Artzuid – Sculptures and Architecture in Amsterdam

Cintha van Heeswijck-Veeger

Foundation ArtZuid

Keizersgracht 478 huis 1017EG Amsterdam The Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands
European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award 2011 - Education, training and awareness-raising

Outdoor art placed in Berlage's unique 20th century urban design surrounded by Amsterdam School Architecture

A group of residents living in Amsterdam South established the ArtZuid foundation in 2008. The foundation wants to draw attention to the almost one-hundred year old urban design of the architect H.P. Berlage ( 1856-1934), the so-called Plan-Zuid. The foundation took the opportunity to restore the original function of the neighborhood's spacious avenues in 2009 by initiating ARTZUID, a biennial international sculpture route at the Apollolaan and Minervalaan, the main axes in this urban design. They hoped there would be more contact between the residents and tried, as it were, to tempt people in the neighbourhood to stroll past the sculptures.

Nowadays the lanes are rediscovered as places where people can go and meet each other and enjoy outdoor recreation. ARTZUID allows visitors to enjoy a splendid combination of sculptures of top artists, while rediscovering this area of beautiful urban design and the distinctive architectural style of the Amsterdam School. The last edition of ARTZUID in 2011 attracted 350.000 visitors. More than 10.000 school children attended the educational program.  
Berlage's lasting gift to the city of Amsterdam.

Through the years, the city of Amsterdam has looked after Plan-Zuid with care. Almost nothing changed. The area was a little forgotten, mostly unknown for tourists as for inhabitants of other parts of Amsterdam. Amsterdam South felt like a village in a capital city. ARTZUID connected the area with surrounding parts of the city by attracting visitors to this part of town.

Berlage has been valued all over the world for the ideas he incorporated in his urban design. Every architectural study pays attention to this masterpiece.  Berlage chose a monumental scale when laying out the Apollolaan - in total it is sixty metres wide with a central green space of fifteen metres. You cannot take in the left and right sides in a single glance and if you walk along the centre of the avenues, you feel as if you are in an urban park rather than on a busy road. Between them, the 420 trees and the organically laid out public gardens. An ideal backdrop for exhibiting sculptures. The Minervalaan is completely symmetrical in layout and demonstrates the characteristic detailing of Amsterdam School architecture, reinforcing the picturesque nature of the neighbourhood.

These broad avenues with high facades with shops and apartments aim to protect the intimate atmosphere of the picturesque neighbourhoods behind them. And it still works after all these years. Characterized by small green squares with playgrounds, public buildings and sport facilities you still feel like living in a village. Socialist Berlage made for that time a unique choice of mixing social housing with villas. Within his urban design there was space for various architects: Amsterdam School architects as well as Modern architects.

The initiative to use the avenues and vistas as a setting for sculpture was shooting at an open goal. All the honour goes to town planner Berlage, who presented Amsterdam with a most valuable and lasting gift.

Writer and artist Jan Cremer selected the sculptures in 2011. He wanted ArtZuid to offer western and non-western art a shared stage. The inspiration was found in the contemporary population of the city and so the selection of the non-western artists evoked the Netherlands' trading history. Amsterdam grew rich in the 17th century from international trade. Its ships sailed all around the world. Long-standing presence in countries such as Ghana, Brazil, Suriname, Curacao, Indonesia, India, China and Japan created special links which led to flows of migrants in both directions. The selected artists were from these countries who work in their own local traditions and histories.

In ArtZuid 2011, we have tried to convey the diversity and cultural range that is such a feature of Amsterdam. And we hope that the many non-western people who live in the city would come and visit Amsterdam South too. And that was what happened. From a neighbourhood initiative ARTZUID grew to a national attraction and the cultural heritage of Berlage became known under a new public.  


In the summer of 2013 foundation ArtZuid will again attract visitors with 50 sculptures to come and enjoy the beautiful outlay of Amsterdam South and its Amsterdam School architecture and make this district a lively cultural area.

In Plan-Zuid, Berlage envisaged a spacious plaza on the Apollolaan, in front of the site of the Hilton Hotel, that he called the Culture Square. In that respect, we can say ls"mission accomplished'. ARTZUID encourages debate, brings people together, delight, a chat and offer recreation for young and old. Community spirit returns to the streets, children come out of their schools and people out of their houses, thanks to Berlage.


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