Public Space With A Roof

Intervening the Urban Void (2004)

Place: PSWAR, OT301, Amsterdam
Date: November 2004 – February 2005
Initiated by: S.I.C.A. Foundation
Curated by: Tamuna Chabashvili, Adi Hollander and Inga Zimprich
Kindly supported by: VSB Fonds, Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst (AFK), Stadsdeel Amsterdam Oud-West

Research project on interventions in the city


The first research project conducted by Public Space With A Roof was dedicated to urban spaces, and investigated their function, use and accessibility. In work presentations, installations and lectures by artists, architects, theorists, street-artists and composers we questioned whether the potential of public space could be revitalised through artistic practice. The research project was clustered in four thematic focuses:


• Part 1: Architecture As Analyses
• Part 2: Psychogeographic Data
• Part 3: Dialogue/Critical Practice
• Part 4: Urban Articulation

With its high percentage of foreigners and tourists, Amsterdam is considered an international town. Surinamese, Moroccans, foreign students and illegal inhabitants strive for integration in a Calvinistic and liberal way of life. The medieval town is preserved as a national cultural monument – access to living space in the city centre is regulated through waiting lists, illegal sub-renting, and real-estate speculation. Large-scale restructuring plans try to reverse suburban ghettoisation while the city expands northeast on recently gained land. The general ambience of Amsterdam radiates a sense of content and wealth. Integration and adaptation are frequently used terms to communicate migration-related questions and cultural conflicts. Bureaucratic regulation interferes in all areas of life as an underlying factor in order to establish, maintain or profit from a legal status in the Netherlands.

By choosing the title Intervening The Urban Void, we wanted to question whether the Dutch model realises a western utopian society or alienates its inhabitants from individual choices and intuitive ways of living. The void, understood as a lack of contact and communication, as a limit to creativity and decision-making and a lack of awareness of the potential of self-determination in an urban environment, is the phenomenon we would like to examine in this research.

In our selection of participants we have chosen international artists, theorists, architects, and graphic designers – independent and informal initiatives that have developed strategies of analyses, community forming and communication in their own practice. Each group or participant meets the terms of a socially-aware strategist, introducing significant perspectives to a public debate.

Public Space With A Roof, as an autonomous artist-run space, had the aim to enrich the dialogue amongst international practitioners and conducted their appliance within an Amsterdam context by launching a public research which falls into four sub-themes. We aimed to examine artistically and politically motivated tendencies which address the phenomenon of individual isolation in the city. Striving for a transparent research process and providing in-depth information, we wanted to enable constructive communication amongst the project participants as much as amongst participants and the public. Within a research format which combines dialogue, intervention, visual presentation and information, we aimed to present artistic approaches which promote a re-consideration of stagnated relationships between users and creators of public space.

We started our research with the following set of questions: How much regulation is needed to guarantee freedom? Who is included in and excluded from that freedom? To what extent is the isolation from social processes a conscious, personal and willing choice? What potentials of self-organisation, improvisation, autonomous decision-making and spontaneity are dismissed through regulation? Can some of these potentials be refreshed and considered in a new light? Can suggestions emerge from comparison with other metropolises? Which potentials can be recognized by considering strategies of architectural analyses, critical discursive practice, the examination of psychological and emotional qualities of environments and voluntary articulation in cities?