Part 2

Urban Concern / 1999-2002 / Amsterdam
Franck Bragigand

How did you get a chance to realize Urban Concern in Amsterdam?

The Amsterdam funds for the arts, via one person, Harald Schole, himself an artist, asked me the question first, about a color concept for the area called Tuinwijk in which there are 76 houses and 5 streets. For me, it was not enough to create a concept. Even though we knew that such an idea would be difficult to put on the table, I thought we could try to realize it. Luckily, the housing corporation reacted really positive.
The main goal at this point was to convince everybody without anything more than an idea. I would create a large gamut of color and the residents could choose the colors they wished. So in this way, it was impossible to make a sketch of the final result.

How did you convince the residents?

It took us 20 months to convince everybody and then I made my first contact with the people living there. We had a conference, and found solutions to problems they were having. Being afraid of colors, for example. I had one group conference for residents, one smaller one with the house corporation and some deciders. Personal meetings, I don't know, there were so many, planned or not, just like this in the street, but I made more then 600 personal appointments for talks and technical reasons, which never happened with the traditional paint companies.
At the end, after 2 months of collecting the colors, everything was really positive and I started to paint. Around 15 houses changed colors during the painting process.

Did you get close to the residents during the series of meetings?

I lived really closed to there. It was part of my conditions of the contract, so I was ready to come at any time to solve a problem or give an answer to a specific question. In this way, I shared a lot of things with the residents, some good and some bad. When you put yourself in society, you are kind of searching for inside stories, and I found so many things in Tuinwijk. As a foreigner(French), it was really good for me to, I could write a book about it.

Urban Concern / 1999-2002 / Amsterdam

Unlike painting on canvas, when you paint on doors, furniture, or buildings, there must be some technical matters to be considered, for example, the strength of the buildings, maintenance, how did you deal with those matters?

When I worked on the house project, Urban Concern, I worked closely with the Kox-Engels and the Sikkens paint industry. I had to give a guarantee to the housing corporation of course. Industrial techniques were needed.

backside before painting

How was the reaction of residents after the project? Were they satisfied?

They were more than satisfied, they asked to have the backsides of the houses painted as well. It was not meant to be but I made the in between, the residents and the house company and they accepted to continue the work. As a result, it finished much stronger. I painted all the backs as well, but with the possibility of course to change colors from the front side or do it in monochrome. I even painted a house in black, which was definitely the best according to their nice Japanese garden. I was positively surprised by the result..
Also, by this project, Urban Concern, Amsterdam city hall painted street lights based on my color gamut.


backside after painting

After the project, when new residents move in, they can choose new colors from your color chart, can they?

Yes I have already painted 2 new houses for the new residents. I don’t know what is happening now. The house corporation has the color gamut, so they can also do it themselves and contact me with any questions they have.

Urban Concern / 1999-2002 / Amsterdam

Are you satisfied with this project and do you want to do this kind of project?

I'm very glad with what happened in Amsterdam, it was an enormous experience, human and architecturally speaking. It took me 4 years to make it happen, which gives me an insight into what really happened. I'm still happy to go there, to visit, and to see how things grow old. I still see people whose houses I painted and we are always happy to see each other. If such a project happened again, I would definitely go for it.


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text/Nov Amenomori