I am currently in the initial stages of a project taking place in the Amstelpark, in Amsterdam, within a broader artistic research project called in Exploded View; an initiative curated by Zone2Source in collaboration with CLUE+/VU and Dr. Krien Clavis. I am looking at the staging of a design idea over extended periods of time; exploring miscommunication between design and context to research new perspectives about preservation.

The Amstelpark was created as part of the Floriade exhibition of 1972, a horticultural exhibition extending over 700.000 square meters. When the Floriade ended, part of the amenities and infrastructures of the exhibition were sold in an auction, and a greater part remained at the Amstelpark. Presently, 45 years since the exhibition, the Amstelpark works towards keeping the initial conceptualization of the park in place. This staging of a design idea over the period of 4 decades is provocative of new relations between a design and its context, due to the inevitable transformation of political, economic, social and cultural constructs over time, to Nature’s natural evolution, to how the park is and has been used and perceived. In this way, the idea behind this project is to trace the lives of one or two of the materials sold in the auction in 1972, learning about their lives beyond the context of the Floriade, to bring these “stories” to the context of the Amstelpark, researching new readings and perspectives.

The Amstelpark today. Photographs by © Jeroen Hofman.

Tracing Objects

The landscape of the park has, very notoriously, been manoeuvred to invoke a certain experience. The result of design decisions taken early on in the park’s conceptualising, and that since then have been staged. The park’s train remains the original Amstel train that drove visitors around the Floriade in 1972, and now hints to layers of corroded metal and old paint under its shiny, preserved surface. The park’s paths have been kept, and the plants have been nurtured and re-shaped within its themed gardens, until recently by the same gardener. When walking through the gardens, teams of workers can be observed constantly labouring around the park, and there is noise in the air, of work being done to maintain the grounds. In this way, the efforts made to keep the shape of the Amstelpark can be easily sensed. It becomes tacit, that the underlining concept for the park, which was devised in 1972 is being rehearsed on and on throughout the years through this on-going activity. However, this on-going activity also invokes a sense of emptiness, of melancholic “end of party” as the park seems busy preparing for a crowd that is not going to return.

I consider the relation between the grounds of the park and its history to be a source for provocative debates about design and implementation, exposing the interesting layers of miscommunication which suf ce between them. However, there is another layer of signi cation that is worth exploring: in working towards preserving a sense of its original design—in a way “hitting a pause button” to paralyse time—in fact what happens is that more effort is needed to preserve than would be necessary if allowing for change to occur. There is in fact an effort of constant transformation, because what is at stake are plants, people, nature being shaped under a design view, and sometimes working against its inherent decay, transformation and evolution. When trying to preserve all in place, what is highlighted is constant evolution.

Stills of the video of the auction taking place in December 1972.

In December 1972, an auction took place in the materials of the Floriade that would not be kept as part of the Amstelpark were sold. This included for example, whole irrigation systems and greenhouses, but also sign systems, plants, trees, as well as raw materials such as a variety of stones and tiles. The idea behind this project is to initiate my research by departing from the catalogue of the auction.