Zuidplein (South Square)
Zuidplein (South Square)
For some years now, Sculpture International has been examining the
possible functions that art may have on Zuidplein. The Art and Culture
Programme of the Pact op Zuid organisation was presented on 25 March
2008. SIR was asked to specifically focus on Zuidplein. In October 2009,
the book ‘Op Zuid’ was published by NAi Uitgevers. In this publication,
SIR also gave a detailed description of its plans for Zuidplein. You
can find more information about the publication on the NAi Uitgevers
At the request of Pact op Zuid and the Boroughs of Charlois and Feijenoord, Sculpture International Rotterdam (SIR) developed a plan for an art programme at Zuidplein to start in summer 2009 and run until the square had attained its final form.
The international heritage – the city’s ‘crown jewels’ that are managed and developed by SIR – can mainly be found in the city centre. By inviting SIR to draw up a proposal for the future Hart van Zuid (heart of Rotterdam South), the principal (the City) indicates the ambitious standard that it envisages for the Hart van Zuid and specifically for Zuidplein – a site that has the potential to be dynamic and internationally attractive.
Four stages of redevelopment
The radical redevelopment of Zuidplein can be divided into four stages: the preparation (research and design by the urban planning experts), the demolition phase, the construction phase and the final appearance. In this context, the challenge is to initiate a coordinated range of art projects devoted to the various layers of meaning that Zuidplein has during the four phases.
The intention is not to keep the art at a distance, but to allow it to function very directly – a refreshing, temporary intervention in the Hart van Zuid. Using fairly simple art resources, the first phase involves focusing on Zuidplein and what the square could become. The artwork is intended to stimulate the imagination of all those involved, challenging them to think and dream about what ZUIDPLEIN could become.
Phase one resulted in a number of ideas, emanating from artists, that can endow Zuidplein with a dynamic and imaginative face. This publication presents the first, pristine suggestions from Ai Weiwei (Beijing), Erik van Lieshout (Rotterdam), Hendrik-Jan Hunneman (Rotterdam) and Ken Lum (Vancouver).
Viewed from the air, Zuidplein hardly meets one’s expectations of a square. The area referred to by this name is almost completely occupied by a huge shopping mall and a parking garage. The remaining space is taken up by a bus station, traffic flows and above all by the imposing bus lane, down which buses drive at high speed from the metro station, weaving adroitly among the pedestrians as the latter leap out of the way. A fascinating sight, perhaps, from the terrace of Café-restaurant Champs Elysée, but completely unacceptable in terms of liveable public space.
Despite that, Zuidplein is a treasure chest of possibilities for an interesting public domain, not least because of the hugely diverse population that lives there. The busy shopping centre, the popular Theater Zuidplein and the well run swimming bath also form part of Zuidplein’s slumbering potential. And just a stone’s throw away is the bustling Ahoy event centre. This has an immense empty space with vast potential in front of it. Behind it lies a park with public gardens, a boat lake, a sports area, a playground, a restaurant and an events area. Hopefully, Ahoy itself may undergo an exciting redevelopment in the future.
Commission, a film by Erik van Lieshout
In 2010, Erik van Lieshout lived for three months in his shop in the Zuidplein shopping centre. He spoke with people, lived among the people of Zuidplein and filmed the place itself. The result is his film Commission. A sneak preview of the film was given in London at the beginning of 2011. It was very well received and discussed in The Guardian and other publications. After that, the film had its world premier at Theater Zuidplein in Rotterdam.
Erik van Lieshout’s original proposal
Van Lieshout wants to make a film that interweaves the story of his life as an international artist, living for many years in Rotterdam South, with the life and architecture of Zuidplein. Van Lieshout’s plan for his film is to work from Zuidplein, with a studio in the shopping centre where, if possible, he and other artists can hold film workshops. The film will be shown on (regional) television, on the internet, in museums and in presentations about Rotterdam South. An opportunity will also be sought to run the film continuously in a space on the square itself, in the shopping centre or in the bus station. Most of Van Lieshout’s film works incorporate a small cinema that he built himself.
Zuidplein as ‘The Sleeping Beauty’, by Hendrik-Jan Hunneman
On Zuidplein, virtually all the premises have plain frontages and contribute little or nothing to the creation of an attractive public square. Hendrik-Jan Hunneman was asked to think up a simple intervention that would literally and figuratively break open the square in advance of the coming demolition of the swimming bath and other buildings. Even in this opening phase, one can give a different twist to the square's appearance.
The bus lane as a dragon’s tail, by Ai Weiwei
The bus lane in Rotterdam South is a splendid affair, occupying the centre of the square. It is a strange, modernist object that can be a challenge for an artist. Ai Weiwei, who is known for (among other things) his collaboration in the design of Herzog and de Meuron’s ‘bird’s nest’ stadium in Peking, came up with a plan for a temporary work of art for the bus lane: Dragon’s Tail.
Ken Lum: “I don’t want to feel so tired”, an allegory about the people living on Zuidplein
Overblown marketing language, which is the same in every redevelopment zone the world over, evokes a contrary response in a design by Ken Lum, in which personal lamentations can be seen in large letters on the sides of stationary lorries.
Lum is well known in Rotterdam for his billboard in the centre, ‘Melly Shum hates her job’. Ken Lum’s proposal, which is still in the development stage, could piggyback with the various phases: the planning phase, the demolition and the various construction projects.
SIR is keen to install a showcase in the shopping centre with an alternating display of international works of art devoted to life in Rotterdam South, preferably in partnership with a museum or another art institute in Rotterdam.
In addition to this first move, SIR wants to build in the possibility to formulate new commissions and designs that appear relevant in the demolition and construction phases: bigger commissions and ‘lightning strikes’, such as performances and one-day campaigns, that are easy to realise but have great effect.
Eventually, the ‘final picture’ will arrive: an exciting work of art, an icon of international fame for ZUIDPLEIN, which will define its identity as the HEART of the HART VAN ZUID.