Thebuilding tells..., Amsterdam

The Building tells its story 2005: a website and a theatre performance. in collaboration with Emer Beamer and others.
Sadly the project is not on line anymore.

The 'first open air school for the healthy child' in the Cliostraat in Amsterdam a famous design of architect Jan Duiker is celebrating its 75th anniversary. To celebrate this we constructed the building and its secret stories on the internet, in collaboration with all the pupils and their teachers.

> Visitors of the website can wander around the virtual building and find the stories the children gathered. The visitor not only meets the pupils but also sees the neighbours, or experiences the little creatures living in and around the school. The website,, was put online in April 2005. Even the domain name, meaning 'the school with most windows', was thought of by the children.

In its turn, the website was used as the source of ideas for the theatrical version of 'The building tells its story...', performed by all the children on 24/25th of June, 2005.

screenshot the building tells...

the oldest children sing about the neighbours who now hear their ideas about them

workshop for the teachers


< The concept: In three steps the children make their schoolworld visible.

1.constructing the school on internet
The children in group 8 (11-12 years) draw the whole school (127 drawings), which together form the virtual school for all the children to tell their stories in words and pictures. Every drawing is scanned and loaded on the internet straightaway. Children and parents can follow the development on their homecomputer.

2.attaching stories to places in the virtual building
Each class chooses it's own research subject: 'nature in and around the school', 'the fantasy school', 'routes in and around the school', 'my favorite square meter', 'hobbies', 'school visitors', 'hypes', and 'the school's neighbours'. The stories are visualized, manipulated in the computer and uploaded by the children themselves.

3.making theatrical acts

> The procedure September 2004 the project started. In a few workshops we tested the concept with children of different ages. Next we gave a series of five workshops to the staff. In three workshops we sorted out the way the teachers were going to engage their class in an open ended research related to their subject. In the other two workshops we tought the teachers how to get the children to work with a digital photocamera and a simple photomontage-programm. Eventually we showed them how the children can upload their material on the preferred locations in the virtual school. All the workshops resulted in manuals for use in the class. At the same time the oldest children started to draw the school.  

'my favourite square meter'
  < From november 2004 till april 2005 the whole school worked on the website. All teachers found their own way of working under our guidance. Every class designed an icon for its research theme. All the children have manipulated their research findings in the computer into a collage/animation/drawing/photo/text and uploaded this in the virtual school. Also every child drew a selfportrait that pops up when you enter the virtual classroom. The oldest children recorded typical sounds in the school like their teachers' words of welcome in the morning, the headmaster talking on the telephone, the schoolbell etc. The sounds can be heard on entering the concerning spaces in the virtual building. The website was launched by the children on the 14th of april(2005). Since the launch the website is open for outsiders like former pupils, to upload their stories.
> The aim
The aim of this project is to have children make art based on the research of their own environment, whether in drawing, writing, photography, new media or theatre.

The computer is the mixer where all the media blend: audio, video, photography, collages, animations, drawings and texts.

The website also is a stage where the schoolbuilding and its stories can be explored by everyone. It is a living organism where parts can constantly be added or removed. The website creates the possibility to work with a complete schoolpopulation on one product.

creating on the computer

recording the sound of the phoning headmaster
  < The main work however is not done on the computer. That takes place everywhere in and around the real building, with the use of all thinkable media and only in the end everything is digitalised.

The power of the project can be found in the upheaval it caused in the 'physical' school. Upheaval as a result of the exploration of the space in order to catch the stories. And as a result of the recording of the stories - analogue and digital which were potted together in the computer.

And finally then, the 'physical' building becomes the scenery again of the theatrical acts in which the discovered schoolsecrets are revealed.

Special point of attention for Lino Hellings in this process was to guide and inspire the staff in an artistic workingprocess in which the procedure is clear but the endresult unknown. Special point of attention for Emer Beamer was the authorship of children in new media. This allocation of tasks proofed to be a fruitful one.

The open ended way of working is uncommon in the new media. Most projects work with readymade virtual environments in which the children can add or change only one thing. In 'The Building tells its story...' the virtual environment grew synchronous to the handicraft of the children. As soon as group 8 finished a drawing of the school it was uploaded on the internet. After that the children were able to download their stories again. This is an innovative way of working in the domain of the new media.

> Colophon

'The Building tells its story...' is created through the effort of all children and staff of 'the first open air school for the healthy child' Amsterdam.

idea and artistic leader: Lino Hellings
concept website: Lino Hellings, Emer Beamer
production website: Emer Beamer
conceptsupport: Elles Verschoor, schoolleader
programmer virtual environment: Jan Thomas
theatrical celebration: Septimia Kuhlmann en Peter de Boer
chatenvironment: Rob Verdegaal
assistant: Fiona Whelan
production: Lino Hellings

'The Building tells its story...'is a commission of The Amsterdam Fund for the Arts, department 'Cultuur en Educatie'.
Septimia Kuhlmann directs the theatrical version of The Building tells its story on 24/25th of Jun2e 2005