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Noord Station

Harmen Liemburg, ‘Flyways’, 2018

Noord | Region

More than 40,000 passengers use Noord (North) Station every day. They travel to or from the district office, the ROC, the cinema, the Boven ‘t Y shopping centre or homes and offices around the station. Or they commute via the new bus hub to and from the region. Also, tourists who visit attractions such as the Zaanse Schans, Marken, Monnickendam or Volendam travel there via the Noord metro station.

Thanks to the opening of the North/South line, the quintessentially Dutch landscape to the north of Amsterdam can be reached even faster from the city. Noord Station therefore presented an opportunity to make visible (historical) stories about the city of Amsterdam from the perspective of the region. The platform floor was designated as the site for an artwork. The work of art had to give the traveller a sense of the surroundings, add inspiration to the predominantly recently built environment around the station and offer a human dimension as a counterweight to the imposing station roof.

Visual story

Harmen Liemburg (Lisse, NL, 1966) produced the chosen design. “Like all the Amsterdammers, day trippers, commuters and tourists using the North/South line, I make a comparison with the other travellers: the birds. The swift, spending the winters in Africa and the summers capering in the air above the city; the barnacle goose, looking for a warmer place from the tundra in the Far North; or ‘simply’ the grebe, spending the whole year in a farmer’s ditch. There is much to learn about the world of birds. And, if, for example, you look at their instinctive drive to cover huge distances every year with those often small, fragile bodies, there may also be lessons humans can learn from birds.”

Among the sources of inspiration for his design, Liemburg cites a 1625 map by Balthazar Florisz. van Berckenrode, which offers a ‘bird’s-eye view’ of Amsterdam. He found other relevant information by studying ornithological literature from the library of the Naturalis Biodiversity Centre in Leiden, consulting research data from local birding groups and having conversations with an Amsterdam city ecologist. In addition, he visited the area several times to make observations himself.

The drawing

After his research, Liemburg began selecting and amalgamating the information into a large collage. By converting existing visual material into scale-independent line drawings, Liemburg was able to scale and manipulate the individual elements freely. In creating the design, he combined different perspectives and blended forms into each other. The graphic character of the line drawing connects the geographical, landscape and ornithological source material.

The final drawing follows the migration of birds. On the North side, the traveller sees the summer in the North Pole, followed by geese flying southwards and resting and feeding at night. In the middle part of the platform, the birds are observed and ringed, and the story continues with the small reed warbler moving in the reed landscape, water birds in the polder land and a black-tailed godwit in the wetlands. More towards the South, the birds gather for nesting and breeding, after which they move via the Dutch rivers along the rising thermals to, eventually, winter in the African sun.

The work was executed by combining together the two types of tiles in dark and lighter shades of grey that were already included in the station plans. In a factory in Germany, a computer-controlled water-jet machine cut out the necessary components tile by tile. The components were later assembled manually on the platform floor as inlay.


Balthazar Florisz. van Berckenrode. Bird’s eye view of Amsterdam (detail). Etching, 1625 | Image: Stadsarchief Amsterdam

About the artist

Harmen Liemburg studied cartography before he entered the Gerrit Rietveld Academy to become a graphic designer. Many of his graphic works are based on collage techniques, and his training in cartography is often apparent. Liemburg finds inspiration in the forms of everyday life: packaging, lettering, traffic signs, logos—from nature and from the archives. When brought together, the different elements tell a new story.

In recent years Liemburg has exhibited his work at the Rijnstate Ziekenhuis Kunstcollectie in Arnhem, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi, among other location. Liemburg currently is based in Arnhem.

About the artwork

Title: ‘Flyways’ | Opening: 28 June 2018.| Material: Mosa Quartz unglazed floor tile in light and dark grey, water-jet-cut with anthracite filler; line drawing 20 mm, width of the tile joint 3 mm, width of the cutting joint 1,6 mm, anthracite joint filler. | Measurement: The drawing covers an area of 13 x 130 m.

Station Noord 3-3

Photo barnacle geese from John Downer, Earthflight, 2012