Protesting Space

“A 1970s protest with upside down car wrecks in the Amsterdam neighbourhood De Pijp for a better environment with fewer cars. Painted on the cars it reads “car free”.” (found in Dutch Bicycle post: https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/amsterdam-children-fighting-cars-in-1972/)

I found the video of children protesting car traffic in —- 1972 especially moving. As we have learned in the readings this week, the Dutch view space as a precious luxury. The video from 1972 depicts the children of De Pipj, a poor overpopulated neighborhood in Amsterdam, protesting the lack of space they had to play and the dangerous traffic in their area. The children come together and start a public movement to shut down certain streets for designated play areas. These schoolchildren took to the streets with signs and petitions, arguing that the automobile traffic caused unnecessary deaths, pollution, and took up too much space. They set forth a call to action for the government to shut down certain streets (or at least during certain hours) so that they could have a place to play outside. Newspapers wrote about the cause and the children gained national support, as well as some negative backlash. Nevertheless, later that year several play streets were built as a direct result of the fierce campaigning of these school children. I found this video of the campaign incredibly motivational and insightful. The fact that these school children could come together on their own accord, feel free to think “if we want something done we must do it ourselves,” organize a campaign, and sit down with members of their overpopulated community and government officials to discuss their needs – reveals a lot about the community as a whole.  Betsky writes that, “[the Dutch] fought back [against architectural mediocrity] because the public cared that their cities were being disfigured and because the discussion about the qualities of urban space was picked up by critics and their readers. Making a collective space had always been a central part of what the Dutch did, and they knew when something was going wrong”. Although Betsky is talking about mediocre architecture, I believe he reinforces this sentiment that the public will come together in face of a collective space issue and make a change. Meyer delves into this more, in his discussion on the history of spatial planning policies. According to Meyer, “in 2004, the [Netherlands] government formalized its new stance in the Nota Ruitme (“Memorandum on Space”), which states that many planning responsibilities will be handed over to the municipal and provincial authorities, stimulating the role of the market in spatial development” (Meyer, 90). It’s possible that as policy making shifted to the hands of local government that local citizens feel like they can affect real change within their space. I read in one of the comments on the blog in which this video was posted that the Netherlands are known for their “polder politics,” or consensus decision making. I plan to look into this term more to see if I can relate it to the Meyer reading.

              *I am also interested in the bicycle infrastructure blog posts. I enjoyed information presented in the roundabout video – that the engineers figured out roundabouts take up less space and optimize the efficiency of all modes of transportation working together. This reminded me of the Winner article. Winner states, “Cryuff seemed to see football as a total movement of the whole field, not as individual actions in only one part of it” (Winner, 58). I see the roundabout system similarly to the way Cryuff sees the football field – a system of movements the utilize total space.  

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3 thoughts on “Protesting Space

  1. As an American this obsession with space seems quite odd. We have an abundance of space and take advantage of that throughout the country. It is pretty remarkable seeing an event like this that was organized by children. Good job tying Winner, Betsky, and Meyer into this series of protests… interesting perspective.

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    1. It would be interested to see you elaborate more on Meyer’s statements on the Dutch government and how it pertains to the space debate.

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  2. Yeah, isn’t that incredible! Protest over cars taking over their streets. Amazing. I’m glad you see Meyer and Betsky both undergirding your understanding of those protest: yes, they’re about calming precious space. And you drop this in almost as a post script, but I especially love your deployment of the Cryuff quote from Winner, applied here to a traffic roundabout! Really insightful moment there.

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