While going shopping for the right kind of candles – the ones that, once burning, don’t make my eyes burn – I walked an enormous tour around my hometown Haarlem. Haarlem The Netherlands, not Harlem New York.

As the shop turned out to be not all that far from the house annex galleria of Rob de Vries, I decided to add another loop to my tour. Only his wife is in. We have not met for ages, as I did not see Rob for a long, long time.

Rob and I organized an exhibition of his work in the magnificent halls of The School for Architecture at Delft University where I worked at the time. By now that building has burnt down, a disaster. And I am pensioned, a great happiness.

So, eons ago I wrote a catalogue for this show. One of the pieces I had already written as payment in natura for a collage of his, which I had seen in another exposition.


Rob de Vries: Study for Nature Morte

Perhaps, this was the motive behind the scenes for trying to see him again, who knows. Anyway, his wife told me that he was in his atelier. ‘Jeez, I said, at last! I’ve been kicking his ass for decades to get him back at work – no success!’

Rob has been living off the work of other artists. That is what you do when you are a gallerista. So, I asked for the address of his atelier. Still in walking distance, a little extra loop was again necessary.

Thus I entered the Rozenprieel, a very cozy largely 19th century neighbourhood. ‘His atelier is in an old school building, Amsterdam School style’ she said. Since I had visited this part of Haarlem not all that much, some pointing out by insiders was necessary. Before I reached my destination, however, I was already treated to an unexpected bit of nice contemporary architecture.



Then I began to look for something larger, something exceeding these low houses in height. It is surprising how one’s horizon in a town is limited. Only when already very close, I suddenly saw this, and I knew: This is it.




A wall, obviously separating this turn of the 20th century house from something bigger. The wall itself was not bad at all, even better when seen in a parallel fashion.

Then, around its corner, my eye caught the rest of the building. 1930’s is what I thought, ‘check it when at home – Google stuff’. Typically a cocktail of the Amsterdam School use of brick – though in this case the bricks have not been used to sculpt ornamental detail – and the Modern Style, with its stern spacing of windows.



What a beauty! At home my architectural instincts were confirmed. The Greiner Building has been named after its architect Dick Greiner, who designed it in 1931 as an addition to an already existing building, to become The Household and Industrial School of Haarlem.



My artist was not in his atelier. Lucky me – now I could really take my time walking around the building, enjoy the late afternoon’s autumn light which sort of symbolized the fact that such splendid Modernity has become a thing of a lost and forlorn past.

Melancholic, certainly mixed feelings. Almost an atmosphere in which to write a poem on the spot. However, I had to finish the original loop – so back home.

Sierksma 7.11/2016


Author: rjsiersk

Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats.

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