Huis van Bewaring public intervention aims at analyzing the historical and cultural significance of Max Euweplein in Amsterdam, in relation to the city’s “cultural archive”, as the main building crossing the square was the first prison built in Amsterdam, in 1850. The building was then used as “waiting rooms” for Jews during the Nazi occupation of Holland, in which prisoners were made to walk around the square. During the intervention, students interacted with the passersby and with the people sitting in the surrounding cafés and restaurants, who were mostly unaware of the history of the square, with the attempt to reveal hidden pockets of history in urban space. People who are interacted with are asked to take a walk around the square by following the circular route the prisoners once used to pace back and forth. The performance, which the passersby become part of by strolling around in the now highly touristic area full of cafés and bars, attempts to reveal hidden layers of history in the city and increase the awareness of the cultural archeology of the city for its inhabitants.
The intervention is inspired by Denis Cosgrove’s seminal text “Geography is Everywhere: Culture and Symbolism in Human Landscapes” from (Horizons in Human Geography, 1988), in which Cosgrove argues that landscapes carry symbolic meanings that can be read as “texts”. Another theoretical inspiration for the intervention was Lauren Berlant’s The Commons: Infrastructures for Troubling Times (2016), which is used to discuss the ways in which infrastructures of the past inform or mystified by the present infrastructures and what an awareness of the interaction of multiple infrastructures in the city can lead to. Students discussed the tactics through which they tried to create a rupture in the daily rhythm of the city, which raises questions about the relationship between the past and the present, by showing clips of their conversations and strolls with the participants in Max Euweplein.