The World Heritage Podium is a permanent public exhibition in Amsterdam showcasing each of the Dutch UNESCO World Heritage Sites, open since September 2013. Non-fiction was responsible for the concept, content and the graphic and interaction design.
The UNESCO World Heritage Podium is a permanent public exhibition in Amsterdam showcasing each the nine Dutch UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is the first of its kind in the world. Michiel van Iersel (as Non-fiction) was appointed as the Podium’s first guest curator. In this capacity, and in close collaboration with Laura Alvarez Architects and Office Jarrik Ouburg, we conceptualised, researched, designed and built a total centre which probes, summarises and represents Dutch World Heritage and all of its facets.
Situated in De Bazel, one of Amsterdam’s great historic buildings and a national monument in its own right, the UNESCO World Heritage Podium directly faces the contemporary centre of Amsterdam’s historic 17th century canal ring, the Netherlands’ newest addition to the Word Heritage List. We used this context as a starting point in addressing the delicate relationship between the living city and her heritage.
A concourse of stairs points the centre’s attention outside through the glass wall and opens it onto the busy street, proving that heritage does not imply mummification. As an amphitheatre, these stairs are home to a reading library of books dealing with heritage in its broadest sense, a video installation giving voice to those who live and work in the sites themselves, and curtains of images which confront the city with fragments of her own history. As a platform for lectures, the Podium uniquely juxtaposes an intimacy for those seated inside with a public transparency for those looking in from the street.
Five large banners with blown-up images from the City Archives hang directly above the stairs, depicting different characteristics of Amsterdam’s canal district (e.g. facades, trees, maps). The banners can be raised or lowered, like a theatre curtain, using a series of cranks that have been attached to the wall. The banners are semi-transparant, allowing the daylight and the view on the vibrant street life in front of the Podium to come in.
Continuing from the apex of the stairs, each of the nine Dutch World Heritage Sites are embodied as sculptural black solids, the forms of which are defined by characteristics such as their age and level above or below water. Embedded within these objects are archaeological artefacts specially chosen and retrieved from each of the sites, including centuries’ old bricks from Curaçao, mud selected and extracted from the Wadden Sea by artist John Lonsdale and surveyors’ tools dating from Amsterdam’s Golden Age.
This abstract representation of the essence of each of the sites is complemented by a foldout that on one side enjoys life as an A2 poster that converges macro- and micro-scale, while on the other is an information-dense recount of the site’s history and peculiarities. These foldouts are available in both Dutch and English and are free for everyone to take home. In addition, we also developed a brand new website.
The World Heritage Podium will continue to live and grow as the list of Dutch World Heritage Sites expands. And to ensure the Podium remains dynamic and diverse, every twelve months a new guest curator will be invited to programme lectures, events and interventions in the space for the following year.
The Netherlands’ World Heritage Podium can be found at Vijzelgracht 32, and is open publically from 10:00 to 17:00 Tuesday to Friday and 12:00 to 17:00 Saturday & Sunday.
The World Heritage Podium is a collaboration between World Heritage Office Amsterdam, the Werelderfgoed.nl Foundation, the Cultural Heritage Agency, and the National UNESCO Commission.
Project leader: Mildred van der Zwan (BMA)
Guest curator: Michiel van Iersel (Non-fiction)
Architects: Office Jarrik Ouburg and Laura Alvarez Architects
Website design and editorial: Non-fiction (Michiel van Iersel, Radna Rumping, Boris van Hoytema, Rafe Copeland, Mark Minkjan).
Project assistant: Reinier Mees