Between the Buildings of Historic Amsterdam, An Urban Intervention

’s famous canal district celebrated its 400th birthday this year. And though the district has grown and evolved throughout the centuries, now, more than ever before, this UNESCO World Heritage site is struggling with how to ensure the past doesn’t hold a vice-like grip on its future.

For Jarrik Ouburg, an Amsterdam architect, the problem was more specific: in such a historic district, how do you keep urban transformations from slowing to a stop? This question eventually led him to his ongoing project, “Tussen-ruimte.”  Tussen-ruimte (Dutch for ‘between space’) installs pieces of contemporary art and architecture in the hidden alleys and courtyards that have formed over years of building in the canal district.

Courtesy of Jarrik Ouburg

The first ‘space’ was installed by Office Jarrik Ouburg, along with firms Non-fiction, TAAK, and Castrum Peregrini, in a small blind alley – 10 meters deep, 12 meters high and 80 centimeters wide (about 30ft deep, 40ft high and 2.5ft wide).

The first “Tussen-ruimte” intervention, designed by Office Jarrik Ouburg. Image © Rafe Copeland

Inside, white pebbles cover the ground and perforated white curtains hang from temporary scaffolding. The space, previously unused, is activated to function as an escape from real life, drawing people along routes and paths they might not have explored otherwise.

56 of these Tussen-ruimte now exist throughout the UNESCO historic zone, and there’s potential for even more. The spaces, enjoyed by visitors and locals alike, have been particularly popular for their unobtrusive presence.

The alleys in which “Tussen-ruimte” is installed are too small too accomodate much else. Image Courtesy of Jarrik Ouburg
Cite: Allen, Katherine. "Between the Buildings of Historic Amsterdam, An Urban Intervention" 28 Sep 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 May 2015. <>