Projects

De Strip

Westwijk, Vlaardingen, Jan 2002

Design
Design
Duration: 05.2002 - 05.2004
Location: Empty shopping strip, Westwijk, Vlaardingen
Participants: 319
Visitors: 48,000
Number of Events: 102

Looking at regeneration plans for the Westwijk, a borough housing 16,000 people in Vlaardingen, Van Heeswijk wondered how residents would be involved in what she saw as a total transformation of its social fabric. In 2001, a lack of funds halted the regeneration project and many properties stood vacant. Approached by the local housing corporation and the city, Van Heeswijk requested the use of the empty shops at the Floris de Vijfdelaan - 3,500 square metres of floor space - and decided to convert them into spaces for cultural production, inviting Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and Showroom MAMA to participate.

Within a few months architect François Xavier Guillon and the construction firm Panagro Ltd transformed De Strip into a complex that could accommodate a diversity of functions. Showroom MAMA shared the former supermarket with artist Peter Westenberg, who developed the 'Uit+Thuis videomagazijn', a video projection and production space. Two studios were also built for artists and craftsmen to work in for a period of three months, for free, in return for linking their work to the area and its residents. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen opened an annex in the former greengrocers, exhibiting contemporary art and design. The complex also housed a café, which residents could book for meetings, and a small bookshop. Every three months a new program focusing on local issues would start in all spaces simultaneously, allowing cross-reading of these issues through different presentation forms.

De Strip was not intended as an isolated enclave for the arts, but a hub of activities for local residents and others. Organizers sought contact with key community figures long before the opening, all parties were represented at project meetings, and wherever possible everyone's wishes were taken into consideration. Van Heeswijk assembled a team that would organize and manage De Strip for two years. Opening on 23 May 2002, it initially attracted few visitors, but word quickly spread. Local residents became part of De Strip, as regular visitors or even helping out with its organisation and publicity. People from Rotterdam and elsewhere also visited. According to Michelle Provoost the attention the project attracted opened an unwelcome debate about modernist high-rises. All the clichés about their anonymity, cultural poverty, ugliness, and economic hopelessness were proven wrong. Residents, taking pride in their borough, became less receptive to top-down policies, and outside intellectuals were forced to see and understand these neighbourhoods as more than abstractions.

Exactly two years later De Strip had to close its doors. Overnight, the eye-catching red façade was whitewashed, erasing the physical traces of De Strip but leaving an after-image of the community that had emerged.


websitewww.destrip-westwijk.net/

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