Soften the City

Adding contrast to the urban jungle - one stitch at a time

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 We have said it before: Acts don’t have to be monumental in order to bring something positive to our city. A great example is the bridge near the Eye Museum. Every day, hundreds of commuters, visitors and other passers-by notice the pink knitted scarfs that decorate the grey metal construction. But not many of them will know the story behind the installation. 

The knitwork was made by an anonymous collective from Amsterdam. It all started in 2010, when three friends started a knitting group in one of the bars around the Westergasfabriek. Inspired by street artists like Banksy, as well as by other urban knitting initiatives, their aim was to create knitted art pieces to install in the Westerpark. In the same year, the first knitted Bike Park Rainbow was placed, followed by knitted signages, birds, furniture, and trees.

In the meantime, the group grew bigger and bigger. Knitting proved to serve as a social magnet, and people joined in the bar to work on their own projects, contribute to the street art projects, and even to learn how to knit. In 2014, the group had grown to over thirty members. At that point, they decided to go bigger, and to knit a bridge.

The bridge near the Eye Museum was picked, and the project was named ‘X Shades of Grey’. As the name suggests, the bridge was covered in knitwork in various grey-tones, with the intent to show that life isn’t just black and white and things aren’t just wrong or right. As such, the ‘knitted bridge’ became a call for dialogue and nuance. And successfully so: while installing the knitwork – which had taken several months to create – many people stopped to ask what was happening and great spontaneous conversations were started.

The collective thinks the knitted bridge might be one of the most photographed and posed-with objects in the city. It provides some colour and playfulness in what can be a very grey landscape.

A year later, the grey bridge had become pale and dirty and the collective decided to replace it with a rainbow version to contrast the grey industrial surroundings. It was revealed around Gay Pride, again making a social statement. Another year later, and again in need of maintenance, the bridge was turned pink – the colour of the heart and of love. The collective hopes to keep it that way, replacing the knitwork when necessary, and providing passers-by with a little softness and colour in their day to day life. “It is very rewarding to see how many people enjoy the bridge. We think it may be one of the most photographed objects in Amsterdam – every minute a photo is made, people pose and kids climb the colourful bridge. We hope that seeing our knitwork makes people stop and think differently, even if it’s for a tiny moment. True to the message of our late mayor Eberhard van der Laan, our desire is to make the city of Amsterdam a little softer.” 

Take a ferry to Amsterdam Noord to have a look at the knitted bridge, from where you also have a great view of the centre. It is located in front of the Tolhuistuin, to the left of the Buiksloterweg ferry. Want to contribute to the initiative? Everyone is welcome to add their own (pink) knitwork to keep the bridge looking fresh and colourful!

Find out more about Acts Worth Knowing here.

Soften the City

"True to the message of our late mayor Eberhard van der Laan, our desire is to make the city of Amsterdam a little softer."

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