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Ruilbank - a new social intervention, by the duo PIVOT - has been unleashed on ten Amsterdam benches to local approval.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 12-09-2013

Ten public-space design interventions around Amsterdam have popped up to local acclaim.  A clip that fastens on to the side of public benches instructs people to TAKE READ SHARE.   

Ruilbank is an open-ended initiative where the objects are owned by everybody and nobody simultaneously.  The point is to encourage social interaction through the sharing of books and publications.

In Dutch "ruilbank" means “exchange bench” and this concept is the brainchild of José Subero and Paula Colchero, or the design duo PIVOT.

The core idea of this project is to experiment with how far people are wanting and willing to share. It turns out governments, private enterprises and the public are all keen.

Het Paroool (Amsterdam’s main daily newspaper, Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (the public library system), Uitgeverij Bas Lubberhuizen (publisher) and GUP magazine (Guide to unique photography) are all participating and providing content.

“The next step is to try to motivate people to place things on their own,” Subero says.  “And it has already started to happen.”

The main problem to date has been vandalism.  Three of the interventions will need to be relocated.  “It works best in more residential neighbourhoods,” says Subero, “where people tend to appropriate whatever is local.  In large central parks people are drinking and there is no sense of ownership or responsibility for the local area.”

PIVOT communicates a lot through their Facebook page about content as well as locations and welcomes feedback from the community.  

It was only last week when Daan Rooegaarde talked to the Netherlands on Zomergasten about the new world – one where private ownership is no longer an individual’s primary motivation.  “It is a tough mentality to change and you can, but it is all about learning to trust,” says Subero.  “It is interesting to see how it plays out and with something simple like a public bench because it is such an obvious place for interaction.”

And funnily enough Subero expected their biggest hurdle to be convincing the local government and municipalities to allow the project to happen.  “It was an interesting process because there are so many rules,” Subero says, “but I think governments are much more keen than private individuals to let this shared mentality blossom.”

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