. Last Tuesday I attended one of the lectures accompanying the exhibition ‘A better world’, which involved CUP, FAST and Jeanne van Heeswijk. All were very fascinating, but I’d like to highlight in particular Jeanne van Heeswijks’ Blue House in IJburg, Amsterdam.

Blue House is, needless to say, a blue house and is located in the middle of a newly build suburban nightmare (Vinex areas, as they are called in Dutch, are always erected at once and therefore have a complete lack of history and identity). Van Heeswijk invites people from different disciplines (artists, architects, theorists, writers) to live and work in Blue House and to create a cultural production (and history) in collaboration with residents of IJburg.

What I find fascinating about the project is the way it manages to deal with many of the problems public art faces in my opinion, departing from a basic, primary condition: inhabitation. ‘Being there’ narrows distance towards residents both mentally and physically; guests become temporary community members, which obviously helps when you do community works. It also indicates that the Blue House project has a long-term duration; it will exist for several years and therefore commits itself to making a sustainable change, instead of a hit-and-run scenario, which many desastrous public art projects follow.
Consequently, the project clearly proves that establishing social change and cultural collaboration requires local rooting in the area of conduct.

Sofar, up to 30 people have stayed at in Blue Houseand carried out several art works, community works, discussion, screenings etc. A couple of projects that caught my attention: open-air cinema in the summer, a childrens’ library and a flower stall outside the house (see picture underneath).

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