World Heritage Podium in Amsterdam

by Ms. Lotte Portier (lotteeportier@gmail.com)

HeritageForAll – Global Collaboration Program (2018)

Ms. Lotte Portier has a B.A. in Cultural Studies, University of Amsterdam (UvA), the Netherlands. Her B.A. dissertation was focused on an intangible cultural heritage (ICH) especially the craft and craftsmanship of the Miller and how to safeguard these by UNESCO ICH List. As a B.A. Student, her main goal was to learn more about the Cultural Heritage and Cultural Policy field in the Netherlands and worldwide. In addition, she did a research-internship at the municipality of the town Baarle-Nassau doing researches on the Belgian and Dutch enclaves of Baarle-Nassau- Hertog in relation to the procedure to the inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Before studying at UvA, she received a propaedeutic certificate for Cultural Heritage at Reinwardt Academy, Amsterdam School of the Arts as well as to do an internship at the UNESCO World Heritage Podium of the Office Monuments and Archeology, Municipality of Amsterdam assisting in the organization of the permanent and temporary exhibition at the World Heritage Podium. In September 2018, she will start M.A. degree in Policy, Heritage, and Education, Maastricht University, the Netherlands. Her main interests are in the looting of art and heritage, the destruction of cultural heritage, and critical views on cultural and intangible heritage. Now, she is a board member of the Royal Dutch Monuments Federation. Next to studying, she works as a host at numerous museums and cultural organizations in Amsterdam such as the Museum of the Canals, Huis Marseille, Royal Palace Amsterdam, and Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra. With her enjoyment in research of heritage, her passion for heritage and museums and her experiences in this field, she would love to fulfill a position at HeritageForAll internship program.

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The World Heritage (WH) Podium in Amsterdam, The Netherlands is an information point about WHSs in the Netherlands. It is a remarkable place because it is the only place in the world that has a national center about UNESCO WH. The WH Podium holds an exposition about the ten national World Heritage Sites (WHSs) of the Netherlands. The location of the podium is in the center of Amsterdam, which is part of the 17th Century Canal District of Amsterdam. This is one of the most popular WHSs of the Netherlands. In 2013 the WH Podium has opened to the public because the Dutch Government wanted to create more publicity and knowledge about Dutch UNESCO WH among the Dutchmen. Together with the municipality of Amsterdam and the Dutch UNESCO Commission, the Podium is for almost five years and starting point for visiting WH in the Netherlands.[1]

The World Heritage Podium. ©Lotte Portier

From January 2014 until June 2014, I did my internship at the WH Podium. In the starting period of the Podium, I assisted the Office Monuments and Archeology at the Municipality of Amsterdam, in the organization of the permanent and temporary exhibition at the WH Podium. This internship was the beginning of my fascination for cultural heritage, and for this reason I wanted to write an article about the exhibition of this podium. It is a very special and beautiful exhibition about National UNESCO WH that comes together in this place. In this article, I will explain and tell more about the heritage exhibition at the WH Podium in Amsterdam.

Ten World Heritage Sites

Central in the heritage exhibition are the WHSs of the Netherlands, these are nine cultural heritage sites and one natural heritage site. The Netherlands employs three themes for inscribing heritage sites on the tentative list. These themes are Country of Water, Designed Country and Civil Society.[1] For each UNESCO WH, I will give a brief explanation about the ten WHSs and why they are special The Netherlands and for human mankind.

1. The 17th Centruy Canal Ring Area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht (2010)

The historic urban ensemble of the canal district of Amsterdam was a project for a new ‘port city’ built at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries. It comprises a network of canals to the west and south of the historic old town and the medieval port that encircled the old town and was accompanied by the repositioning inland of the city’s fortified boundaries, the Singelgracht. This was a long-term programme that involved extending the city by draining the swampland, using a system of canals in concentric arcs and filling in the intermediate spaces. These spaces allowed the development of a homogeneous urban ensemble including gabled houses and numerous monuments. This urban extension was the largest and most homogeneous of its time. It was a model of large-scale town planning, and served as a reference throughout the world until the 19th century.[2]

2. Schokland and Surroundings

Schokland was a peninsula that by the 15th century had become an island. Occupied and then abandoned as the sea encroached, it had to be evacuated in 1859. But following the draining of the Zuider Zee, it has, since the 1940s, formed part of the land reclaimed from the sea. Schokland has vestiges of human habitation going back to prehistoric times. It symbolizes the heroic, age-old struggle of the people of the Netherlands against the encroachment of the waters.[3]

