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A design guide to Amsterdam

Amsterdam: Tulips, bikes, canals, dope, prostitutes in windows, lots more bikes. And heck, a wealth of simply fantastic design.

We nipped over to the capital of the Netherlands this weekend to check out the city's design scene, and particularly to take a gander at Experimentadesign, the Lisbon based design festival that's taking place in Amsterdam for the first time this year.

The festival kicked off on 18 September, and it runs through until 2 November - a fairly impressive six and a half weeks of design goodness. We checked out a few of the main shows: Droog's Urban Play, The Sunday Adventure Club, and Come to my place.


Urban Play comes in two parts: the first part is an exhibition that showcases the work of a variety of artists and designers who are injecting a bit of fun back into the city. The selection of artists is great, and we particularly dug the work by Zurich's Windowzoo (above), and Montreal's Roadsworth (more on him in a later post). The show mainly uses short films to present each designer's work, which is good as far as it goes - it would have been brilliant to see more actual examples. But that's a minor grumble about a great show.


The second part of the exhibition is a series of interventions alongside Amsterdam's IJ Riverfront by twelve designers, including Stefan Sagmeister. Unfortunately, his incredibly beautiful piece, Obesessions make my life worse and my work better, made of 300,000 eurocent coins, got cleaned away within hours of being created, by a rather overzealous local police force (and a distinct lack of clear communication). 


Back in town, the Sunday Adventure Club (above) is a wonderfully playful lo-fi exhibition, showcasing "citizens who through their personal passions have initiated activities in public space", carving out spaces for play in the dense urban landscape. We particularly like the take-away instruction sheets for creating all kinds of fun stuff, from Seed Bombs to Match Rockets.

Meanwhile, Come to my place is a great show that has invited designers from eight cities around the world to create room-sets filled which "exemplify the way in which the global citizen defines their individuality by making a personal choice from the vast resources of the design industry and the shop around the corner". Good stuff.

Away from Experimentadesign, we checked out a bunch of exhibitions and design stores.


Unfortunately Amsterdam's home for modern art, the Stedelijk Museum, is closed at the moment, having left its temporary digs at the Post CS Building in anticipation of setting up home in its newly renovated original building at the end of 2009. In the meantime they've got a series of temporary shows happening as part of their Stedelijk in the City project (check the site for details); as well as regular shows at the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (SMBA). We checked out the latest show by Marijn Van Kreij, who creates brilliant hand rendered textual pieces (above).

We also stumbled across the Netherlands Media Art Institute, currently hosting a brilliant show Sonic Voices, Rocking Hard which features a variety of artists, film-makers and musicians working at the intersection of art, sound and music. We particularly liked the 3D version of Bjork's fantastic Wanderlust promo (long download but worth it) from Encyclopedia Pictura; and were blown away by Johan Renck's promo for The Knife's Pass This On (below).

We also checked out a couple of photography shows. Over at the rather wonderful Foam (Fotografiemusuem Amsterdam) there were a selection of shows, including the incredible Hyena & Other Men series (below) from Pieter Hugo, which is running until 2 November. The images have been doing the rounds on the web, but seeing them full size is just incredible. They're stunningly beautiful.


Just along the road from Foam you'll find Huis Marseille, Amsterdam's self-proclaimed first photography museum, currently showing Cy Twombly's dry prints (until 23 November).

Of course, it's not just about looking at lovely stuff, it's about taking it home too, and Amsterdam's packed full of delicious design stores.


We made our way first to the daddy of the bunch, the Droog store, which features a range of limited edition pieces (like the Crystal Virus from Pieke Bergmans, above), as well as a bunch of more affordable but equally imaginative products.

But, we were far more impressed by the simply wonderful Frozen Fountain, which is just dripping with every manner of design loveliness, including the Zeppelin chandelier from Flos (below). It's our new favourite shop.


We also loved the Nijhof & Lee bookstore (a bit like the UK's Magma, but with more old books); Wonderwood, which stocks, well, furniture made of wood; and the lovely De Weldaad, which is packed with antiques and "architectural artefacts". They even had a bottle-drying rack (below), just like the one what Duchamp made famous.


For the fashionistas, there's a wealth of second-hand clothing stores, or if you're looking for something a little more contemporary, check out Concrete and SPRMRKT, both achingly hip. You can check out all of Alistair's shots from the trip on his Amsterdam Flickr set, and we've put a Google Map with all of this stuff on, and more besides. We used the Time Out Shortlist Amsterdam and also the fabulous guide created by Danielle de Lange at The Style Files.

(And if all that's given you a spot of wanderlust, you can also check out our guides to Paris and Newcastle.)

posted: 13 October 2008
categories: Art | Events | Product | Shop
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