Clearing the decks

For a country that’s so small and crowded, Holland has a lot of unfathomably large spaces. Industrial spaces, ok, but when was the last time you were in a submarine works?  

To see art?

At the end of an old, industrial wharf in Rotterdam, you can do just that. The Harbour Commission is repurposing the area from abandoned space (the last submarine was made in the works in 1994) to educational facilities, and beyond, while maintaining its industrial beauty.

That they’ve done. Peering through the windows of the other warehouses, you can already see lobbies, classrooms, the little things people do to take possession of a space.

And the entrance to the submarine works is not quite as unassuming as its original would have been, but subtly designed to make it clear you’ve reached the right place.

And what a place it is. Big enough to build a bell tower.

Big enough to give people bikes to ride through the space, and see their perspective of the space change in doing so.

Big enough that the filtered windows reveal the working wharves across the harbour, and their resident cranes and piles of containers...

Between 1994 and 2009, the submarine works lost its ominous mission, and became a storage space. But then the decks were cleared to make way for a space where impossibly large, ambitious pieces of art could be shown which would be difficult or impractical to show elsewhere.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned while here, it’s that art deserves the space it asks for.