3. Rietveld Schröder House

The Rietveld Schröder House in Utrecht was commissioned by Ms Truus Schröder-Schräder, designed by the architect Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, and built in 1924. This small family house, with its interior, the flexible spatial arrangement, and the visual and formal qualities, was a manifesto of the ideals of the De Stijl group of artists and architects in the Netherlands in the 1920s, and has since been considered one of the icons of the Modern Movement in architecture.[4]

4. Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout

The outstanding contribution made by the people of the Netherlands to the technology of handling water is admirably demonstrated by the installations in the Kinderdijk-Elshout area. Construction of hydraulic works for the drainage of land for agriculture and settlement began in the Middle Ages and have continued uninterruptedly to the present day. The site illustrates all the typical features associated with this technology – dykes, reservoirs, pumping stations, administrative buildings and a series of beautifully preserved windmills.[5]

5. Ir. D.F. Woudagemaal (D.F Wouda Steam Pumping Station)

The Wouda Pumping Station at Lemmer in the province of Friesland opened in 1920. It is the largest steam-pumping station ever built and is still in operation. It represents the high point of the contribution made by the Netherlands engineers and architects in protecting their people and land against the natural forces of water. The Wouda Pumping Station (Ir. D.F. Woudagemaal) at Lemmer in the province of Fryslân opened in 1920. It is exceptional as the largest and most powerful steam-driven installation for hydraulic purposes ever built, and one that is still successfully carrying out the function for which it was designed. It is a masterpiece of the work of Dutch hydraulic engineers and architects, whose significant contribution in this field is unchallenged. It was the largest and the technologically most advanced steam pumping station in the world at the time it was built, and it has remained so ever since.[6]

6. Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour, Curacao

The people of the Netherlands established a trading settlement at a fine natural harbor on the Caribbean island of Curacao in 1634. The town developed continuously over the following centuries. The modern town consists of several distinct historic districts whose architecture reflects not only European urban-planning concepts but also styles from the Netherlands and from the Spanish and Portuguese colonial towns with which Willemstad engaged in trade.

The Historic Area of Willemstad is an example of a colonial trading and administrative settlement. It was established by the Dutch on the island of Curacao, situated in the southern Caribbean, near the tip of South America. Starting with the construction of Fort Amsterdam in 1634 on the eastern bank of Sint Anna Bay, the town developed continuously over the following centuries.[7]

7. Beemster Polder

The Beemster Polder, dating from the early 17th century, is an exceptional example of reclaimed land in the Netherlands. It has preserved intact its well-ordered landscape of fields, roads, canals, dykes and settlements, laid out in accordance with classical and Renaissance planning principles. The Beemster Polder is a cultural landscape located north of Amsterdam, dating from the early 17th century, and an exceptional example of reclaimed land in the Netherlands. It was created by the draining of Lake Beemster in 1612, in order to develop new agricultural land and space for country residences and to combat flooding in this low-lying region.[8]

8. Defence Line of Amsterdam

Extending 135 km around the city of Amsterdam, this defence line (built between 1883 and 1920) is the only example of a fortification based on the principle of controlling the waters. Since the 16th century, the people of the Netherlands have used their expert knowledge of hydraulic engineering for defence purposes. The centre of the country was protected by a network of 45 armed forts, acting in concert with temporary flooding from polders and an intricate system of canals and locks. The Defence Line of Amsterdam is a complete ring of fortifications extending more than 135 km around the city of Amsterdam. Built between 1883 and 1920, the ring consists of an ingenious network of 45 forts, acting in concert with an intricate system of dikes, sluices, canals and inundation polders, and is a major example of a fortification based on the principle of temporary flooding of the land. [9]

9. Wadden Sea

The Wadden Sea is the largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud flats in the world. The site covers the Dutch Wadden Sea Conservation Area, the German Wadden Sea National Parks of Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, and most of the Danish Wadden Sea maritime conservation area. It is a large, temperate, relatively flat coastal wetland environment, formed by the intricate interactions between physical and biological factors that have given rise to a multitude of transitional habitats with tidal channels, sandy shoals, sea-grass meadows, mussel beds, sandbars, mudflats, salt marshes, estuaries, beaches and dunes. The area is home to numerous plant and animal species, including marine mammals such as the harbour seal, grey seal and harbour porpoise. Wadden Sea is one of the last remaining large-scale, intertidal ecosystems where natural processes continue to function largely undisturbed.[10]

