If you’re short sighted, what use is a vista?
Kleiburg is the last apartment building of the Bijlmermeer still in its original state. But Housing Corporation Rochdale has plans to demolish it. Rochdale claims renovation is too expensive. That is no surprise after more than 20 years of systematic neglect… The prospect of erecting profitable market driven houses instead apparently was irresistible.
During the reconstruction of the Bijlmermeer it was decided to keep the most emblematic area intact. The so-called Bijlmer Museum came into being; a compact refuge for Bijlmer Believers. Kleiburg is the cornerstone of the remaining ensemble. Bulldozing the masterpiece by architect Ottenhof, a bend slab of 500 apartments, 10 stories, 400 meter long -however profitable for the friends of the former director of Rochdale- will lead to the unacceptable mutilation of this magnificent urban monument.
Since there is quite some resistance against the destructive plans and the local government still prefers to prevent demolition, Rochdale recently launched a mediagenic action to ‘save’ the building: Kleiburg is now for sale for the sum of ONE euro. Over 50 parties responded to this ‘bargain’ with a business proposal. Four teams have been selected to further develop their ideas. But the criteria for selection remain foggy. We have to wait for ‘Bijlmer Leaks’ to learn about the real considerations… is it really a rescue operation or just smoke screen tactics?
Flying over the area with Google Earth (or KLM) it seems unimaginable to claim that it is only logical that the low rise suburban development is to be preferred over the vertical garden city… from ground-level (and from the apartments) the panoramas are stunning. But then again: if you’re short-sighted what use is a vista?
The Bijlmer pretty soon after its optimistic launch as a green, light and spacious alternative for the -at that time- disintegrating inner city has suffered from a lot of bad publicity. From 1974, for instance, a nickname for the new jail of Amsterdam started to become popular. It was officially called Penitentiaire Instelling Overamstel. But even though the prison was not located in the area, it was labeled Bijlmer Bajes, (bajes = jail). In a perverse process of reversed association the inhabitants of the Bijlmer turned into inmates…
Many attempts to renovate slabs in the Bijlmer, Kleiburg in particular, have focused on differentiation, in an attempt to get rid of the uniformity, the repetition, to ‘humanize’ the architecture. BAD idea. Time for a new approach: emphasize the intrinsic beauty. Sublimize. Kleiburg will soon make it into Wallpaper. Or Vibe magazine. Kleiburg is cool.
Wallpaper Mashup: photograph by Tim Freh