Amsterdam has a long tradition when it comes to art in public space. The city carries out cultural life also in the subway stations of the North/South metro line. For the passenger, art in the stations offers individuality, orientation and the sensation of travel. For the artists, a commission within this special project perpetuates the oeuvre or works in a ground-breaking way. And art gives the metro line international allure.
The North/South metro line follows the historical infrastructure of the city wherever possible. The design of the stations by Benthem Crouwel Architects (BCA) facilitates a smooth flow of passengers. The relatively austere architecture of the stations lends itself perfectly to art. Art that integrates with the architecture, creates an atmosphere, and is monumental and convincing. Working with BCA, the project identified suitable art locations.
An Amsterdam art route with international allure
From neighbourhood to the world
The themes for the art connect with the natural route of the metro line through the city. At every station, the artists draw from the treasure-house of the immediate city environment. This increases the sense of cohesion between the various stations, makes the line recognizable and truly Amsterdam.
The area around each station has its own characteristics and each station has different types of use. The line as a whole transports a diverse community of travellers. That is why the artists worked from different perspectives, such as ‘neighbourhood’, ‘city’, ‘region’, ‘world’. In this way they extend the diverse characteristics of the different station environments. Moreover, the differentiation is in line with the function of the North/South line: better access to the city at each of the mentioned levels.
An independent advisory committee consisting of representatives of the architect, the art world, the user and the traveller considered a long list of Dutch and international artists of different generations and working in diverse disciplines and forms. In the end, the committee asked three artists per station to propose a design based on the theme ‘From neighbourhood to the world’, taking into account the durability of the work as well as considerations of safety in the stations. The designs were presented to the future passengers in a pop-up expo at the Duintjer building and in debates at the Pakhuis de Zwijger cafe. The committee included the input of the future passengers in its recommendations to the board.
Commissions were awarded as follows to the artists: Harmen Liemburg (Noord), Broersen & Lukács (Noorderpark), Jennifer Tee (Centraal Station, concourse-hall), David Claerbout (Centraal Station, metro-hall, Dewar & Gicquel (Rokin), Marjan Laaper (Vijzelgracht), Amalia Pica (De Pijp) and Gerald van der Kaap (Europaplein). In Zuid Station there is as yet no location for a permanent artwork.
All selected artists designed monumental works, often more than 100 metres wide, integrated into the walls or the floor of the stations. They looked for innovative ways to work with the standard materials of the stations (glass or stone), to place their work in or behind existing walls (an LED screen, LED lighting) or build their work on a spur of the platform in brick and concrete.
The process from concept development up to and including delivery of all the works took about seven years. The process was directed by a project leader for art and a project leader for execution, working in close collaboration with a bureau responsible for the artistic guidance. The ambition of the municipality and the project organization to create a sustainable Amsterdam art route with international allure has been a guiding force throughout the entire period and will remain so after completion.