Gossips from the Jordaan

This is a story about the everyday lives of every street’s buildings. The happiness and worries of those most prominent residents, who don’t even have a name, but we sweetly call them home.

One of the main reasons why we love cities is because in their royal slowness, they are also so dynamic. Every city changes with its residents, new neighbourhoods pop up, old ones change and so on. One of Europe’s (and not only!) most charming move is the transformation of previously poor and downtrodden areas by artists. As the story goes – a district on the lower end of the spectrum catches the attention of local artists and young people for its low rent prices. The new life in the area inspires many new activities and soon it is the hip place to be.With people on the move, the entire districts changes, but it is only the architecture that remains the same. All the way from Oslo’s Grünerløkka to Berlin’s Kreuzberg, we all know about the social policies that changed their status and the economical aspect to it.  This time, we’re looking into the architectural side of the question to see what do buildings have to say about that shift. The following is a conversation we happened to overhear at a street in de Jordaan – Amsterdam’s hippest district, which almost got demolished after WWII for the bad smells of its canals, but now is a blossoming tulip in the capitals garden with property prices sky rocketing.

House Number 12 and 10 have been neighbours since 1879, both of them constructed almost at the same time. Now, nearly 140 years later, they have grown so fond of their company that they started to gently lean towards each other for support. Once you lean towards them, you can almost hear them whisper:

House Number 12: It has been awfully loud today, dear! What is going on back there? Since they added those shades in the yard, I cannot see what’s going in the back.

House Number 10: Oh, didn’t you hear! I am getting new windows today!

House Number 12: Really?? On the front side?!

House Number 10: Of course not, darling! When have they ever changed anything on any of us on the front side – it has been decades! They are changing the windows in the bedroom. And honestly, I think it’s a good decision – I have the feeling my old frames were starting to buckle.

House Number 12: Ah, this is great. And, my darling, you are beautiful on the outside, you barely look a decade older since they first built us!

House Number 10: Oh you are always so nice, so nice. It is so great to have you still here, now that also dear Number 7 is sleeping.

House Number 12: Yes, poor guy. It was going so well for him! That family that lived there first after the change was so sweet, they were taking such good care of him. Maybe that’s why everyone else wanted him so badly – I am telling you, it’s not good to be too beautiful in this world. Then they take you and use you as a storage for their fictional money!

House Number 10: What do you mean?? I thought something must have broken in him.

House Number 12: Not at all, he was even a bit renovated, remember that summer, it was so dirty on the street? Number 14 told me what happened, he heard from Number 9, who is next to 11, all the way down the street, the one who got the completely new roof, you know? So the roof edition knows it all it seems and he said that in this neighbourhood we have become very expensive recently. So expensive that rich people want to buy us. But these rich people also want a lot of space and pools and what not, which we don’t have, so they just buy us and one day, when we cost even more, they want to sell us again. Can you believe it! Just sell, but never live! And then we turn into such poor lifeless patients like dear Number 7.

House Number 10: This sounds horrible! But are you sure it’s really true? I mean, why would we be so expensive? I was built by an honorable man, but a poor one they called him. Then they had so many kids in every room, do you even remember the smell and the noise! I have heard, that in the center there are far bigger, better houses. My man was always regretting I wasn’t any bigger or more beautiful. And now… do you think the beautiful houses in the center were all destroyed in that dreadful war? Maybe that’s why they are all came to us after that.

House Number 12: Hmmm maybe. I never knew. But I hope they will stay. I also remember my builders were always wishing I was bigger and more beautiful and richer… now I’m happier – my tenants like me the way I am. They are even proud of me. I hope they don’t give me to the rich people, ever, ever!

House Number 10: Oh darling, you scared me so bad! Now that I’m getting these new windows – do you think they are making me stronger for the rich buyers? Oh, I’m so afraid!

House Number 12: Nonono, I hope not! What would I do without you here! Let’s lean a bit more to each other, they will not like that at all and will leave us to the families.

House Number 10: Good idea.


This is a post in the series By Buildings. For more of the kind, look for the rubric on the main page.


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