Back in the 60s, the innovative Dutch counterculture movement Provo launched their ideas for a so-called ‘Witte Fietsenplan’, a ‘White Bicycle Plan’ for Amsterdam.
The idea was simple — instead of urbanites who all own a bicycle, the system wanted to introduce 2,000 collective white-painted bikes that everyone can use. One could easily take a bike, use it and leave it on the spot of arrival for a next user. This revolutionary idea inspired many bike-sharing plans that were launched in global cities decades later.
During Rotterdam’s public art festival Wereld van Witte de With, urbanism office M.E.S.T. reanimated this idea. But instead of bikes, the designers left 350 white chairs in public space in Rotterdam. The chairs served as a terrace for all the decentralized performances, and fed a discussion about public space and ownership at the same time. People were allowed to use the white chairs freely and to take them to any other location as long as they remained part of public space. The white chairs were slowly spread across the city. According to the festival organization, they were even spotted at the Central Station of Leiden, a town somewhere between Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
For some reasons the white bicycle plan failed in Amsterdam. Discarded bikes were left on the streets as rubbish and people could not resist taking the white bikes home. For the same reason also a ‘real’ white chair plan would fail. When the chair is nice enough, someone will claim ownership at some point — at least in the Netherlands.