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“We are all bewitched, and mostly by accident: the accident of form, color, sex; of prejudice conditioned from the cradle on up, of the particular ruts we have found ourselves in or we have dug for ourselves because of our individual needs.Those in a long tenanted rut enjoy larger comforts of mind and body, and as compensation it is given to others who are not so easily domesticated to become mediums for the transmission of perception, more frequently”- Harry Partch (1901-1974)

The quote is borrowed from  the opening page of a 1980 art catalog of the icononoclast art dealer/critic Paul Maenz in collaboration with the Mannheimer Kunstverein e.v. on the occasion of an exhibition showing works by Italian artists: Sandro Chia, Francesco Clemente, Nicola de Maria and Mimmo Paladino. (Printed in 1000 copies).

Have you ever wondered what is on the roof tops of buildings and what a 360 degree bird’s eye view can teach us?

The photograph at the top of this post and below were taken from the top floor of the Scheltema bookstore in Amsterdam, opposite Madame Tussauds in the centrally located Dam Square.

Looking at rooftops is like prowling through the jungle of modernity; size, material, color and a complete change of vista from being at street level. Something important in the mind takes place. Walking the street you can use your imagination to create a wider street, less people, another square opening up in your line of sight. Looking on or from the roof things change, you become lost and enchanted at the same time. What have people done with their balconies and who is watching you observing them? Does it make the Voyeur Instinct in us cut loose?

Shown below is an extraordinary Hotel (Zoku) hiding behind a postmodern facade on a busy thoroughfare in the city. What viewing opportunities await us looking out from the roof garden terrace or the dining room?

For the most interesting view from this building one would have to go beyond to a special place with a huge glass window, shown below.

What a shocking surprise looking over the waist high outer wall of this men’s room facility and discovering this marvelous view!

The location offers an unprecedented view of the courtyard of this stately building below dating from the 18th Century,which is around the corner facing a canal.

Sometimes one can count on seeing the same roof line for decades and then there is none. Shown below is an example of a disappearing roof, under our very eyes.

The remains of the day, the remaining street view and a new vista opening up. I wonder what the man on the edge of the bench is thinking about, perhaps he is full of amazement about something new in his surroundings. Is it all about being in the right place at the right time when things happen?

Life goes on, buildings go up, buildings come down. Transient remains of our domestication. What if water is on your roof? One of the most innovative projects in the city will not be noticed much from the outside but from the inside. A parking garage with 600 spaces will be built under a canal and this is one of the ways the city makes effective use of space that did not exist in our minds, yet it did in someone’s. Nearby is the Museum row where parking is much needed.

Slowly part of the canal is dredged and when finished there will be life underground.

In another part of the city, the top of barges on the canal are used for bicycle parking in a desperate attempt to clean up the chaotic parking situation on sidewalks taken up by bikes. Just in case you wonder what the “little green metal structure” on the sidewalk is, it is what the French call a Pissoir or Urinoir! ( men’s urinal). Taking your water to the canal is definitely not allowed under any circumstances.

Yet creation comes in many different forms and so do rooftops, near the Haarlemmermeer Station we find this mural up to and including the roof line.

There are many things to see in a city like Amsterdam and in many cities across the globe. Street view? Bird’s eye view? Discover some architecture, uncover some history, be part of the culture of that city!

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