written by:
August 18, 2009

A temporary summerhouse has opened in Amsterdam. Conceived by the Dutch architecture firm DUS, it is a hotel, a work of art, a public event space, and it is...illegal.

DUS Gecekondu exterior

Made only from sand-filled plastic bags (specifically those colorful plaid, boxy sacks that commonly litter the street), the summerhouse started construction one night in late June, and it opened its doors the very next day. Christened Gecekondu, which is Turkish for "built overnight," DUS's project takes inspiration from the urban spontaneity of Istanbul's squatter settlements, which stand in severe contrast to the highly-regulated urban planning of the Netherlands. They ask, is formal normal?

Not only is this a free place for lodging, Gecekondu is also being transformed into a gathering space, complete with a public program that is, fittingly, an improvisational work-in-progress. Events have included lectures from artist collectives, hourly tours of the summerhouse, craft sessions with plastic bags, exhibitions, barbeques, and even a 'pop-up concert' from the Amsterdam Crea Orchestra.

DUS Gecekondu concert

Like a true nomadic herd, the artists must pack up their home and relocate from time to time, usually trumpeting their arrival with an opening beer-and-DJ party. "The authorities visited the Gecekondu and now we're officially illegal. The Gecekondu has to be gone before Monday 2 P.M." they wrote on June 20 from Sausalito Almere. The journey began there at a beach, continued at a squatted plot at The Czaar Peterstraat in Amsterdam, and they're currently located on a concrete Island at the centre of Amsterdam. You can follow all of Gecekondu's new locations in different parts of the city on their blog--although they won't disclose their next spot!

DUS Gecekondu arcam island
DUS Gecekondu moving

As a foil to "over-regulated western urban planning methods," DUS aims to show the incredible urban richness that can arise from impromptu--and in most places, illegal--building. While so many of the world's cities are battling the slum conditions and unbearable pressures of pop-up informal settlements (one-sixth of the world's population currently lives in shantytowns), a cry from this other extreme is not often heard. 

Photos by DUS

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