ODD AMONG THE EVEN

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January 7, 2012

Neda Firfova > KijkRuimte > 2011+2012

Jan Ernst van der Pek (1865-1919) was a dutch architect responsible for the development of a lot of public housing in Amsterdam at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Century. Sources inform that he was a progressive liberal who showed strong interest in socialist ideas for the improvement of the conditions of life for the working class. His name is celebrated exactly in this street and area in Amsterdam North, where he developed the first council houses in 1909.

Two floor, semi-detached, frontally positioned, red brick houses with exactly the same design, repeat along the street on both sides, almost as if they are reflecting in a mirror. Walking down Van der Pekstraat, one is easily drawn into a fusion of utopia and repetitiveness, until the continuous pattern breaks by a partially lit neon light sign for a laundry or a pharmacy. What distinguishes one living unit from the other is the house number, and additionally, the alphabet used for the inscription of the numbers. It is evident that standardization had existed as three alphabets repeat on most house numbers, but historical events or small accidents allowed for other to appear, some of which are obviously added in recent years and upon personal flares of the house owners.

Among all, a peculiar alphabet appears at the house numbers 13, 36 and 37, with a recognizable design of the numeral 3, flattened at the top. The fact that 36, and its theoretical mirror on the other side of the street, 37, are both standardized with this unusual numeral alphabet makes one imagine what sort of event could have caused these two living units to get the same numeral alphabet for their house numbers.

 

 

 

 

As a design practitioner and researcher, I hold an interest in grids and matrices. My practice is aiming to question whether the role of the grid and the matrice, can still be considered a democratic platform for the distribution of information and the structuring of content. I have produced matrices from existing typefaces and alphabets such as: Herbert Bayer’s Universal, the Olivetti dot-printer matrix, Albrecht Dürer’s wall inscription alphabet from the 16th Century, a diamond shaped alphabet etc. During my residency at the KijkRuimte, I engaged in developing numeral matrices in relation to some numeral alphabets found at Van der Pekstraat. These matrices often derive only from the few existing numerals (such is the case with 1, 3, 6, 7 from the above example). Therefore, these newly created systems carry meta information from peculiar events and accidents, which occurred on Van der Pekstraat in the past and we have no information of today.

 

 

 

 

Read more about Neda here and click here to read her initial project proposal.

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