Interview Wilde Westen
Interview with Lucia Babina of Wilde Westen, one of the two substance respondible parties of Stedelijk in West - De kok, de kweker, zijn vrouw en hun buurman (Stedelijk goes West: The Cook, the Farmer, his Wife and their Neighbour)
Could you tell us, besides the already present general CV information on the website, what Wilde Westen is?
Wilde Westen is a collective of young designers, architects and cultural producers. They work beyond the restrictions of their specialism and they keep up with urban development, in particular the renewal of Amsterdam Nieuw West (New West). In 2008 they started a research with the theme 'Bedrijventuin' (meaning: company garden) concentrated on Amsterdam Nieuw West. This research resulted in a strategy that can also be found in the project with Potrč. The program of Wilde Westen is based on an open, dynamic and participative process that reacts and grows with urban and social context. Wilde Westen therefore has associated with entrepreneurs, designers, housing companies, researchers, government and market operators. The collective wants to improve entrepreneurship, a vital work-living environment and strengthen the local economy. They also want to connect with education, urban initiatives, global developments and advance alternative possibilities for urban development.
How would you call your profession and in what way do you contribute with that to Wilde Westen?
We are a team of professionals with different backgrounds, I am a cultural producer interested in how art and culture can affect the cityscape through the development of processes.
Why did Marjetica Potrč see Wilde Westen as a suitable partner for her plans concerning Nieuw-West (NW)? In what way could Wilde Westen help her in her plans concerning NW?
The project is about a collaboration between Marjetica Potrč (artist) and Wilde Westen. We conceived the project together from the beginning. The project De kok, de kweker, zijn vrouw en hun buurman brings together local community and a group of artists, architects, designers and cultural practitioners as an example of redirective practice. As Marjetica advocates: ”Redirective practice is the name for collective and individual forms of action employed to usher in a process of cultural remaking. The community is based on idea that it is important in this time to work together and beyond disciplinary confinement, in order to envision practices fit for challenges of the 21st century, such as sustainability - sustainability that embraces people as well as energy and utilities. The project De kok, de kweker, zijn vrouw en hun buurman is action in this direction”.
What is the part of Wilde Westen and the part of Marjetica Potrč in this project?
We never thought to split up the projects in different parts, the project is one and we are all contributing to it with our different knowledge, cultural backgrounds, skills.
Why is this specific project initiated?
We want to realize a community oriented project in the Westelijk Tuinsteden area where the modernistic logic of re-organizing the space (living apart together) failed. We propose instead a true cohabitation of the public and private sphere, of the rural and the urban. The De kok, de kweker, zijn vrouw en hun buurman project is a strong visual message, which talks about introduction of local food production in 21st century urbanism, it re-introduces rural space as a continuation of the original concerns on which Nieuw West was founded. But it also proposes to break with the past, by negating the functional separations that are still troubling the area.
How will the project look like?
We don’t know yet how the project will look like as we are developing a community based process. Meaning, we are going to build up the project and to make it grow, step by step, together with the residents around our location in Lodewijk van Dysselstraat 61 and even further. But we have of course some ideas to develop. We are going to set up a community garden and a community kitchen aimed at eating, meeting, experimenting new ideas through workshops, enjoying events. The project uses community gardens and local food production as a tool for the community to share knowledge and re-appropriate the neighborhood in times when their existence is becoming close to nomadic due to constant rebuilding of the area
Why is Wilde Westen so interested in the area of Nieuw West?
I am quoting the sociologist Merijn Oudenampsen, who is also working with us: “De kok, de kweker, zijn vrouw en hun buurman builds on the history of the Westelijke Tuinsteden as being literally, a garden city. The area was planned by Cornelis van Eesteren that tried to reconcile the urban with the rural. Though the planning of the Westelijke Tuinsteden has generally become known as problematic, the concerns on how to reconcile city life with our natural environment are still very much alive. The De kok, de kweker, zijn vrouw en hun buurman project will try and address these concerns and come up with innovative answers.”
Why do you focus on the green in this neighbourhood?
As I said before this is the main characteristic of the neighbourhood, so we are not setting up a site-specific project by erasing the cultural legacy of the area but we are building the project upon this by experimenting innovative tools. The local community and the international network are for us an important asset, but also the transformation of the 'kijkgroen' (visual green), typical of the area, into used and useful vegetable gardens is an important tool for a “cultural remaking” of the area.
Why is the involvement of many parties/ people so important in this project?
People are the heart of our project, without them the project doesn’t make any sense. We are building a social architecture, we are working on a “cultural remaking” of the area that is stimulated by the project but is realized and achieved by the inhabitants of the neighbourhood of Geuzenveld-Slotermeer, in the first place, and by the Nieuw West’s people.
What (kind of) parties/ people are you going to meet during the project? Why these parties/ people?
We are going to address and involve the community of residents in Geuzenveld Slotermeer. We start by contacting the organizations already active in the neighborhood, such as Wijk Web Geuzenveld, Schooltuin Ridderbos, Stadsdeel Geuzenveld/Slotermeer, Activitieitencentrum Geuzenveld Het Pluspunt and Geheugen van West, etc. and we will grow from that. Our location is based in Geuzenveld/Slotermeer though our target is composed by inhabitants of the whole Nieuw West area as they all live in the same typology: van Eesterens garden city. Apart from the residents there is also the audience of the Stedelijk Museum – which is interested in contemporary art, and especially in developments and participatory processes. As our research is aimed at developing a pilot project about urban agriculture for the city, we address the Amsterdam public authorities, politicians and city strategists, at a local and national level, in order to stimulate and enrich the debate about re-introducing nature in the city and transforming it in a self-sustainable system.
What will the project mean for the residents of the neighbourhood?
It is an opportunity for everybody to re-think about life in the neighbourhood, to take active part in it, to enjoy the fact we have to face, as a citizens, major problems regarding the climate change and the peak oil, to shape with our hands a better world. It is up to the people, like us!
About the tangible realization of the project: What (kind of) practical activities as part of the project have to be done in the next two weeks? And what is the next important visible step for us in the realization?
The most important activity is, at the moment, to get in touch with the residents around the kijkgroen in the back of the project’s location in Lodewijk van Deysselstraat 61, to get in touch with organizations active in the neighbourhood, to work on the kijkgroen in the house’s back and to turn it in into a vegetable garden, to refurbish the house and design a welcoming space for everybody in the neighbourhood.
Thank you, Lucia!