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Urban Camouflage in Amsterdam

February 3, 2013

I’m off to Amsterdam in a week, so there will be (on return) a lot to post.  But in preparation, here’s an item from Good:

The concrete block buildings that hold things like public toilets or electrical substations are pretty much never noted for their architectural beauty. One exception: certain public structures in Amsterdam transformed by Dutch designer Roeland Otten.

Otten covered some of the buildings in large-scale, high-resolution photographic prints, like the substation pictured above. The photographs carefully recreate the view of the neighborhood; someone walking by sees what they would have seen if the building wasn’t there.

Amsterdam camouflage


Now would also be a very good time to recommend some must-see items for an urbanist in Amsterdam – off the tourist track.  Add your ideas in “Comments.”

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Neil permalink
    February 3, 2013 3:37 pm

    Not photo prints, but my neighbourhood in Edmonton has been commissioning paintings to cover electrical boxes and the like. It does make a big and noticeable difference to the neighbourhood.

  2. February 3, 2013 4:04 pm

    Public toilets are also tourist attractions in Kawakawa, New Zealand.,_New_Zealand

  3. Lennart permalink
    February 3, 2013 4:22 pm

    Get a bicycle from the Central Station and cycle to the KNSM island, beautiful brownfield development right in the city.

  4. mike0123 permalink
    February 3, 2013 8:41 pm

    On one of my trips to Amsterdam I stayed in the hostel in suburban Haarlem, rented a bike and explored the city. It’s possible to bike to the North Sea or Amsterdam, but it takes some time. It’s one of several smaller, historic city centres in the Randstad, and it’s only about 20 minutes from Amsterdam on the frequent regional train network.

    The ABC Architectuurcentrum Haarlem is worth visiting. It focuses on new construction in the city. Website here:

  5. Tim permalink
    February 4, 2013 1:11 pm

    Surrey has been doing a good job of adding prints to junction boxes at intersections and hydro boxes.,-122.838607&spn=0.011273,0.01929&t=h&z=16&layer=c&cbll=49.137126,-122.838601&panoid=pDxdxy9Q84Vrg_PeZ6rhJA&cbp=12,79.13,,2,13.97

  6. February 4, 2013 4:56 pm

    Make sure that you also visit some of the new towns (Almere etc…) and some of the more recent suburbs. Also, be sure to visit Rotterdam, to see how more modern and ‘North American’ building forms have been adapted to the dutch city (some successes, some less so), as well as the phenomenal port, which could teach Port Metro Vancouver a thing or two (in many ways). Rotterdam is also home to the fantastic NAI architectural museum, which is worth checking out for the bookshop alone.

  7. ras permalink
    February 5, 2013 5:16 pm

    The Hydro box at 7th & Oak right here in Vancouver has the same type of cover…

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