Observatorium: The Memoirs of Parijsch This is the shadow site for search engines. Open the site for humans here

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The Memoirs of Parijsch

Steel shed as landmark for the shopping centre of the Parijsch district, with an attic containing 13,000 copies of a newspaper which will be distributed in 2025. Wooden decks frame a controversial road barrier with traffic lights and can theoretically store them (in collaboration with Sjaak Langenberg).
Conflict and rancour exist alongside harmony and civilization. Art does not take sides, but worms its way between these opposites and makes proposals for coexistence. Turn antitheses into ostensible antitheses.


The municipality of Culemborg invited three artists to make acquaintance with the new Parijsch district. They asked the artists what they would take as a theme if they were commissioned to make a work of art in the public space. These statements would provide a basis for selecting the recipient of the commission. The investigations of Sjaak Langenberg and Observatorium both exposed a classic example of the outspokenness and power of individual citizens. An appeal had been lodged against municipal traffic plans, and various judicial bodies passed judgement on the issue; the outcome was a road barrier in the central link transit road, forcing nearly half the residents of the new estate to take the long way round when driving to the town centre. The barrier itself looked temporary, but, after years of procedures, the Council of State decided in favour of the residents and their decision was final. The patron and the Art Committee asked Langenberg and Observatorium whether, considering their shared interest in the impact of a small pyramid in the middle of the road, they would be prepared to cooperate. They consented, for they were familiar with one another's work and saw a prospect of synergy between Observatorium's constructions and participation processes, and Langenberg's poetic films and performances.

Prijsseweg, a country road in suburbia

The situation was clear. One citizen won his case and the local authorities lost theirs. There would be no more through traffic on the Prijsseweg, even though it has existed for centuries and is the shortest route between the city and the suburb. However, the more new homes that are built on the outer side of the barrier, the more new residents there will be to fume over the victory of their neighbours. Any new initiative would be pointless, however, since those who have exacted the right to a low-traffic road are entitled to sue for damages if the obstacle is removed. The municipality is powerless. Langenberg and Observatorium had unearthed a culture of protest and mutual suspicion. The disputes had been simmering for seven years (and still continue to the date of writing). It was not easy to ignore the furious protests; as usual, the public debate was dominated by the loud voices of those who felt disadvantaged, and the imperturbability of the local government representatives. Not everyone objected to it; on the contrary, quite a few people were delighted that the country road remained a quiet byway despite the mushrooming growth in the number of residents and cars.

School playground, waiting area

The municipality implemented the decision of the Hoge Raad, the Dutch Supreme Court, by blocking the road with fencing, concrete blocks, reflectors, white bricks, a traffic light and a movable barrier. It looked no more than a temporary fix, despite the decree being irrevocable. Besides, it was hard to imagine a greater contrast with the careful urban design of the surrounding suburb. Amid the bickering about the traffic barrier, it would be easy to lose sight of the fact that it separated two schools and a child daycare centre. Several times a day, crowds of parents arrive by car and bicycle to deposit or collect their children. These are important social moments for the local community. The parents get to know one another and the new housing estate soon ceases to be an anonymous environment. The crowds of waiting parents prompted the idea of surrounding the road barrier on both sides with seats, so giving the area between the schools the informal atmosphere that typifies the pavement caf├ęs of Dutch city squares. It would be a waiting area for parents, with boxes as seats, and at the same time an extension of the school playgrounds. The terrace would in effect put a frame around the conflict and the clumsy urban design, changing the permanent emergency measure into a convivial social venue.
location: Culemborg
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