Tropical birds, flowers and large butterflies: huge paintings should make the cycling routes between East and Southeast more attractive. ‘The human dimension is now missing.’
Barbed wire fences and traffic signs close off part of a cycle path and sidewalk under a Duivendrecht viaduct. It looks a bit gloomy, especially the fences. But what happens within that deposition is anything but gloomy. Large butterflies by the Amsterdam Leone Schröder (50) rise up on the concrete viaduct walls.
“Welcome to my dome,” says Schröder, dressed in a blue overall with paint stains, at the place where the Rijksstraatweg runs under the Van der Madeweg. Her ‘dome’, or her workplace, is already spacious this underpass. The two concrete walls of almost thirteen meters long and the four pillars on which the viaduct rusts, each about three meters high, they have paintings. Green, red and blue butterflies, fluttering against a light green background.
The idea and design came from Sandra Hueber (51), owner of Bright Up in Amsterdam, which makes areas and cycling routes more attractive. In 2017, the municipality of Amsterdam commissioned Hueber to improve the ‘cycling experience’ from, to and in the Southeast district. “Southeast is a beating heart that offers entertainment and is rich in system,” she says. “Think of the Arena and the Amsterdamse Poort. Accessibility must be guaranteed. And in view of the reduced number of parking spaces and full public transport, the bicycle is a great alternative. That is why the municipality is investing in bicycle routes. Some cycle paths are already tight, but it could be more attractive. The human touch is missing.”
Hueber set out to investigate: how do cyclists experience the cycling routes and what could be improved? She analyzed routes (see box), frame with experts and cyclists, head and said that there are many boring routes, dark underpasses on four layers. She made one for the bicycle routes and drafted huge that art would be an addition to such situations.
Art can make cycling routes more attractive and thus contribute to the cycling experience and the use of bicycle paths, says Hueber: “With artworks along the route, you become landmarks and there is something to experience. And that gives you as a cyclist the idea that you are taking a faster route.” In addition to good lighting – contributing to the perceived safety under the viaducts, because it appears that ‘attention has been paid to the environment’. “That’s how you entice people to go cycling there.”
Andrea Aquina (50) from Diemen-Zuid cycles regularly along the Weespertrekvaart under the A10, where meters-high parrots and other tropical birds are depicted on the concrete: a previously painted underpass. She doesn’t cycle specifically for it – it’s on the route – but she thinks the art is a positive change. “It’s very colorful,” she says. “First they were concrete gray behemoths, now it looks friendlier with those bright colors.” According to Aquina, the viaduct has now become a recognizable place. When she goes running with other parents during her children’s athletic training, they sometimes do their stretches under the overpass, among the birds.
On the scaffolding
The four cycling routes Bright Up brightens up, each has its own theme. The underpasses with birds and butterflies form another viaduct of the nature theme route. The third viaduct, at the Dolingadreef, is full of exotic flowers from countries such as Ghana and Suriname. “Those are references to the different species that Southeast is rich,” says Hueber.
eventually Schröder was made to design all. “I usually get assignments, and my clients always have a big influence on the work I make. That’s why I don’t feel like a creator, but a real performing artist.” Another viaduct required an aerial platform, but thanks to a construction of scaffolding put together, Schröder can easily reach everything. On the scaffolding are two crates: one containing eighteen tubes of paint, including various shades of red and green, and one containing dozens of brushes. “My pharmacy included,” Schröder it.
Although the surface to be painted is large, according to the painter it is not so bad with the amount of paint that goes through it. The eighteen tubes are more than enough for the entire viaduct, she expects. The paint with them paints the butterflies, because dilute them with water. Most of the paint goes on the large surfaces. she uses mineral paint that works well on the concrete. Its sometimes ‘bumpy’ structure makes it difficult to draw straight lines on a daily basis. On average, Schröder spends a day with one butterfly. At the same time, she gave the entire viaduct the light green base color.
When the work is finished, there will be an anti-graffiti coating to protect it. This layer allows graffiti to be removed if someone daubs the art with it. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen often. “There seems to be a kind of respect for the art, but you never stop it one hundred percent,” says Hueber, who also designed the huge rabbit statues on Nieuwe Hemweg, one of which was destroyed by fireworks.
To work alone
Schröder now focuses full-time on pimping the Duivendrecht viaduct, because she says it is difficult for her to spread her attention over multiple projects. She paints the underpass five days a week, from nine to five. All alone. In addition, it is a done job: when she is here, she has been standing for three months. Or isn’t that lonely? “You would think so, but I don’t have the last of that. I work best alone.”
She is not lacking in social contact. Passers-by regularly let us know what they think of the art. People hang cards on the fence, send an email to her. An elderly lady, for example, cycles past, raises her thumb and shouts: “Nice! Nice!”
Schröder also brings her ‘moral support’ every day: her wire-haired dwarf dachshund Noenie. They view everything lying down from the trunk of Schröder’s black Volvo, which is parked in the park. Or she’s scurrying around. “And No always gives me a welcome I work with exhausts, but through,” says Schröder.
The Duivendrechts Viaduct is almost finished. Two more pillars and then the nature route with three painted underpasses is the first route that is completely completed. Then Schröder can move her ‘pharmacy’ to the viaduct where the Spaklerweg passes under the A10 – the next point to be addressed and expected to be completed sometime next summer. “In addition to painting, we will also be doing something with light art and objects there,” says Hueber. “I also work with a lighting designer and spatial designer for this. We are preparing it now.” For example, gray ruins in the city are aimed at horses, and Hueber hopes that more people will take their bicycles.
Bright Up brightens up four cycling routes with art. The route with the theme of nature is almost finished. These are the other routes and themes:
■ From the Amstel station via the Rozenburglaan, the Reigerpad and the Strandvlietpad to the Bijlmerplein, with the theme ‘urban’.
■ From Amstel station via Spaklerweg and Holterbergweg to the Johan Cruijff Arena, with the theme ‘heart’.
■ From the Johan Cruijff Arena via, among other things, the Holterbergweg to the AMC, with the theme ‘science’.
In consultation with the municipality, it is determined where the art will be placed on those routes. It is not yet known when the routes will be ready.