Lamps by Moooi Amsterdam
Chest of drawers by Tajo Remy
When I think of Dutch culture, I think of art and design.
On my last visit to the Netherlands, I had the chance to go beyond Amsterdam and to see the lovely little cities surrounding the capital. What unites the seven cities and towns I visited is the function that the architecture and design that is inherent in everyday living. Everything makes sense.
The porcelains of Delft, the houseboats on the canals and giant bay windows are indicative of the pursuit of purpose without sacrificing aesthetics. And why not? The stereotypical coldness associated with the geography is broken when you step back to realize the romance of the whole picture.
All photos courtesy of Allard Architecture
Imagine a workspace. Elements like light, room, comfort, and productivity come into mind. The concrete boxes that we now call offices do not foster the creativity and the sanity of employees. A lot of times, these spaces can barely invoke anything but sleepiness and shorter attention spans.
Allard Architecture has designed an office building, with the matchbox as the inspiration, or I should say, a tower of matchboxes. The uneven façade of the Amsterdam project makes the structure stand out from its neighbours. The implementation of floor to ceiling windows maximize natural lighting, which is beneficial for the mental being of any employee.
Amsterdam’s houses are some of the most beautiful, most livable spaces that I have seen. With the giant windows and the huge spaces, Dutch houses shame our lofts on this side of the Atlantic. Being one of the tallest nations in the world, along with my being under two meters, the spaces that would be designed in the Netherlands would provide me with more ample space than a regular house in Canada.
Lesson learned: Lighting and space inspires and fosters creativity. If at work, you do not have either, go for a walk outside but for productivity’s sake, go back to your desk sometime soon.
The taxi is my favourite car, hands down. Without a care in the world, with my own space in the back, the taxi is the best compromise between public transportation and a private vehicle. I have taken taxis in at least a dozen countries and it is the same convenience factor that the car lends to its patron.
Taxis are so cheap in Paris because no one takes taxis. Who are the chumps that take taxis? The lucky ones who manage to find one and after lining up for 10 minutes. Drivers do not stop for anyone. Anyone who has lived in la Ville Lumière can attest to the fact. 6 EUROs can get you from Notre Dame in the 5th to Place de la Concorde. 12 EUROs from Belleville to the 7th. That’s like the equivalent of going from Kennedy station to Kipling in Toronto!
London and Amsterdam are the most expensive cities for taxis. Congestion on Oxford Street or Picadilly could be reasons. Maybe Dutch drivers charge a different rate for non-Dutch speakers. The London taxis are misleading because of they appear small but can actually hold up to 5 people just in the back. It’s like a circus act, you know, when twenty clowns would start exiting the backdoor of a VW Beetle.
New York City is the city where convenience, rate and quickness come together to make a taxi-rider’s heaven. The honking (which, by the way, can be fined $250US) slowly blends into the sounds of the surroundings, becoming white noise. To get from Greenwich to Uptown is change.
Toronto taxis are on the pricey side. How I wish that $4 was not the starting cost of a ride. I remember when $2.50 was the norm until the price of gas went up a couple of years ago. Guess what, guys? The price of gas went down. Toronto taxi drivers are quite open to conversations, I must say. It must be hard to have to follow strangers’ directions as part of the job, not to mention the risk of sharing a small confined space. I have heard horror stories of people with weapons, dashing out without paying, etc. Say hello to your taxi driver next time! They are people. They get bored.
Taxis are my favourite car, hands down. Nothing screams luxury like a car waiting for you, a courteous driver and knowing that for the moment, I will be home shortly. Don’t forget to tip.