Daily Diary – July 26

Jewish Historical Museum & Walking Tour

Our day began at the Jewish Historical Museum at the corner of Nieuwe Amstelstraat and A.S. Onderwijzerhof.  This location also marks what is considered the former Jewish neighborhood, an area that was marsh land on the outskirts of the expanding city.  The museum is currently housed in four former synagogues, and includes an interactive kinder (children’s) museum.

 A law passed in 1901 that required buildings not fit for human inhabitation to be destroyed and rebuilt.  This is evident in the mixture of new and old facades of the buildings throughout the former Jewish neighborhood.  I found this particularly interesting because of the nature of my research project.  I am naturally drawn to the distinctly different architectural styles of the living spaces that are adjacent because of various materials employed, as well as the mixture of older and newer buildings. 

There were a few stops made throughout the walking tour that had extremely compelling history.  The first of which was the Walter Suskind bridge.  During the German occupation of the Netherlands, this man risked quite a lot to ensure that Jewish children and babies did not have to follow their parents into Nazi work camps.  Suskind’s offer to help families did not always succeed, as I imagine it would be extremely difficult to trust a stranger to care for your child.  The Jewish families had no idea where their final destination would be, thus some would trust Suskind for the sole benefit of the children.  This bridge located in the former Jewish neighborhood of Amsterdam commemorates the remarkable risks taken by Walter Suskind.  The second stop with an incredible history is currently the city hall building.  In 1738, a boy’s orphanage was constructed, however in 1943, Germans entered the house and took all of the boys away.  Three caretakers offered to stay with the boys voluntarily, but nobody from this group returned.  There is an outline of where the orphanage once stood, made of stone with the story engraved in Dutch.  This monument was remarkable because of the ghostly feeling given off by the outline.  It demonstrates that here, in this exact spot, something terrible – yet historical – happened.  My reaction to this site was simply of awe; I felt the gravity of the story told, but to be at the site was extremely moving.  A Jewish tradition when talking about the deceased is to finish by saying may their memory always is a blessing.

After arriving at the Hollandsche Schouwburg (Dutch Theater), it was clear that the polished façade was both a monument and a museum.  Inside the building, however, were many more ways in which this building marks an important culturally historical site.  The wall of names was erected in 1993 and consists of 6700 family names.  The twelve panels on which the names are inscribed represent the twelve tribes of Israel.  This space is a symbolic cemetery primarily for Dutch Jews, as about 75% were killed during the Nazi occupation.  There is a tree in the center of the space that represents life; after all, 25% survived.  The theater stage and courtyard behind the building also share memorial sites.  The walls surrounding the theater stage and the façade are the only parts of the Hollandsche Schouwburg that remain from post-World War II.  This building in particular served as a transition point for Jewish prisoners on their way to Auschwitz.  At this point during the early 1940s a German civil authority (rather than a military regime) was placed upon the existing Dutch municipalities.  This was meant as a way to ease the pressures and tensions from upcoming anti-Jewish measures.  The lecture –and the hallways –presented many photographs of Dutch Jews in daily life. 

After finishing the lecture at the Dutch theater, our group walked back to the Jewish Historical Museum for a tour of the interior.  The Kinder Museum is directed toward children who have just finished reading the diary of Anne Frank in school, but takes on a friendly, cheerful feeling of family closeness.

We continued on to the Virtual Knowledge Studio for our presentations with guest lecturer, Paul Wouters.  His introduction as the Programme Leader of the VKS was interesting, as it presented new methodologies and ways of doing research.  Each group presented the current status of their project and had time for feedback.  Although, I believe this group should invest in an egg timer (with a buzzer) in order to facilitate our discussions in a more time-efficient and equal manner.  At the end of the day, I was left with a sense of the gravity of the Holocaust as a tragic event lives on today.  Standing on the same ground as those that lost their lives was incredibly moving, but it’s not about the typical textbook interpretation of the events of World War II.  The incredible sense of camaraderie among the Jewish community is outstanding.  May their memory always be a blessing.

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very helpful readings

In my search for some literature on our subject of interest, I found the following three articles that came extremely close.  They have helped provide a little bit of context in regard to Amsterdam’s public housing situation.

“Ethnic Segregation and the Role of Public Housing in Amsterdam” by Sako Musterd & Rinus Deurloo

Abstract: Dutch cities are characterized by moderate levels of ethnic (and social) segregation if compared with other countries in the Western world.  Dutch cities are also famous for their large share of public housing in the total stock.  Not surprisingly these two features are frequently supposed to be causally related.  However, in this contribution this association is challenged on the basis of a review of existing and well-described segregation situations, and on the basis of an empirical GIS analysis of micro-level data from the Amsterdam population register.  Ethnic segregation may also develop within the large public housing sector.


“Poverty and Housing in the Netherlands: a Plea for Tenure-neutral Public Policy” by Hugo Priemus

Abstract: The central issues of this paper can be summarised in two questions.  To what extent does the Dutch rent subsidy programme keep rented housing affordable for low-income groups?  What kind of government policy could ensure, to a reasonable extent, that low-income groups in the Netherlands have access to affordable housing, even when the economy is not functioning optimally?  The paper reviews how the net housing expenses have developed in the Netherlands since the 1970s.  It then discusses the Dutch Rent Subsidy Act of 1997 and looks at the impact of this scheme on the net rent ration for households with low incomes.  The fiscal arrangements for home owners are dealt with.  The data are drawn from the Housing Demand Survey (WBO), the Social and Cultural Planning bureau and the Ministries of Housing and Finance.  The paper concludes that the introduction of a tenure-neutral public policy could make a robust contribution to the fight against poverty.


