Derelict church becomes vibrant community hub
Affordable rental space for creative or social uses in Amsterdam is rare, which impacts youth, elderly people and minorities who have few places to meet for social and community activities. Now a former Catholic church in the Waterlandpleinbuurt neighbourhood is providing members of community organization Stichting Bildung with a soon-to-be fully functioning neighbourhood living room.
Stichting Bildung aims to build bridges within society—from excluded groups to wealthy ones, from low to higher educated—in a space filled with culture, altruism, and social connection. The project is being designed and implemented by a small group of people from different countries and backgrounds that live and work together, as an act of resistance, offering an alternative to the common subsidy-based initiatives that rely on policy regulations.
The location, a derelict Catholic church renamed DeKerk, is their current setting. Several meeting and social spaces including a bar and a dedicated music area have been built – all done at the lowest cost possible thanks to using recycled materials and waste, personal savings and crowdfunding campaigns. Lights, electricity and heating were installed, alongside a stage, and a wood workshop.
A shop, located at the main entrance of the building, opens two days per week and provides a good gauge of the social situation in the neighborhood, as people come in to talk and share their stories. It gives away donated items such as clothes, shoes, furniture, books, games and toys to those in need.
Today, DeKerk hosts a variety of organisations and events. As the building was set to be demolished in 2020 as part of a residential redevelopment, Stichting Bildung is now working to get more people and organisations involved to extend their activities programme and they are already looking for more places to continue its vision.
“Social centres are often the backbone on which broader urban social movements are built. The establishment of new centres is always a cause for hope.”
– Evaluator Bert Russell