Cooperate, Construct, Create

by Aaron Schwartz

Blog Post for May 30, 2017

In reading the first section of False Flat by Aaron Betsky and Adam Eeuwens, I began to realize that there are frequent mentions of the how the Dutch are great at compromising and coming to agreements. The subtext of many of these comments throughout the book left the impression on me that the authors believe that one of the reasons the Dutch could design with such ingenuity and innovation was in part due to their superb compromising skills with one another.

For example, while referencing debates between traditionalists and modernists, who frequently argue about the style of upcoming projects, the authors mention how the debates “were non-violent and were solved not by one party or the other proclaiming victory but through the integration of features from both schools of design into the final plan”(Betsky and Eeuwens, 38). By listening to the ideas of their counterparts, the authors argue that the Dutch can incorporate the best ideas from both sides of the argument, leaving a city diverse with both modern and traditional style infrastructure.


I believe that there is to a certain merit to this argument, as examples of where modern and classical architecture and ideas are mixed can be found in images throughout the book, and throughout Amsterdam. One image I found was two buildings right next to each other in Haarlemmerbuurt, Amsterdam.(Image found on page 187) One of the buildings is modern with the exterior made of glass.Right next to it is a more classical looking building, made of brick and small windows with shutters. It is the close proximity of these two highly contrasted buildings that I believes lends validity to their argument.


Another image I found not in the book but while looking through unique architecture of Amsterdam was of the Inntel Hotels. This building is in my opinion the perfect example of the blending of classical architecture with new modern approaches. The building is made of what looks like traditionalist Dutch style houses with small windows and shuttered walls. However, the houses are stacked to form a grand structure that I can only define as a modern take on an old construction concept. I think this hotel would be an interesting place to visit, at least from the outside.

Cover and First Image: “Archinect | Connecting Architects Since 1997”. N. p., 2017. Web. 30 May 2017. (also in book)

2nd Image : “Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam, Zaandam, Nederland”. Flickr. N. p., 2017. Web. 30 May 2017. (not in book)


5 thoughts on “Cooperate, Construct, Create

  1. Looking over the readings for today, especially the bicycle readings, I was intrigued by the roundabouts, I hope to we get a chance to experience them and see how challenging they are (or watch someone else do that, preferably). The website from which we had to read through had caused me to double down on my argument, as I have found a plethora of information related to Dutch infrastructure and how it connects with one another that I believe will be great evidence for an upcoming essay. , an article on the website talks about how not only a buildings interior , but a building under construction have allowed bikers to bike directly and safely through working areas and buildings under construction (my description is much more dangerous than it looks on the picture). This gives me a stark contrast to America, where bikers and pedestrians are not given much leeway when it comes to their right of way on the streets. Most recently, my nearby mayor of Boston blamed the bikers and pedestrians for not being more careful.

    Regardless of whether or not this holds validity, this finger pointing and blaming has become an American way of life that I’ve yet to see take hold from what I’ve learned of Amsterdam.


    1. You’re picking up here on broader assumptions and attitudes that underly all this bicycle infrastructure. You’ll find parallel ideas in Betsky, esp. where he’s talking about all the government-sponsored design up through the 1990s–the post office, trains, etc.–before they started privatizing. That back story is what creates all the stuff we see!


  2. Great idea to pick up on there! And something to look for elsewhere–in art? in photography? in bicycle infrastructure? I wonder if the necessities of fighting water itself *created* that culture of compromise? Also: I think the American idea of compromise is that everyone walks away *unhappy*! Very different. Interesting to see how that plays out in what you observe in country. Finally, do you see a difference in the trad/mod relationship in image 1 vs. 2? Is mishmashing trad into a mod structure different from putting a wholly mod structure in the midst of trad ones?


  3. Your observation of the underlying theme of compromise is excellent. Even the book False Flat is a compromise between the different approaches of Betsky and Eeuwens, a compromise of text and image. At the beginning of “A Middle Road To Truth” Betsky comes back to compromises and how everyone should walk away happy. With this thought of everyone being pleased in mind, I’d like to use a quote of yours to pose some questions. You said that compromising “leav[es] a city diverse with both modern and traditional style infrastructure.” But is history and the traditional architecture even in the conversation? We can listen and adapt to history but it can’t do the same to us. How does the focus on modernism influence a city? Because of the staggeringly different aesthetics of modern and old Dutch design I am interested in finding out if there are any architectural firms in the Netherlands that lean towards doing things more traditionally. And I don’t mean by creating a tessellation of traditional houses to create a new building, like seen in your photo of Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam (which I think is an amazing building).


  4. I love your discussion on the compromising aspects of traditional versus modern design. Have you considered how Dutch people today respond to traditional architecture versus modern? Is there a similar divide? Also, it would be interesting to hear your viewpoint on the small excerpts of the design, artist, and architecture companies in False Flat, the chapters between the large text. How have a lot of these companies evolved based on this initial compromise between traditional and modern aesthetics? Beyond architecture, how do some of these artists also incorporate “the best ideas from both sides of the argument?”


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