The Amsterdam Subway Dream

Amsterdam is building its 10 kilometers long North-South subway line. It’s an ultimate effort to change a village into a true metropolis. This leads to plenty of inevitable civil protest and political resistance. As a consequence, the costs are unexpected and unnecessarily high. The local government is blamed for that and, of course, they did make mistakes, but the real problem here lies in the ever complaining conservative fundamentalists. In fact it’s the resistance and claims themselves that lead to delay and extra costs. Anyhow, the municipality of Amsterdam wants to make good promotion about this ever-lasting building project which changes the city centre into a huge building site for more than a decade. Amsterdam wants to ‘communicate’ the project, to ‘engage’ its inhabitants with the project. Therefore the underground building site is opened at some days. A couple of days ago I catched the opportunity to pay an underground visit and make some iPhone pics in one of the new stations: Rokin.

Most interesting here was to see the efforts made to communicate this mega-project that has already failed according to the public opinion. Artistic blue and green colored light is added in the construction hole between the raw iron stairs, which makes the space look more like a cool club than like a building site. Another space is made into something that looks and feels like an art gallery, with an arty projection on a concrete wall. Next to it, an installation imitates the lights of an approaching subway train in the future. All visitors can take a paper bag with some stupid throw-away gadgets and flyers about the project.

It’s a good experience, although it won’t work. It’s not going to change the public opinion. Not because it’s not well done, but rather because it’s done by the local authorities themselves. Communicating these kinds of projects doesn’t need expensive recognizable designs, art installations and gadget bags. We don’t need stakeholders to tell us that the project is still great. Others should do so. Futurists, opinion makers, designers, style icons and politicians should tell people how great a city with a serious subway system will be. How it contribute to a true metropolis. Some should stand up and tell the ever complaining Amsterdam villagers what a real city can be about.

Please stop for a moment thinking about those eight 17th century houses that fall victim to the underground drill, but think about our city having a new layer of infrastructure soon. Imagine how the city extends its parallel world — an underground world with new experiences and exciting new cultural possibilities. Let’s dream about the new ways to meet people. In the summer of 2017, some of us will fall in love in the metro, people will kiss on the platforms and listen to music together in the wagons. Others will start small kiosk business at the new stations, food will be sold and free cans of Red Bull will be distributed along the stairs. The new line will smell different and a new voice will call the next stop. The stations are new central nodes in the city. And shops, bars, clubs and restaurants will emerge above the ground at those spots. Amsterdam is gonna change a little. And maybe we should change a little with it. I’m excited.