On the questionable virtue of patience

Last year, I posted about the old postal service headquarters being demolished. It’s next to the central library, a place I visit a lot, but I usually approach it in a way which hides the deep hole where postal HQ once stood. That building came down about a year and a half ago, and just out of curiosity, I made a detour the other day to see what was going on with it. Even though processes seem to take much longer here than in North America, what I found there surprised me.

There was a double fence, but the gate leading from one to the other was open. The workers’ trailers were locked and looked like they hadn’t been used in a while (it was mid-afternoon on a Thursday when I went by); to get some of these shots, I had to trespass past a mattress, into a spot clearly used by someone without a traditional home.

Now, I’ve heard a lot of talk about development sites in Holland being abandoned because of the financial crisis, and I’m not sure if this is one of those, but my personal exprience living in Amsterdam is that there’s more building and renovation going on than ever. Or, at least, that’s what it feels like.

Here’s a short list:

Each year, both the subway system and the main traffic tunnel out of the city to the north close for the whole month of August. Now, most Amsterdammers flee the city that month, for other reasons, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t traffic chaos.

Tourists probably wouldn’t notice, but what they do notice is that the central train station is still being renovated, just like the last time it was when there were here.

That renovation started in 1997, and is still underway.

The end date is 2013, but rumour has it that it’ll go on much longer. The metroline construction which surrounds it (but which is not a part of it) is scheduled to be completed in 2017.

And then there are Amsterdam’s museums. All three of its major ones – the Stedelijk (or Museum of Contemporary Art), the Rijksmuseum, and the van Gogh – are either completely closed or have only a very limited number of items on view while renovations take place.

The Stedelijk, whose original location has been shut for a renovation for longer than I’ve been here, promises to finally reopen later this month after 8 years of temporary exhibitions in other spaces around the city (including the postal HQ that was torn down).

The renovation was only supposed to take 4 years, and 6 years in, the museum opened some of its front rooms temporarily because of political pressure. It has since reclosed, until the reopening. Got that?

The Rijksmuseum promises to follow next spring, after being under renovation since 2003.

When it does, it will be fabulous. Or rather, it better be.

A small part of it has always been open, at full price: this humorous sign explains what’s on view.

And as soon as the Stedelijk opens its doors, the van Gogh will close its own, for at least 6 months.

This is to say nothing of several other institutions and streets which have been barricaded because of renovation and/or construction for multiple years in between.

When I first moved here, I thought (optimistically, and often) how great everything would look when it was all done. How wonderful it would be to bike seamlessly through an already incredibly bikeable city. No detours, no cranes, little construction...

But after 7 years, I realize that this has become part of the landscape of Amsterdam, that the city is never without it.

I get that it needs to be done, and that it’ll be done well, but enough already.

Amsterdam, I love you.

You are a beautiful city, but my patience is waning. So hurry up with your renovations. Finish up so we can see you in all your glory without encountering barriers for years on end wherever we go.