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Play Van Gendthallen


Realizing a temporary production and work environment in an industrial monument in Amsterdam.


Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Partners: Mediamatic

2 Sessions with 50 Participants

Urban Challenge

Due to the economic slow-down caused by the fiscal crisis, Oosterburgereiland is being gradually occupied by adventurous businesses who hold temporary contracts, such as café-bar Roest’s summer beach on the Dijksgracht, fashion designer Hans Ubbink, and Stormer Marine building boats. When Mediamatic saw potential in the island, and specifically the empty free spaces of Van Gendthallen owned by the housing corporation Stadgenoot , they made an open call to co-building a six-month temporary town. Many creative enterprises who rely on temporary use of spaces reacted positively. However soon rose the challenge of settling more than 20 diverse initiatives coherently within a limited site. In 2012, we tailored our city game to co-plan a temporary takeover of Van Gendthallen.


In September 2012 when our team first got briefed by the director of Mediamatic about this urban challenge, we observed an organic process of planning, occupation and building phases. Some enterprises found collaborators to better face the challenge of building their structures, while some groups fell out such as the Poo Factory, Lab Updated, Open Cooking and We Make Hummus. New groups such as the Pigeon Fertilizers, Melt Ice Cream Factory and the Hanging Nest for Human Beings joined in as the favela grew into maturity. A lively temporary program of concerts was planned by Echokamer, an organization that collaborated with various installations in the favela creatively. Thematic dinners organized by the Favelous Canteen, Monday literature evenings, Amsterdam’s lgnite lectures featuring the work of local creatives, as well as successful crowd-funding dinners for the Tostifabriek combined to offer a rich and evolving favela program until September 2013.

Project Results

The three months of the project, from an open call for participation to tentative and final play sessions, delivered a final plan for the industrial monument. Immediate consensus was not achieved, but several iterations both in developing and playing the game evolved a plan where 24 parties could find and negotiate their place in the project.

From Conflict to Creative Collectivities

The most striking outcome of ‘Freezing Favela’ was how creative collaborations were born out of direct territorial conflicts between the various enterprises. After the first chaotic play session we witnessed a twist that transformed a lack of sufficient space for each participant into symbiotic work and space sharing tactics. The Yoga initiative agreed to take place in the Media Hammam while the Hammam initiator collaborated with the food initiatives, agreeing to share a wood oven to cook pizzas as well as to heat the Hammam. All food related initiatives found it more feasible to be located in one central location in the first hall instead of being scattered all over the favela. This would help them maximize the use of utilities, and offer a larger variety of menus, from the hummus kitchen to the Italian chef and various home-cooking initiatives operating out of Mediamatic’s kitchen. The Fool’s Gold, Pretty Nice things, Trash Lab and other Do It Yourself groups agreed to move into the second hall. This would facilitate collective construction, sharing each others’ workshops, materials and, eventually, visitors. In the meantime Tostifabriek partnered with chefs to produce the cheeses, bread and ham that would make their ‘toasties’. The chefs happily settled as neighboring Aquaponics, which promised them fresh tomatoes, salad and fish for their kitchens.

All in all, a temporary city full of play, learning, food and science experiments provided an atmosphere that reminds one of Cedric Price’s Fun Palace and Constant Nieuwenhuys’ New Babylon but then in the twenty-first century Amsterdam. -Please find more on these reference projects in the second chapter.

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