Squatting has been declared illegal by the national government. Is it really the end? My friend Lennart Vader of Nepco, who I used to hang out with in squats building UFOs (long story), wrote an excellent editorial last week in Het Parool newspaper where he argued that the ban was a blow against creative culture. Read it here (Dutch only). It’s simple really: free space begets free thought which begot all the things that make Amsterdam great. Including some really freaky UFOs. Below I’ve pasted my long-evolving Squat Time Line which has been published in various forms over the years.
~1000 AD – First inhabitants (i.e. fishing squatters, homo squatus) come to the boggy mouth of the Amstel to settle what is to become Amsterdam…
1275 – By granting toll privileges for beer to the hamlet, Count Floris V establishes a viable business climate.
1342 – With the building of the first city walls, the economically-challenged must now squat outside the wall’s perimeter. This establishes the trend of the poor ever moving outward as the city expands.
1613 – With the Golden Age in full effect, the canal ring is being dug and built for the housing of the prosperous. Squatters are pushed outward again…
1965 – The first squatting (in the modern sense) occurs when a young family moves into an empty living space on Generaal Vetterstraat. The general populace — not sympathetic to the way speculators held on to their (empty) properties to drive up rents and property values — begin regarding it as a viable way of dealing with the housing shortage.
1966 – Provos introduce the ‘White Housing Plan’.
1969 – ‘Handbook for Squatters’ becomes national best-seller
1970 – May 5th first national Squatters Day
1971 – The High Council determines that squatting does not conflict with the law — namely, entering an emptied house is not trespassing on private property. May the squatting begin… but with the extra danger of property owners now doing the evicting themselves with the aid of knokploegen (‘fighting groups’).
1975 - Ruigoord is squatted as an artists’ village of eco-hippies. Even though it was threatened to be submerged as part of the new Africa Haven, it exists to this day as a kind of snow globe for a lost age.
1978 – Groote Keyser (Keizersgracht 242-52) was established and became the focal point for the city’s 10 000 squatters.
1980 – Regarded as the most violent year since World War II. In February, hundreds of by now highly organised squatters retake Vondelstraat 72 by constructing barricades — until tanks deal with the situation. On April 30, the date of Queen Beatrix’s inauguration, huge riots break out — until tear gas deals with the situation. Squatting becomes yet more highly politicised with as a result, factions emerged and infighting occurred — just like in the real world. The beginning of the end…
1981 – A bailiff who had regularly tipped off squatters with the ‘removal’ dates of squats (so they could be ready and barricaded…) receives a gilded crowbar as thank-you.
1986 – The heyday of hard-core squatting considered over.
1998 – Two mega-squats who represented more the cultural/artistic side of squatting are emptied. After 10 years, De Graansilo, with its bakery, cafe-restaurant, dozens of artist residents and 100 000 visitors per year is emptied for high rent housing. The 1994-established Vrieshuis Amerika — home to regular parties, the largest indoor skateboard park in the country, and 75 artists and businesses — is emptied and destroyed in the name of the Sydney-fication of the harbour front…
1999 – The former Film Academy, OT301, is squatted and granted a sense of permanence as the city belatedly realises that there are no affordable inner-city spaces left for artists. The concept of establishing broedplaatsen – ‘ breeding grounds’ of the arts — enters local politics. Tax money is found to basically rebuild what had already existed at no cost…
2000 – The concept of broedplaatsen establishes itself over next decade with NDSM in Amsterdam North as poster child. Some keep the political squatting dream alive. While other more culture-oriented squats such as ADM, Societeit de Sauna, Service Garage and Schijnheilig continue to do wacky things in wacky places.
2010 – Squatting declared illegal by national government of the Netherlands. Meanwhile most city governments (the ones who actually deal with squatting) will likely just ignore this ban for the short-term anyway.