Renovation

The Afrika warehouse once formed part of the Amsterdam docklands, but as the massive harbour in Rotterdam flourished, the port in Amsterdam dwindled and buildings such as this were abandoned and fell into disrepair.

A vibrant squatters community however, saw to it that the Afrika building became home to a bohemian set of artists and musicians who used the space as a sometime workplace, theatre, home and hangout.

The past couple of years however, the city planners have finally managed to secure the funding needed to finish the renovation to this part of town.

A new cruise ship terminal has gone up, along with a concert hall, hotel, offices and prestige appartments.

Situated as it is, so close to the centre of the city, this is prime real estate and profitable renovation was always only a matter of time.

Which means that the squatters of the Afrika warehouse have now been decanted and the building companies have moved in.

The warehouse is now being turned into a high tech media and creative space with music studios, TV facilities, a cafe.

The hippy ethic of the squatters, who used the space in a similar way, has been usurped by commercial savvy and enterprise.

It’s hard to know what to make of it really.

On the one hand it’s great to see the renovations finally getting underway. The state of disrepair of some of the warehouses here was always a little disheartening.

So to see the brickwork being cleaned (it’s actually yellow would you believe!) the windows gleaming and the roof sealed, is quite wonderful really.

I worry however that some of the art may be lost as a result.

There was always an experimental, awkward, chaotic, amateur, spontaneous feel to the old dishevelled warehouse.

The noise that would revererate from the walls on any given summer evening could be truly appalling.

But there was a free energy to it all that made it okay. It was nice to know that Amsterdam still had the capacity to provide space to renegades and misfits.

Those days are now gone however and I imagine that the new media centre is going to be a lot quieter than that crazy old squatter hangout…

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