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Food, Art & Urbanism
by Stirred Up!
2007-05-07 08:43:00
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Club 11, initially supposed to be a temporary lunch place, has turned out to be one of the most popular and edgy clubs in the city. The club is located in the Post CS building, the old postal services building a bit east of the Central Station in downtown Amsterdam.

You enter through a huge empty hall decorated with graffiti and then go up in an industrial service elevator, where a polite liftboy is jamming with an enormous boombox, and arrive in an empty corridor. This does not give you the impression that you are going to a restaurant, let alone a design one with hip personnel and a quality kitchen. However, a couple of doors and a hallway later you’re in the middle of it. Huge picnic tables in the middle are set out for those having a coffee or a sandwich, while the small tables around the edge form the restaurant proper. The club gets going after 11pm, when the last dinner guests are having their espressos, and the atmosphere is reminiscent of the edgy style common in Berlin. Above the windows are massive video screens that stream contemporary video art while clubbers dance the night away or relax on the sofas as DJs from around the world play their sets.

Club 11 is not the only interesting venue in the Post CS building: the Modern and Contemporary Art Museum (Stedelijk Museum) is temporarily on the second floor while its original building is being refurbished. Little creative companies occupy the rest of the building, and the gallery W139, one of the most influential and hip art galleries in Amsterdam, was in the basement, though they have now moved.

The restaurant and club came about three years ago, when five local entrepreneurs teamed up and responded to a request by the Modern and Contemporary Art Museum to set up what was initially planned to be some sort of lunchroom for the museum visitors. All of the partners had been separately developing interesting initiatives in Amsterdam’s cultural and culinary sphere: temporary illegal restaurants, summer city beaches, but also club-restaurants. When they saw the 1900 sqm space on the 11th floor of the only high-rise in the city centre, they immediately thought, “this could and should be huge”. The partners had a clear vision of what the club should be like and made as few compromises possible. It was not necessarily about making a lot of money but about grasping the opportunity to add a huge creative space in Amsterdam in order to “provide a counterweight to McDonald's society”. The whole thing looks a bit rough, and this is exactly the point, as partner Brian Boswijk explains: “it’s about not being a brand, about being unfinished”.

Club 11 will close in July 2008 and the Post CS building will be filled with apartments and offices. The building is actually part of a big development project, the ‘project Oosterdoks eilanden’. A huge hotel and an even more massive public library are being built right next to Post CS. Two walking/biking bridges now connect the place with the rest of the city. The Stedelijk museum, Club 11 and the other initiatives profited from a few years gap in the planning, yet they are not being pampered in any way and pay high rents to the commercial developers. Still, they will soon have to leave to make way for the developers’ ultimate plans. In reality, the people behind cultural initiatives have conflicting interests with the developers, as investors are simply able to make more money out of apartments and offices than out of creative spaces. However, it seems that developers in Amsterdam are starting to realise that they have to bring creativity into their plans. Are paradigms starting to shift and are heads turning away from the balance sheets and towards people and cultural experiences? They just might. More and more it is recognised by all parties – city council, developers, investors – that the creative industry is the future for Amsterdam. Let us hope that we’ve only seen the beginning of this trend.

Sophie Bloemen and Ville Vesterinen are Stirred Up’s Amsterdam insiders.

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