1. info
  2. images
  3. text

The Bijlmermeer
urban expansion project in the south-east of Amsterdam, controversial from the outset, was planned in the 1960s and built in the 1970s. The district comprises 40.000 living units, most housed in distinctive, honeycomb shaped nine-storey-high blocks of flats.
The Bijlmer was developed under the overall control of the architect and urban planner Siegfried Nassuth. Criticism that this major project implemented an urban development project in the style of Le Corbusier and CIAM thirty years too late was augmented by a misguided tender policy and accelerated the process of stigmatisation of this large-scale housing development as a conflict-laden social ghetto, inhabited by the socially deprived, migrants and immigrants from the Dutch colonies.
Despite harsh criticism, Rem Koolhaas was one of the few to see the potential of the Bijlmer, even if it was more of a symbolic nature: “What Las Vegas is to late capitalism, Bijlmeris to the welfare state.”
The Bijlmer came to the media’s attention in 1992 when an El Al Boeing 747 crashed into the blocks of houses.
The architecture was revised at the end of the 1990s and several blocks were even demolished, to be replaced by detached houses and apartment houses for the middle class. Already on its completion, photos of the Bijlmer architecture were used to argue not only the failure of modernism, but indeed the end of welfare-state housing programmes. They symbolised the inability to keep the social promises of architecture and, subsequently, served as an argument in favour of neoliberal housing policy.
An aerial photo of the hexagonal blocks was the photographic basis for the transformation into an ASCII image. A script we developed allowed us to inscribe writings of Saskia Sassen, Rem Koolhaas, Mike Davis and Walter Gropius as cultural texts into the picture, writings that demonstrate ideological references and rivalling interests.
While the debate about the Bijlmeris negotiated primarily on the basis of form, “image.source” poses the question as to what text should be inscribed into the image of the Bijlmer, or what source text Bijlmer was produced by.