Bimre Bliss

Mid nineties we were asked to do an exhibition about what the City of Amsterdam could be like in the year 2015. The idea of the curator was to use public billboards all over town. But how to present architecture in a billboard?

Around that time we discovered the amazing potential of Photoshop. We ended up making several king-size posters with collaged alternative realities. These hoped to create convincing imagery that could ‘compete’ with the advertisements that are normally on display.  (http://www.nlarchitects.nl/django/virtreal/index)

One of the proposals was Bimre Bliss; a retouched photograph of a fantastic area in the Bijlmermeer. The Bijlmer was notorious for being the only real ghetto in the Netherlands. Mid nineties a campaign was launched to radically transform the neighborhood. The local government and the housing corporations decided to convert the high-rise honeycomb pattern -about the only suitable backdrop for an ‘urban’ video clip in the Netherlands- into a low-rise ‘suburban paradise. Back to ‘normal’.

Bimre Bliss however was an attempt to bring to the fore the intrinsic beauty of this neighborhood. In our eyes it was magnificent. How could we explicate that?

In a way Bimre Bliss was a visual manifesto. We tried to raise awareness and respect for what we found. How can we as planners identify and reinforce the qualities of what is out there?

In spite of the surreal reality portrayed in the image photo-editing was actually limited to a minimum: we just slightly cleaned up the buildings, bleached out some cars. And we tagged the word Camping.

One other minute change was the differentiation of the shades of green of the trees. It was frustrating to see that the main asset of the area -the landscape in which the honey combs would sit to create a vertical garden city- never really turned out as once intended. Economizing during execution led to planting of poplars only. We hoped that partly replacing these cheap and rapidly growing trees (that anyways reached the end of their ‘life span’ of 30 years) with more lavish versions finally would turn the place into a lush park.

But one of the central ideas of the renewal of the Bijlmer was to demolish the multi-story parking garages and to introduce cars on ground level. (https://nlarchitects.wordpress.com/2009/06/08/parking-terminal/) A gotspe: it meant sacrificing the most positive feature, the green space. But the local government and its designer of public space, Hans Straver, managed to turn the parking lot into a sophisticated landscape: it is fascinating to see that park and parking can actually coincide…

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