If you’ve walked around Amsterdam recently you may have noticed some scaffolding on the side of the Oude Kerk in the Red Light District and likely thought that the church was undergoing some renovation. However, this construction that’s popped up is actually a temporary installation by Japanese artist Taturo Atzu that brings a garden terrace to the roof of the oldest building in the city.
The installation called The Garden Which is Nearest to God is a temporary observation platform built on the roof of the church with a scaffolding staircase that visitors climb to reach the top. It’s the first time such a large piece of Atzu’s work is being shown in the Netherlands, and the exhibit runs from 27 June to 6 September, transforming the roof of the Oude Kerk into an unexpected summer attraction.
There was once a time when the Oude Kerk was considered to be “Amsterdam’s living room”, where people from all walks of life would come together and this is a theme which Atzu brought to life in his creation, playing on a tension between public and private spaces. Aside from the exhilarating climb to the top and great views of the city, this installation also alters our experience of a historic space in the city, and certainly most people have never experienced a church in such a way.
In his work, Tatzu Atzu creates accessible installations in public spaces to reveal a new perspective of a city space and to play with how people experience their surroundings. The garden terrace includes an enclosed living room complete with a coffee table, couch, and book shelf built directly around the weathervane of the church (which is shaped like an angel). Right next to the iconic bell tower, there is also a small sitting area which totally transforms our experience of this landmark into a intimate experience. Imagine just taking a seat right next to some 800 year old church bells, 30 metres above the ground.
If you can stand the ascent up to the top platform, you’ll be greeted with a rare panoramic view of Amsterdam and a pleasant tranquility which is a total contrast from the crowded streets of the Red Light District, which makes the “garden” even more special. Atzu’s Garden Which is Nearest to God will be open for visitors to make the 30m climb to the top of the Oude Kerk until 6 September and for the duration of the summer there will also be a cultural program taking place in this space, inspired by the installation itself. To get more information and for tickets, check out their website.