Special Report: Creation and sustainability in residence at Buitenwerkplaats
NEWS - Special Reports
Friday, 03 August 2012 16:32
For his third report on Dutch residency programmes, Art Motile's Toni Subirà visits Buitenwerkplaats in northern Holland.

Image of Buitenwerkplaats

A car crosses the meadows in the distance, drawing a moving line on an infinite horizon. Cows and sheep dotted across the fields, punky chickens in the yard; noisily windy, cloudy but sunny - the weather is always changeable here in the Netherlands.

It's my last weekend residing at Buitenwerkplaats after living and networking here for five weeks, in this green, rural environment far from crowded cities, with no high buildings, neon lights, advertisements or shops anywhere. Instead, a magnificent polder landscape surrounds me, draining low-lying land reclaimed from the sea, and the overwhelming skies open above.

Image of View of the farmhouse and workshop

View of the farmhouse and workshop

Buitenwerkplaats is an initiative founded and run by architects Maud Aarts and Dagobert Bergmann since 2005, situated in a refurbished farm complex in Starnmeer, in the middle of north Holland. The location is no accident: landscaping, urban design, architecture, sustainability and agriculture are some of the focuses of their residence programme.

Independent and sustainable

An independent multi-discipline space, Buitenwerkplaats is a non-profit foundation that receives no subsidies or outside economic support, allowing the organisers to maintain it as a self-managed project, conceived of and structured to sustain itself through optimisation of resources, renewable energy, and an ecological frame of mind. Heating, hot water and sauna are all possible thanks to a system which takes advantage of subterranean heat sources. Greens, vegetables, fruit and eggs can be brought fresh to the table every day for eating or preparing delicious home-made jam and omelets. Outside, a gorgeous swimming pool is maintained using a chemical-free, biological process of filtration. And, of course, waste is diligently recycled.

Image of Outdoor swimming pool at Buitenwerkplaats

Outdoor swimming pool at Buitenwerkplaats

The main two-floor building, completed two years ago, has been constructed following the layout of a traditional Dutch farmhouse. It hosts a mixture of homely rooms and meeting spaces, guest rooms and studios, and a comprehensive specialised library on the ground floor. Upstairs is an open hall illuminated by large windows beneath a ceiling made with wooden roof beams. The hall is used for workshops, screenings, talks, rehearsals, team projects and other events.

Image of guest room at Buitenwerkplaats

One of the guest rooms at Buitenwerkplaats

Near the house are fully-equipped workshops for making and restoring furniture, modeling, stage building, or constructing bigger structures (including, during my stay, a boat) in wood and steel. Around the other side is a stable with three attached storehouses which are also available for working in, and which lead towards the vegetable garden. All of this is surrounded by dikes and wide farmland.

Image of workshop at Buitenwerkplaats

Iron & wood workshop (next to the house)

Day to day, the property is maintained and cared for collaboratively by organisers Maud and Dagobert along with the residents and guests, with the valuable help of Liset Koeman, who is responsible for cooking and housekeeping, and Caro Schultingis, who takes care of the gardening and the orchard. Two local women from nearby communities have also become part of the Buitenwerkplaats team.

This multi-faceted and organic character, merging work and domestic spaces with creativity, offers many different possibilities for how the centre can be used. There is the possibility of renting space for short term use; the chance to take part in events like the recent three-day workshop with scholars from a nearby college presenting ephemeral architectures which appropriate space in different locations; as well to participate in network meetings with Dutch AIR programmes. As the organisers say on their website: “Making things - that is what it is all about here.”

Open call

Just recently, they've announced a new residence programme (not limited to only artists) named Landscape Laboratory, aimed specifically at research projects. The call is open to international thinkers, scientists and researchers with a deadline of August 6th. After being selected by a board of experts, the winning resident researcher will be offered accommodation and use of all working facilities for free for the duration of his or her project (food and personal expenses aren't covered). Application proposals should tackle themes such as: water management; new energies; landscape design; innovative crops; new food consumption patterns; new economic forces in agriculture; appreciation of nature. A final presentation is expected at the end of the stay, and can take the form of a workshop, conference, show or any such activity as an outcome.

Image of ground floor library Buitenwerkplaats

Ground floor library

Open calls for research and creative projects are frequently announced on the Buitenwerkplaats website. Last year for example they were invited to become part of the European Pépinières Programme for Young Artists, and received more than 70 applications and provided working and living spaces for the selected artists.


The rest of the time working spaces are available to rent at a reasonable cost, depending on time and how frequently they will be used. What's more, Maud and Dagobert are always available for a talk to discuss specific projects. They are currently settled in Amsterdam and have connected Buitenwerkplaats to professional networks, linking it to the AIR scene in the Netherlands and beyond, and they both continue associating and working with other projects and platforms related to architecture and environmental management, as well as planning new developments for Buitenwerkplaats itself. Most weekends they return with their three children to Buitenwerkplaats and the place takes on a more homely atmosphere.

Image of meeting space

Ground floor meeting space in the main building

In your free time, it's highly recommended to take a bicycle ride through the local countryside, where you will discover picturesque villages and postcard views of windmills; following the roads and crossing dams, you will encounter impressive sunsets and
clear nights while listening to frogs singing and the wind blowing through the trees. De Rijp, Purmerend and Alkmaar are some of the nearest small towns, along with Wormerveer with its industrial heritage and the powerfully-scented air from its cocoa factories. Amsterdam, meanwhile, is not far away by train.

Buiten-werk-plaats, outer-work-site. A remote place to work, to think, to observe, analyse and synthesise, to enjoy, get focused, get away, to breathe, to waste time, and enjoy doing so.

Image of new plants growing at Buitenwerkplaats

New plants growing at Buitenwerkplaats


Deadline for Open Call:

August 6th 2012.

More Info:

More information about residencies at Buitenwerkplaats can be found here: http://www.buitenwerkplaats.nl

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About Art Motile

Art Motile is a platform providing information and resources on Spanish artist in residency (AIR) programmes, as well as information related to artist mobility in general. We are developing our services as we go and welcome any feedback we get from our users, so if you'd like to get in touch you can email us at info@artmorile.org.

In 2012, Art Motile received support from the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport.


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