By Sarah Bovelett, The Royal Academy Art, The Hague


How visible are you in the public space? Do you notice, do you care?

Are you a protagonist or are you just a random marginal figure, lost in the overwhelming built environment?

My city is about the people living in it.

How do they belong and how does the city reflect their belonging? My interest lies in the tension between people and cities, the tension between the sense of belonging and acceptance, and ignorance and neglect.

My city is about the protagonists of it. Who are the main characters in our cities and how do our cities reflect the hierarchy of these characters? Most buildings are there for certain people at distinct times of the day. People belong to certain buildings. At the same time, places also belong to different people.

In a time where the arrival of new people to our cities has increased beyond than ordinary, the question of belonging is put into a new perspective. Where do people arrive and how do people take space and make themselves belong?


I have taken walks through suburbs, observing the architecture and planning of the areas but also the people in them and their behaviors. I have questioned arriving in and belonging to these areas, and I have observed myself in them. I have assessed my perceptions and feelings in certain spaces and tried to connect these observations to the frames the area is imposing. Spaces are proposing how people in them act and interact. Architecture forces movement and proposes certain gestural motions a body should make.

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The visited areas, some of which are built as part of the million-program, are characteristic for their big building blocks, with big areas of green in between. Cars and pedestrians are separated from one another through multiple bridges and the entire planning evolves around overview and visibility. Promenades are overlooked by the windows of the houses framing them. This high visibility is also connected to control and hierarchy. What is the connection between architecture  and gender roles and division? What is the influence of this architecture on one’s perception when walking in a promenade in this area? Does one feel watched? Does one become a protagonist, antagonist or is one just an unimportant factor?

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