10. Van Nellefabriek

Van Nellefabriek was designed and built in the 1920s on the banks of a canal in the Spaanse Polder industrial zone north-west of Rotterdam. The site is one of the icons of 20th-century industrial architecture, comprising a complex of factories, with façades consisting essentially of steel and glass, making large-scale use of the curtain wall principle. It was conceived as an ‘ideal factory’, open to the outside world, whose interior working spaces evolved according to need, and in which daylight was used to provide pleasant working conditions. It embodies the new kind of factory that became a symbol of the modernist and functionalist culture of the inter-war period and bears witness to the long commercial and industrial history of the Netherlands in the field of importation and processing of food products from tropical countries, and their industrial processing for marketing in Europe.[11]

The Heritage Exhibition

The WH Podium consists a permanent exhibition where visitors can read, hear and listen to information about the WHSs of the Netherlands. The podium is situated in De Bazel, which is a building that includes the City Archive and the Municipality of Amsterdam. When visiting the podium, the first thing that comes to mind is that it is a very small place. To give the small space a more spacious feeling, there is made an elevation by a stairs. The stairs crosses the whole exhibition to give it a more interactive feeling.[12]

From the outside through the window, you can see the elevation of the stairs under the exhibition. The stairs are used for people to sit down, while watching film about WH, reading information on the ipads and for visitors during lectures about heritage-related subjects, that are organized every two weeks. Once a day, a film is shown on a beamer, which the visitor can watch from the stairs. When having a seat on the stairs, visitors can use an ipad to get information about UNESCO WH.

Besides information from a screen, visitors can take a look through the glass outside, to see UNESCO WH in real life. If the visitor takes a look outside, they can see a part of the Seventeenth Century Amsterdam Canalbelt. Above the stairs, there are different banners, maps and pictures hanging on the ceiling. This is an interaction for the visitor. Through interaction, visitors can re-arrange these banners to admire them. These banners are from the City Archive and show different maps and pictures of the Amsterdam Canal belt.

The different banners and view outside. ©Lotte Portier

Central in the heritage exhibition black horizontal pillars, each of these pillars stands for one of the WHSs of the Netherlands. At each side of the pillar, there are leaflets with information about WHS. The visitors can takes these and bring to their home (country), so that other people are inspired to visit Dutch UNESCO WH. At every pillar is a glass showcase, where a unique object of WHS is shown. For example in the pillar of the Amsterdam Canal belt lies the 16th century measure compass that was found during the construction of the Amsterdam metro lines. Another example is the Rietveld Schroder House. On the pillar of the Rietveld Schroder House stands a Gerrit Rietveld Table. This table is used in the Rietveld Schroder House which used to be a live able house, but is WH nowadays. What is remarkable in the heritage exhibition, is that the pillars do not have the same length. This is done on purpose. The length of each pillar reflects the age of the WHS. For example, The Van Nelle Fabriek is younger than the Wadden Sea and is therefore smaller in size. The order of the pillars has a meaning as well. The first pillar seen from the entrance, is the closest to the location of the WH Centre. This means that the Amsterdam Canal Belt is the closest from the visitor of the WH Podium, and that Willemstad in Curacao is the most far away.

The pillar of the Amsterdam Canal belt. © Lotte Portier
The pillar of the Amsterdam Canal belt. © Lotte Portier

To conclude, the heritage exhibition of the WH Podium in Amsterdam gives the visitor a broad but in-depth experience of WHSs in the Netherlands. Even though the podium is quite small, the visitor gets a lot of information about WH in general, and WHSs in the Netherlands. It’s goal is to make visitors enthusiastic about Dutch WH that is definitely succeeded by a visit to the WH Podium. This is the place where a trip to Dutch UNESCO WH starts right away!

[1] World Heritage Podium. (2013). UNESCO World Heritage [Brochure]. Amsterdam: World Heritage Podium.

[2] Netherlands UNESCO World Heritage Centre – https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/nl

[3] Netherlands UNESCO World Heritage Centre – https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/nl

[4; 5] Ibid.

[6] Netherlands UNESCO World Heritage Centre – https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/nl

[7; 8] Ibid.

[9] Netherlands UNESCO World Heritage Centre – https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/nl

[10] Ibidem

[11] Netherlands UNESCO World Heritage Centre – https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/nl

[12] Reportage: Het Werelderfgoed Podium – www.jhsg.nl/reportage-het-werelderfgoed-podium/

Bibliography

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