“Residential Mobility: Contrasting Approaches in Europe and the United States” by W. Paul Strassmann

Abstract: Major differences exist in the patterns of residential mobility and in theories about them in the US compared with European countries.  The divergent histories and institutional arrangements of the two areas foster specific types of mobility and hinder others.  To explain the mobility in each setting, theorists have selected methods and variables that make their approaches seem unsuitable when applied to other areas.  Variety among European countries is important, but this discussion stresses how a common legacy of housing policies has inclined European observers to the view that everything is more complicated than it seems.  By contrast, American analysts tend to see their housing situation in a simplified but strangely dualistic way.  For some, real estate markets are already functioning beautifully in fostering timely moves and simply need to be appreciated.  For others the barriers to escaping from paralysed inner-city ghettos are almost insurmountable.  The barrier to moving out of ‘socially excluding’ zones, although growing, seem less formidable to European analysts.  Are these zones like the rest of markets significantly different, or are they merely perceived with different analytical spectacles? Some of both, naturally.


I strongly suggest doing a little research with the UW library database because I found extremely useful information simply by perusing a subject of interest.

Assignment 3: Research Question

Part One: Field Research

            Jenn and I have similar interests within the subject of the built environment.  We chose to form a partnership because we easily paralleled our ideas and expectations into one research topic.  The site we found in Seattle to use as a basis for comparison was Rainier Beach.  Specifically, the intersection of Rainier and Henderson proved to have quite an amount of activity.  The first major observation we had related to transportation; as pedestrians moved across streets almost all of them eventually got on a bus.  This is a unique aspect of Seattle because the Public Transportation services are thoroughly provided.  The second observation we made was the avoidance of the students that were just released from school.  Few elderly people or families strolled at this time, but those that were tended to avoid close interaction with the rambunctious or maybe intimidating pupils.  From these small observations, we will translate a similar question of how individuals interact within a community within Amsterdam. 


Part Two: Research Question

With the form and function of the built environment in mind, Jenn and I are going to strive to answer our research question.  From our Seattle observations, we determined there is a distinct relationship between individuals and their environment.  The subject of our observations in Amsterdam is the form, function, and policy of public housing.  Thus our succinct research question is: How does public housing impact the relations of its residents in Amsterdam?

Within this question, however, are others leading to its solution.  For instance, in order to understand an Amsterdam resident’s opinions on public housing policy, we need to know a great deal on Dutch policies.  Also, in order to determine the opinions given as anything other than “normal,” we need to know what is considered “normal.”  In other words, are the daily interactions variable or somewhat consistent? 

Other questions are simply prompted by curiosity…

What are the different forms of public housing?

Does public housing lead to higher levels of crime?

What kind of crime commonly occurs? 

How does public policy shape the use of the buildings?

How do the residents interact?

Possible ways to conduct this type of research are surveys or interviews.  Jenn and I will discuss the pros and cons to different research methods and decide on the most effective way to accomplish this research.

a walk around the blogosphere

In searching for related topics to my area of study, I stumbled upon this blog, http://kittnova.com/2010/04/29/container-living/.

Affordable housing is a vast topic, therefore I am trying to narrow it down to how affordable housing is utilized in Amsterdam, as well as how certain crime affects the nature of the built environment.  In other words, how are the ordered patterning of entrances, exits, and overall traffic through buildings effected by affordable housing pressures?  Also, does this ordering have any affect from particularly common crimes in their location?  As a hypothetical example, it may be possible that burglarizing is more common among particular designs of dense urban housing; changing the human traffic flow in and out of the building may decrease crime. 

In this case, sea containers are reused as temporary housing units for students.  The use of this space serves one general purpose to many individuals. The courtyard in front, for instance, demonstrates the common need for a bicycle parking space.  From the post, however, it is evident that there was not much free space within the living quarters.  As (again) temporary housing, this is less of an issue because the inhabitants do not expect to live there for extended periods of time.  This is an interesting alternative to affordable housing in that materials were recycled for a completely new use, yet does not qualify as an example that would be erected elsewhere.  Norms from socially constructed spaces demonstrate the necessities of the particular group inhabiting a certain area.  For instance, the normal place to put one’s bicycle for the night with the hundreds of others outside the building.  Had there been no open space for them, a different norm of how to manage one’s bicycle would be developed. 

My focus then turned toward blogs that had information about crime in Amsterdam.  Because this is for my own curiosity, I’m well aware that any facts or figures presented my be bias.  Also, prostitution is more heavily reported than anything else – yet is not the type of deviance I wish to study in Amsterdam.  Rather, petty crime that exists within particular communities would be ideal.  My search for any blog similar to that topic came up with very few related results, leading my to believe my idea of crime must not completely match up with what actually exists.

Assignment Zero

While perusing the pictures to choose from, the dramatic changes to ordinary materials caught my eye.  First, the buildings with massive red shutters demonstrate Amsterdam’s culture, but in what ways?  Aesthetically, the shutters provide an irregular interpretation to a broadly used material.  In other words, the larger size and red color of the shutters are deliberate, possibly for the purpose of simply being different.  Another way the use of this regular item might be interpreted is to draw attention to the building from a given viewpoint.  The red brightly contrasts the brick building and stands out against others surrounding it. 

The second image that stood out to me were the odd shaped faces of the buildings facing the canal.  I enjoyed the variety of the designs and colors, but again, it leaves me wondering what the intended purpose of these facades.  The uniqueness of the designs and placement of the windows are likely for aesthetics, yet the drastic and rigid shapes of the buildings emphasize similarity and cohesiveness as the canal continues. 

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