Amsterdam City of Freedom

Summer 2017

XPO Magazine Summer 2017

n the seventeenth century, Amsterdam with all of its immigrants was the precursor of New York City. In the latesixteenth and early seventeenth century, more than 150,000 Protestant refugees fled from - nowadays Belgium - to theDutch Republic, of which many settled in Amsterdam. Ties van Dijk, spokesman and initiator of the project 'A Statue of Liberty for Amsterdam' argues "A city that hosts more than 170nationalities today, deserves to have its own monument which symbolizes freedom and tolerance". He believes its high time tosymbolize the city's long history of tolerance and immigration with a liberty monument on the IJ River.CITY OF IMMIGRANTSAlmost four years ago Van Dijk, manager of VOLA, came up with the idea to have a monument after attending a debate about the growing number of tourists in Amsterdam. Van Dijk laughs, "In those days we didn't have half the number of tourists visiting the city as we do today, and we were still smack dab in the middle of the economic crisis, and not to forget we had no idea about the Syrian refugee crisis that was awaiting". Van Dijk argues, "Amsterdam has a long history of tolerance, with its ups and downs. We thrive on foreigners. They bring us new ideas and they make the city dynamic. The thing is that many of the city residents seem to forget that". He adds, "Most Dutch people think they are 100% Dutch, but once they start digging in their family tree, aftera few generations they soon realize that they have German, Eastern or Southern European roots". GROWING INTOLERANCEThe growth of intolerance is one of the main reasons why Van Dijk thinks that a large-scale monument must be established right now. "It would be the ideal weapon against xenophobia." Van Dijk adds, "Americans celebrate their cultural diversity when they think of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty". He points out, "Of course, in Amsterdam we have a liberty monument; the National Monument on the Dam Square, but that only represents those who perished during the Second World War in Europe and Asia. It only represents a designated period of time in history". Van Dijk believes that Amsterdam needs a physical symbol that represents immigration as a continuum throughout history, and their important role to the city's economy and cultural development. And if there were no immigrants from the Southern Netherlands, Germany, and the Sephardic Jews in the seventeenthcentury, there would not have been a Dutch Golden Age. THE FINALISTSEarlier this year, Van Dijk in collaboration with the Academie van Bouwkunst, Architectuurcentrum Amsterdam (Arcam), Conservatorium Amsterdam, and the Department of Business Economy of the Amsterdam School of Applied Sciences wrote a prize for the architecture students of the Academie van Bouwkunst to design a monument that would be located on the spearhead of Java Island in Amsterdam's IJ River, which represents freedom. Several of the 45 students who submitted entries, originate from China, Central and Eastern Europe, countries with a former communist government. The design entitled 'Equilibrium' from the Lithuanian architect, Elena Staskute, is one of the ten finalists. Her design features a broad quay on three sides where boats can dock and includes an elevated point so visitors view the width and openness of the western harbour. Van Dijk jubilates, "Imagine Amsterdam's monument facing the west, the Statue of Liberty in New York facing the east. The two will be looking at eachother from almost 6,000 kilometres from the other side of the Atlantic". Van Dijk quietly inserts, "The monument is still dream but then again... everything starts out with a dream".

<< Back