Expo In-between Aldo van Eyck 100
The exhibition Aldo van Eyck, In-between shows a number of
playgrounds of Aldo van Eyck that can be seen as an alternative to
the formal and large-scale top-down ideas of the functional city.
With these small-scale interventions that Van Eyck always
meticulously designed within the context of the larger urban whole,
he demonstrated the power of such acupuncture for the liveability of
the city. The recurrent discussion about the position of the child in
the city underlines the current relevance of Van Eyck’s work and
ideas.

Introduction
Jacoba Mulder, deputy manager of the Urban Expansion and Urban
Development department (afdeling Stadsuitbreiding en
Stadsontwikkeling) of Amsterdam, became convinced of the
importance of playgrounds in post-war Amsterdam. In 1947, she
started an experiment for which she commissioned Aldo van Eyck
(1918-1999), who was working for Cornelis van Eesteren on the
General Expansion Plan (Algemeen Uitbreidingsplan, AUP) at the
time. With concrete and metal as his most important materials, he
designed a rectangular sandbox with round, concrete tables, a
climbing frame and a couple of tumble bars for the Bertelmanplein.
It looked basic, but the possibilities were limitless. More followed
after this first experiment, and the City of Amsterdam soon received
letters from residents expressing the desire to have a similar
playground built in their neighbourhood.
The playgrounds
The large map with playgrounds in Amsterdam shows the large-
scale and striking production in the post-war period up until the
1980s of the previous century. More than 700 playgrounds were
designed by, or in cooperation with, Aldo van Eyck. This period is
considered to be the heyday in terms of the design of outdoor
space for young people in Amsterdam.
The playgrounds of Van Eyck demonstrate a few important issues.
For example, none of his playgrounds were closed off with a gate.

Aldo van
Eyck 100
In-between

They formed an integral part of the urban fabric and they made a
major contribution to public life. It was essential to Van Eyck that
the playgrounds also functioned when the children had gone to bed;
the fact that things also occurred then which were not so pleasant
was something that he considered to be inextricably linked to the
conflictual nature of the city.
Unfortunately, these playgrounds, which were also often intended
as a temporary utilisation of undeveloped sites, have largely
disappeared now. The last remaining 17 playgrounds are
highlighted on the map.
The drawings of the playgrounds are in chronological order.
The playground equipment
Aldo van Eyck designed a fixed amount of playground equipment
for his playgrounds, which initially were largely made from metal,
concrete and later also wood. His simple design language led to a
series of playground elements that could be endlessly combined
into new arrangements. He solely used abstract shapes that could
be interpreted in countless ways and called them: instruments for
the imagination. The equipment had to provide the child with the
opportunity to do what he/she was already doing anyway: tumbling,
climbing and jumping. ‘A piece of playground equipment has to be
real, just like a telephone booth is real, because you can make a
call there. (…) An aluminium elephant is not real, an elephant
should be able to walk. As an object on the street, an elephant is
unnatural. (..) If a piece of equipment represents an animal from
the start, the shape dictates the construction so strongly that the
pure element of play is lost.’ Aldo van Eyck, 1962
The drawings of the playground equipment were also referred to as
Instruments for the imagination by van Eyck.
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