Antarctica under threat, penguins adrift!
[Update September 11 2014: Antarctica has been evicted by the police]
When you cycle often in Bos & Lommer, you will definitely know Antarctica. At first sight this old Amsterdam school building might not seem so remarkable, although in that case you probably did not see the unicorn on the roof. However, those who set foot inside the friendly mess of this squatted social centre, probably came out as different persons than they were upon entering.
For four years the wildest stories are being told about this magical place. Twenty young adventures found a place to live under its roof. They built walls, bathrooms and kitchens, installed gas, water and electricity. A tight community flourishes and the story goes that even two babies came forth out of this gathering of spirits.
There is an extensive cultural agenda organised between its walls, with music nights, movie nights and people’s kitchens, game nights, story nights and wild parties. All of this is realised by volunteers and donations. Behind the building, the wasteland of sand and stones, left by the school, was turned into a beautiful garden where people from the neighbourhood can cultivate a little plot of land. And twice a week Antarctica opens its doors of her give-away-shop, where the ones with too much leave their stuff for people that do not have enough.
In this way a direct solution is provided for two urgent problems in our city: vacant buildings and housing shortage. A group of people without a roof and a roof without people elegantly come together as a puzzle with two pieces.
Secondly, this place breaks with the logic of commerce in urban space. The best spots in town are generally taken by the ones with the biggest wallet, from bank offices, to luxurious hotels and the money on the inner-city canals. Those who can afford it can live wherever they want to, while the position of the rest seems to get ever more marginalised. Like in many old popular neighbourhoods around the city centre, in Bos en Lommer this process is actively pushed by government policy and a large inflow of affluent yuppies. With their purchasing power and drive for hip coffee bars and child-carrying tricycles, they influence the stock of houses and services to a point where the original inhabitants of the neighbourhood cannot afford to live there anymore and as a consequence are driven further out of town. This ‘right of the strongest’ type of urban regeneration is both unfair, as well turning our city into a uniform and boring playground for the rich.
To conclude, Antarctica provides a place for ideas, initiatives and projects that do not get space within the restricted limits of commercial and conservative society. In the course of the last four years a wild parade of socially marginalised entered the doors of this place, from illegal refugees, starting artists, postmodern bands, queers and single mothers, to countless activist meetings and workshops for various political purposes. A city needs these kind of fringes, where weeds grow and sneaky plans can be made.
Currently, all this is under direct threat of eviction. The municipality, the owner of the property, sold the building and the surrounding ground for a high price to a group that is planning to construct apartments for sale. Last week the letter was sent that told the inhabitants of Antarctica to leave the building as soon as possible. A lawyer is contacted by the group and the courtcase will be held on the 10th of September. Whatever the outcome may be, one thing is sure, Antarctica will not melt for money!
The inhabitants & volunteers of Antarctica
* If you want to get in touch with us, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org!
* Squatting [kraken] has been criminalized in the Netherlands in 2010 after decades of functioning as an important tool in fighting speculation, vacancy, housing shortage, and in creating cultural and political free spaces. However, squatting never existed because it was allowed, but because it was and is a necessity. If you want to squat something yourself in Amsterdam, please check out www.sksu.nl
* Check out this 7 minute short movie on Antarctica: