You've had an office in Noord for six months now. Is it your first time in this part of the city?
That's true! We have a nice small office in the Tolhuistuin area. We decided to move there since we are very interested in Noord. In Noord a lot of things are still possible. It's not my first time on this side of the river, though. When I first moved to Amsterdam, I got an apartment in Noord. It was terrible! I was living in an apartment built for students that can't afford anything else, and/or have no chance to find another place. Students who just arrived in the city, workers from abroad, people just out of prison - all sorts of people ended up there. None of them had a connection with Noord, though. They were just living there. There were some good things about it. It was the first time I was living on my own, away from my parents. I started to sympathize with the people of Noord, and started to notice how people form Noord are different than the inhabitants in the city center.
Why do you think there is such a psychological distance between Noord and the center?
Mainly because of the river, and the decision to not buildi a bridge. In Rotterdam there's a similar structure, but there they did decided to erect a bridge. I think that helps to create a feeling of unity. Without a bridge, the river is nothing more than a dividing force. The idea of Amsterdam Noord as a separate part of the city - as not an integral part of Amsterdam - remains, even though the ring road encircling Amsterdam includes Noord as well. Lots of people have been living in Amsterdam for twenty years, but have never crossed the river.
The North - South line could change this, and help break down the psychological and physical barrier. However, at the same time the metro line excludes parts of Noord that are not in the vicinity of it, connecting only a very small part of Noord to the rest of Amsterdam.
Golfstromen is part of Noord. What will you be looking into?
We are mapping the different subcultures in Noord. By photographing the flyers and posters we find around the city, we try to analyze and understand them. We found out that there are five subcultures that are really present in Noord. For example, we discovered that wrestling is quite popular, even acknowledged at an international level. Hardcore music also has a widespread base in the neighborhood. Another interesting aspect - a sign of the gentrification that is slowly happening - are the groups of workers that are trying to get in touch with the less educated and/or poor residents of Noord. They're trying to involve them in the renovation processes - including the locals in a process instigated by outsiders.
Isn't it strange to be looking for urban subcultures in a place that everybody defines as a village?
I don't think so. But I wouldn't define Noord as a village either. Even though its architectural patterns make it seem like a village, it is a suburb where people experience the normal metropolitan problems present in every urban agglomeration. Subcultures are an indispensable and fundamental response to this.