door René Boer
People praised the silent, empty streets of Amsterdam, but the core of what makes the city the city is lost. As a counterbalance to the romanticization of emptiness, this room shows that Amsterdam has lost its urban identity.
When the lockdown began, the city was quickly shut down, the crowds disappeared, and social distancing became the norm. In the media and online, people expressed appreciation for the suddenly deflated city. They said Amsterdam belonged to the people again, and this was really the only way to see it, but this place is more than a collection of historic buildings. It’s also a shared space, where we find ourselves in close daily proximity to strangers with different customs, histories and lifestyles. Urban society is formed by meeting, learning from and sometimes clashing with one another. Many, such as sex workers, café owners, and homeless newspaper sellers, depend on this proximity for their livelihood.
At the same time, the city is a place where groups of kindred spirits can seek one another out, feel one another’s trust, and share cultures and support. The LGBTQIA+ community cannot survive in Amsterdam without its permanent hangouts, undocumented refugees rely on close-knit networks, and being in others’ proximity is an important and formative process for students.
Urbanity is not only the essence of the city, but also a basic necessity of life. The romanticization of peace and emptiness is a privilege.
– by René Boer, urban researcher and architecture critic