John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
Faced with a glut of empty eyesores, Amsterdam rolls out the sod for free public golfing.
Right now the construction economy in the Netherlands is sluggish, with many projects frozen half-finished or in the prenatal plat-of-dull-gravel stage. This stagnancy is a particular problem in Amsterdam, where vacant lots are scattered about like gray deserts in an otherwise comely town.
One of those empty lots is located on the grounds of the Amsterdam Harbour Club, a site that used to house a silo farm but now remains temporarily devoted to parking. Rather than stare at this uninspiring flatland for the foreseeable future, two local groups – NL Architects and Platform Openbare Ruimte – collaborated to plop down some green space and spruce up the neighborhood. And not just any green space, but a functioning nine-hole mini-golf course where parents and kids could whack balls around to their heart's content.
The makers of the "Putt-and-Park" pavilion say inspired to create it after thinking about the positive side of a suffering construction industry: It allows citizens to engage in "bottom-up" actions to exploit the "untapped potential" of dead spaces, they explain:
the architects were provided with a 2,500 euro budget to investigate how a small intervention could help spark city life and contribute to the temporary use of these left over sites in the city. located next to the popular harbor club in cruquius, the playful design piece integrates into its surroundings, giving visitors to the club the opportunity to have a game of golf before visiting the club. made from an inexpensive material, sod 'grass carpet', the putting green features nine holes, activating the site with this green version of graffiti.
There are a few things to criticize when it comes down to the layout of this course (if you really want to carp on a project meant for kids, which I do, because I still play mini-golf with the passion and sore-loserness of a 9-year-old). There are no walls on the rough, meaning the balls must roll off into the gravel. The blobby design of each hole gets repetitive. And where the freak are the windmills? Every course needs a weirdly shrunken windmill, especially considering this is the Netherlands, ancestral home to Don Quixote's worst enemy.
But all in all, this project seems like a good treatment of untapped space. And it was good of them not to put in water traps, despite how fun it would be to have an obstacle course of tire-spinning cars and angrily gesticulating motorists: