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Liven Jansen: Postcard from Amsterdam

Liven Jansen

Liven Jansen seeks out the everyday detail of what makes Amsterdam alongside visits to well-known sights – and a highlight at the Rijksmuseum

Credit: Liven Jansen

Recently in Amsterdam for the city's Pride event, among parades and celebrations we took time to appreciate some of the architecture around us. It is Amsterdam's everyday elements, such as the small flourishes to the buildings, which add so much to the feeling of this city. Most tourists gawk at the buildings, canals and locals whizzing past on bicycles; yet it's the details, from the carved stone stringer of a staircase up to the unique gables with hooks, to the Dutch format brick, which add to the idiosyncrasy and intrigue.

With each walk we noticed hidden elements which had been missed on our previous lap of the street. We became so focussed upon the intricate brickwork (It is clear to us why our resident Dutch architect in the office is so obsessed with bricks) that we completely missed the beautifully carved stone stair detail which was right next to it. Always there on display, waiting in plain sight to be discovered as playing its part and contributing to the whole.

We also sought out the 3D printed bridge by Joris Laarman Lab and built by MX3D. Constructed using 4,500kg of stainless steel, the bridge spans the Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal in the Red Light district and is truly a sight. Its raw texture juxtaposed by the gentle curves created by robots with welding gear reflects the calm grit of the area as it sleeps until the sun sets once again.

  • Credit: Liven Jansen
  • Credit: Liven Jansen
  • Credit: Liven Jansen
  • Credit: Liven Jansen

The afternoon led us to Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat, home to many of the high-end fashion stores, including the famous Hermès Store. Created by MVRDV, the frontage has been built from glass bricks, replicating the classical Dutch design of its neighbours and looking like an optical illusion, or as if waiting for a painter to come and finish filling in the blanks. We enjoyed spending time debating the structural integrity of glass vs brick and appreciating how these two materials interact.

Finally, on to the Rijksmuseum, a not so surprising pit stop on a weekend trip to the city; however we had one priority: the Shylight installation by Studio Drift. Described as a kinetic installation of light and movement, the blooming lanterns of silk open as they fall from the ceiling towards you. Breathtaking to see in real life, this was a long time coming and it absolutely worth the wait.

Liven Jansen is senior architectural designer at Charlton Brown Architects

Feel like more architectural travels? Visit the world via postcards here

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