Amsterdam does everything it can to make it fun for walkers. You can see naked ladies in shop windows. Even the new tunnel from its central train station for pedestrians and bicyclists, called the Cuyperspassage, is bedecked with 46,000 blue Delft tiles depicting the sailing ship Rotterdam amidst the herring fleet in ages past. Here is a description, author uncredited, from the website Materia.nl, which seems to focus on high technology. The virtuosity of designer Irma Boom’s reimagining of a historic Delft tableau by Cornelis Boumeester on display in the Rijksmuseum gives rise to hope that beauty is not lost to every conception of high tech.
Lining the pedestrian side of the tunnel, these smooth, hand-shaped tiles are part of a spectacular tableau designed by Dutch designer Irma Boom. The tableau references a restored work by famed Dutch tile painter Cornelis Boumeester, whose works depicting the warship Rotterdam and the herring fleet is part of the Rijksmuseum collection. Boom however replaces the original crest on the stern with the Amsterdam coat of arms and added large and small vessels, crashing waves, seagulls and herring busses.
The mouth of the tunnel entrance itself represents a gentle approach to modernist design. As part of its work on the station, the firm Benthem Crouwel Architects designed the tunnel, which is used by 15,000 a day. And when the tiles eventually doff their cap to modernism, as described below, it is okay, because they have already done the heavy lifting of tradition.
As pedestrians and cyclists move through the passageway from the city, the tableau fades away as you move towards the Ij-river, before emerging again in the form of an abstract gradient of light to dark blue. This transition from classic Dutch imagery to abstract pixelation represents the journey from the historic district of Amsterdam to ‘new Amsterdam,’ as well as the evolution of Dutch artistic style over time.
… O-kay! I’d say that has it just about right. (A doffing of my own cap to my wife, Victoria, who sent me this fascinating tunnel article.)