DAM SQUARE, AMSTERDAM, 8 SEPTEMBER 1997, 1:15 PM. An ordinary scene: mostly tourists occupy the square. Business as usual. Except… there are no people sitting on the steps of the National Monument, as it has been temporarily removed for restoration. A huge scaffolding takes its place. Everything seems normal until 112 people join hands to create a circle. Then another 25 men climb on their shoulders. They form the foundations of a human tower. After several ‘storeys’, finally, at the apex, a little girl tops it with her hand up in the air. The tower, swaying alarmingly, reaches a final height of 11 metres and consists of 160 people. These ‘castle-builders’ from Spain, the Castellers, were honouring a tradition that dates back to 16th-century Tarragona.
The intention was to give Amsterdam a ‘walking monument’ as a replacement for the National Monument; the most controversial monument in Amsterdam. It became a particular bone of contention during the 1960s, when it was invaded by hordes of ‘Dam sleepers’: hippies regarded by the citizenry as ‘unwashed, disease-spreading’ vagrants. Nowadays it has acquired something of a sacred status. It plays a central role in Remembrance Day ceremonies. Architect J.J.P. Oud and sculptor J. Raedecker, who designed it as a memorial to those who died during the Second World War, wanted it to be accessible to the public, part of everyday urban life. They stressed it should not only deal with death, but primarily with life. Framis intended the W alking Monument in the spirit of Oud and Raedecker: as a living, breathing – and breathtaking – monument, a metaphor for life, a place of memory. The material of the monument is of the same substance as the viewers, who can directly communicate with the monument.
Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen will open its doors to the public on Saturday 6 November.Publication date: 3 Nov '21