London, behind Hampstead Theatre

by • 4 Oct, 2010 • BuildingsComments (2)9343

Public places that work (for me)

Today the book Beyond the black box and the white cube (English title, Dutch book, ridiculous) went on sale. Obviously, I haven’t read it yet, but it’s high on my wishlist. The short movie that accompanies the book shows how innovative architecture can lead to a better cultural experience. The museum of the future needs such a building. Moreover, as I believe the museum of the future is in the heart of society, it has to be in an amazing environment, open to public.

If I were to build a museum, I’d be inspired by these wonderful public places that just work (for me).

Amsterdam, in front of the public library

OBA by Mooste on

Photo by mooste on

The square in front of the public library and the music school in Amsterdam has a great atmosphere. The library is great anyway and has wonderful architecture, but what’s special is the nice mixture of people, the relaxedness of the place. Even though it’s mostly a construction site, still.

Barcelona, near Lesseps metro station

Park in Barcelona

I wrote about this park before. It’s a wonderful place to relax, read, look around. Just outside the image on the right, however, is a busy road. As there is just behind from where this photo is taken. Nevertheless, this place feels great. People (and dogs) seem to love it too. (Look around at this public place in Google Street View)

London, behind Hampstead Theatre

London, behind Hampstead Theatre

Last weekend I visited London and came upon this great square just behind Hampstead Theatre. The terrace of the theatre bar has a view over the square. On the far side is a sports facility. There were children playing on the grass and near the water. The ambience was lovely and lively. Another wonderful spot to be.

Amsterdam, Nemo roof terrace

Nemo roofterrace by Anne Helmond on Flickr

Photo by Anne Helmond on

If the weather’s fine, Nemo has the best terrace in Amsterdam. And you can bring your own drinks and enjoy a stunning view of the city! On the sloped roof you can sit and enjoy a drink while kids play in the water or with gigantic board games. There’s even a bar and free toilets!

Madrid, Castellana

Paseo de la Castellana by Cremondiou on Flickr

Photo by Cremondiou on

The Castellana is one of the busiest streets in Madrid and one of my favourite spots to read, write and draw when I’m there. The best spot (not the photo above) is just before the roundabout that leads to Nuevos Ministerios (links to Google Street View).

Utrecht, Oog in Al

Oog in Al Utrecht

Photo by Ivar Hoekstra on

The last one, and by far the one I go to most often, is just around the corner from my house. It’s the canals near Oog in Al in Utrecht (links to Google Street View). It’s the perfect spot to read the newspaper, have lunch or diner in the grass, or drink wine. I’m a bit fearful to mention the spot here, as very few people know about it and I don’t like to see it full of people next time the weather’s good enough to go there;-)

What do these places have in common?

  • They’re open to the public.
  • They’re free to enter.
  • There’s water (fountains or canals).
  • Most of them are usually rather busy and chaotic.
  • Most of them have grass or other greens.
  • Most of them have stairs.
  • You can sit down with many people.
  • They’re nothing special (really).

If I were to build a museum, I’d keep these public places in mind. Water, stairs, grass and chairs combined with a nice mixture of people passing by and people sitting down seems (for me) the key to success to creating a good environment for a cultural institution.

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