Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Finding Nemo

June 26th

After two full days on bike the class started to feel more comfortable interacting with the local traffic conditions without too much stress.  Sunday morning everyone went to the local grocery store, which resembled a Whole Foods quality of products, but still had that mom and pops intimate corner store feel. Also, the store was fairly empty besides the 8-10 students from our class.  We all went on a mad scramble gather as many easily transportable food and beverages for our long bike ride. 
The route took us outside of the city where we followed by the side of a wider country canal to our destination.  Along this road we encountered our first sports bicycle riders who were all riding their fancy racing bike and wearing their colorful spandex.  This site reminded me of the riders in the states.  The road that we traveled on was a one-lane two-way automobile and bicycle road.  The bicycles stayed to their respected sides and only went into the middle of the road if it was necessary to pass someone.  Rarely were there two cars traveling in opposite directions, but when that did occur one car would stop and allow the other car to continue by. Usually the car that was closest to an open drive way or larger pull-off area would stop. This all happened very quickly and was solely done by driver judgment and courtesy.  This behavior was also directed towards bicycles too. Periodically we would jump off of our bicycle to take some photos at scenic point. 
*The kickstand, which seemed to come standard on these Dutch bikes, enable us to hoop on and off our bikes with a swiftness that would typically leave me looking around for some vertical element to place my bike against in the U.S.  Partially because kickstands aren’t cool!
We made it to our turnaround spot and had a fantastic picnic lunch spread before we returned back to the city. The return trip was uneventful, but so picturesque riding by the canal.  However, while we were riding by we did come across a modern building with a small type of racetrack in the front of the building.  I was a little confused with the size and shape of the course because it was too small to fit a racecar in it and the markings on the ground were not familiar to me.  Soon one of the students more familiar with the bicycle system in the Netherlands piped up and explained how it was a bicycle traffic course that was used for teaching young students about bicycle safety.  I thought this was extremely cool.  Shortly after we tested out the handling of our bikes on this closed course track a woman from the building came outside and politely asked us to “get off the track”.  Haha
            From there we continued back to Amsterdam and us architecture students (there are two of us) decided to check out some recent housing projects and a children’s museum, Nemo, built by a famous Italian architect.  Some of the other students tagged along and we tried to explain some of the logic behind the designs (i.e. choice of material, relationship to context, massing strategies, etc.).  I hope they thought it was interesting. 

The children’s museum was positioned on a small peninsula of land close to the city center.  The shape of the building resembled the bow of a ship exiting the harbor for the open sea.  The “roof” of the building sloped away from the bow opening back to the city center and turned into a public urban space.  From what I understand about Amsterdam is that recently it was declared a UNESCO world heritage site, which among other things dictates that no new construction can be built taller than 5 stories.  This outside public space was tall enough to provide a great vantage point to see the historic and contemporary city fabric that is Amsterdam.  

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