Not an airport

Heard on IJburg, Amsterdam, on 8 July 2015:


Mrs. Ruf comes from Singen, Germany, which means she’s born close to the Swiss border. She studied in Vienna, not in Berlin. Until recently she was the director of the Kunsthalle in Zürich, now she’s the new director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. And she bikes. Beatrix Ruf (1960) told us she bikes every day, without a helmet, from her new home in Amsterdam South to the Museumplein. She has looked for a house on IJburg, the latest extension of the city, but decided to buy one as close to the museum as possible. So now she can bike. She thinks the centre of Amsterdam is very crowded, more than the centres of Vienna, Zürich or Berlin. Lots of tourists, sure, but it also has to do with public space and the way all those people behave. The most dangerous, though, is not the anarchistic behaviour of the Amsterdam citizens, making their own rules, but the tracks of the tram. Not easy to avoid them with your bike.

It was a great introduction of Beatrix Ruf, speaking to the international audience of participants of summer school Thinking City. With a twinkling in her eyes she talked about modern art, the museum, the Museumplein, the way people use the square, the field (?), the plans she has with putting sculptures on it, the building itself, the first thing she did: making the entrance public by removing the portals. ‘It’s not an airport’. She seemed to have no particular interest in architecture, but planning and urban design fascinate her. She could not name an iconic building in Amsterdam, a particular building she likes very much. Looking from the top of the Hilton Hotel on the urban plan of Berlage, the view exites her though. She compared Zürich with Amsterdam. Both cities are rather small, but they are at the centre of an extended urban field, which make you feel you are living in an urban environment somehow. Also the openness to the world, the international, cosmopolitan atmosphere is what strikes her in both cities. What is unique in the Stedelijk case, she told us, is the way the citizens of Amsterdam feel like they’re owning the museum. It is THEIR museum. Everything that happens in the Stedelijk is controversial, worth a battle. She likes that very, very much. Great observation.





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