One of the first things that really struck me was the presence of a wide variety of playgrounds and public benches in Kanaleneiland. The apartment blocks are built in squares and in the middle of them there is often a small play ground. These playgrounds are furnished with iron structures, modules to sit on and often swings.

This is the playground in front of the expodium apartment. The main object is a red iron structure on a black square. Behind it are five round cylinders in a circle and black and white patterns in the tiles on the ground. What do these forms propose? The cylinders seem to be perfect for a group discussion.
I wonder what the ideals and the educational goals the designers of these playgrounds pursued. And how these designs may conflict with the reality.
From 2007-2009 the municipality issued a ban on gathering in Kanaleneiland-Noord to overcome problems with the youth of the neighborhood. This must have been a surrealistic situation - a lot of public benches on which it is prohibited to sit with more than two people.

Are these 'benches' really meant to sit on?

Is this vandalism or an act of resistance to the planning of public space?

The Expodium porch functions as a public/private playground.

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder

On Wednesday I decided to go out with my camera to produce a kind of database of things that caught my attention. I was a bit nervous about sneaking around and photographing whatever I thought was interesting, but no one seemed to take offense. I was very clearly taking the role of the outsider - to the extent it was not obvious already - and the children presupposed I was from the press. This made me cautious of contributing in some way to the image of Kanaleneiland that has been produced in the media as one of the worst big city neighborhoods in the Netherlands. Would the people who watch me like it more if they see me focusing on beautiful aspects of the neighborhood? What would they consider beautiful?

Kanaleneiland was build in the beginning of the sixties as one of the new expansion neighborhoods of Utrecht. It was designed by C.M van der Stad following the ideals of 'het nieuwe bouwen' (the new building). The neighborhood is characterized by uniform apartment blocks build in a repeating pattern. Around these buildings there are big roads - Kanaleneiland is designed for cars, because this was the upcoming transport in the sixties - and a lot of green gardens and courts. There where many rose beds which gave the neighborhood the nickname Rose Isle.

A lot of information about the history of the neighborhood and urban planning throughout the years can be found on the website of KEI (unfortunately only in Dutch).


Utrecht Underground and Resto van Harte

My plan to keep a kind of diary on the blog didn't succeed because of some internet trouble.. I will try now to reconstruct my week to start a kind of archive.

On my second day I met Kyohei Sakaguchi, a Japanese artist who came for a residency in Casco. He is doing research on homeless people and their shelters. First we discovered hidden histories of the Utrecht underground; we where guided by an ex-drug addict who showed us where the junkies in Utrecht used to hang out. In the beginning of the nineties the shopping mall next to the station was a Valhalla for dealers and users. It was open 24/7, dry, warm and you could buy dope, sell stolen goods, get stoned and sleep there. These days you see hardly junkies in the inner city of Utrecht - they stay in the sleep-inn or the users spaces. When they do stay in the city, they get fined. 

I find it interesting how the municipality uses and designs specific street furniture to keep junkies and homeless people away - they put for example bicycle racks in front of the warm air-conditioning system of the post office. This in order to prevent the homeless people to sit in the warm air. Also the benches in the bus stands have a convex surface, which makes it very uncomfortable to lie down on them.

In the afternoon we visited the squad of Kanaleneiland - next to the Ikea. Kyohei was very charmed by their home-made garage.

Kyohei Sakaguchi

In the evening I went to Resto van Harte, a neighborhood cafe which serves food for little in the community center. I discovered that most of the guests are frequent visitors from all over Utrecht who go on several days of the week to different social cafes. Also the breakfast in the Ikea - for one euro - is popular.
The food was delicious, I was especially impressed by the garden salad which formed the starter. This was a beautiful salad composed of veggies and flowers from their own garden.

vegetable patch behind the 'resto' - the ecological gardener who keeps this garden explained that the micro climate between the flats is quite different than open fields.


First sneak of the week

I just took part in a local informal economy; I found a nice woolen scarf in a dump down the street and more important, a really nice big plant pot for on the porch. I could hardly carry it, but one of the neighbours helped me to bring it to the Auriollaan. The plant in it is dead, but I think it is a nice addition anyway. I wonder if it is still there tomorrow.

My first impressions of Kanaleneiland are very good. I discovered real city wilderness and a beautiful garden patch in between the apartment blocks at the Trumanlaan. The green between these blocks is not openly accessible like the field behind the Expodium apartment (I suspect it is accessible, but I have to check this out).

I am planning to spend a lot of time on the streets. The city planners seem to propose the role of the colonial explorer; I saw streets named after Marco Polo, Livingstone en Bartolomeo Diaz..

More tomorrow.

    photo by Nikos



Kanaleneiland, Utrecht was officially put on the map due “40 districts of Vogelaar”, a list of 40 Dutch problem areas composed/launched in March 2007 by Ella Vogelaar, Minister (at that time) of Housing, Communities and Integration.
In early 2011 and while gentrification forces had already been implemented in the top-down planning of the future of the area, Expodium realized locatie:KANALENEILAND, a long term project aiming to broaden insights in the role art can play in Kanaleneiland and its development.

Locatie:KANALENEILAND’s physical space is located in an apartment at the Auriollaan and is set to function as a roof for a series of activities organized by invited artists, neighborhood initiatives and organizations. The apartment is part of a block of eight flats that is set to be demolished in order to make way for new buildings.

By putting the apartment at the Auriollaan into use, Expodium commences a project that constitutes itself as a creative agent and critical voice within gentrification processes carried out in the area. Locatie: KANALENEILAND is set to run at least till summer 2013.

Expodium invites artists to commit to a long term research program to the location.
Their research is not necessarily restricted to one specific time frame, but through a series of visits, each artist is expected to explore in-situ every day encounters, instigate dialogues, give value to the process and work towards an open presentation/intervention in the Kanaleneiland area.
During each visiting period, Expodium provides each artist with the possibility to host events and discussion platforms, providing the locals and the general public with an insight on his/her practice, findings and plans.

In addition Expodium initiates SNEAK-WEEK - a mode for obtaining a first impression of Kanaleneiland.
Expodium offers the opportunity for artist to visit the residence at Auriollaan for a period of one week. Artists are then invited to discuss their impressions with the Expodium team and consider the continuation of their research as an participating artist in the Kanaleneiland program.

All artists visiting Auriollaan apartment are expected to contribute to locatie:KANALENEILAND’s web archive.
Written observations, photo and video documentations, reflecting texts, links and references will be accumulated in an unofficial informative platform, serving all parties involved.