The Return of the Bijenkorf Sculpture: an Update
“The ‘Bijenkorf stone’ is coming back – perhaps”, NRC, a national newspaper with Rotterdam roots, headlined on Saturday 3 February. And indeed: there is news about the sculpture by Hendrik van den Eijnde, which from 1930 to 1960 decorated the façade of the old Bijenkorf department store, designed by architect W.M. Dudok.
The sculpture is currently hidden in a place that doesn’t really do it justice: the Bijenkorf’s logistic center in Woerden. But as the only remnant of the architectural masterpiece that was so ruthlessly demolished in 1960, it deserves a location in the center of Rotterdam, preferably as close to the original site as possible.
For a long time, mainly artists kept the memory of Dudok’s Bijenkorf alive. Fellow photographer Jan Sluijter, for example, who collected an archive of over 200 photos and drawings of the building. Or filmmaker Peter Veenendaal who made the beautiful documentary City of Light. And let’s not forget yours truly: the artist impressions I made show clearly where the sculpture was located in the glory days.
But more and more people are getting enthusiastic about the plan to bring the stone back to Rotterdam. The Historical Society Roterodamum has now come up with a plan to give the sculpture a temporary place in the vicinity of the City Hall or the Rotterdam Museum. After completion of the Coolsingel makeover in 2020 or so, the stone could move to a final destination near the original location of the department store.
Nowadays, Beurs metro station is on that site. Ideally, the stone can become part of a new entrance to the station. At the moment the route from the metro into the city center is, to put it mildly, not optimal: narrow, gloomy, windy. One of the most important accesses to the center of Rotterdam deserves a better design and this piece of heritage could play a nice role in that operation.
But I also still think it would be a good idea to put the sculpture back on the exact location where it used to be, a few meters above street level. The animation below shows where that was about. It remains bizarre to see how a place can change so unrecognizable. (the old photo used is from the collection of the Rotterdam City Archive)
Because a 23,000 kilo stone cannot defy gravity very easily, a support structure must be designed, of course. But I’d love to make a proposal for that.
UPDATE: TV Rijnmond interview
On February 8th, a few days after the article in NRC was published, local TV Station RTV Rijnmond interviewed my fellow campaigners Jan Sluijter, Co Engberts and me at the current location of the stone in Woerden.
UPDATE: Passed unanimously
On 22 February 2018, the Rotterdam City Council voted on a resolution about the Bijenkorf stone, submitted by the Labour party, with the support of Livable Rotterdam, the Democrats and the Socialists. The resolution instructs mayor and eldermen to lend their full cooperation to the relocation of the monumental stone to the Coolsingel. The motion was passed unanimously! We are not there yet, of course, but on this historic day the return of the sculpture has come a lot closer.