Essential Architecture-  Amsterdam



Karin Daan


Amsterdam, Holland




Outdoor space
The Homomonument is a memorial in the centre of Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands. It commemorates all gay men and lesbians who have been subjected to persecution because of their sexual orientation. Opened on September 5, 1987, it takes the form of three large pink triangles made of granite, set into the ground so as to form a larger triangle, on the bank of the Keizersgracht canal, near the historic Westerkerk church.

The Homomonument was designed to "inspire and support lesbians and gays in their struggle against denial, oppression and discrimination." It was built as an initiative in May 1979 of the Dutch gay and lesbian rights movement, with the support of groups in other countries.

The idea of a permanent memorial to gay and lesbian victims of persecution dated from 1970, when gay activists were arrested for attempting to place a lavender wreath at the National War Memorial on Dam Square in the centre of Amsterdam. The wreath was removed by police and denounced as a disgrace.

The Homomonument has three dimensions: a warning from the past, a confrontation with the present, and an inspiration for the future. This triangular theme is based on the pink triangle symbol, which was worn by gay men imprisoned in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany and was later adopted as a symbol of the gay rights movement. Up to 50,000 gay men died during the Nazi era.

Although the Homomonument is often described as a memorial to the gay victims of Nazi persecution, it is intended to commemorate all gay men and lesbians who have suffered, and continue to suffer, persecution in all countries and in all ages.

It took eight years to raise the necessary 180,000 euros to build the Homomonument. Most of this came from donations from individuals and organisations. The Dutch Parliament donated 50,000 euros, and the city of Amsterdam and the province of North Holland also made contributions.

In 1980 artists were invited to submit designs and a jury was assembled consisting of experts in the fields of art and design. The jury choose a design by Karin Daan, based on the pink triangle. With the triangle on the water as its central point, Daan expanded the design to make her work as monumental as possible without disrupting the surroundings.

As well as the triangle on the canal, which has a set of steps leading to the water where floral wreaths are frequently laid, there is a triangle on land 60cm high and a memorial triangle at street level. The three triangles--each measuring 10 meters (30 feet) on each side-- together form a larger triangle connected on each side by a thin row of pink granite bricks. This larger triangle measures 36 meters on each side.

The alignments of the three points of the larger triangle are symbolic. One points towards the National War Memorial on Dam Square. One points towards the house of Anne Frank, the Jewish girl who was deported to her death by the Nazis. The third points towards the headquarters of COC Nederland, the Dutch gay rights group founded in 1946.

(COC originally stood for Cultuur en Ontspannings-Centrum, or Centre for Culture and Leisure, which was intended as a "cover" name for its real purpose. It is the oldest continuously operating gay and lesbian organisation in the world.)

On the triangle pointing towards the Anne Frank House is engraved a line of poetry by the Dutch Jewish presumedly gay poet Jacob Israël de Haan (1881-1924): Naar Vriendschap Zulk een Mateloos Verlangen ("Such an endless desire for friendship"). The text is from his poem To a Young Fisherman.

A miniature version of the Homomonument can be seen at The Hague's Madurodam park. The scale model was unveiled on October 24, 2006 by Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen and COC chair Frank van Dalen.

Homomonument Amsterdam, The Netherlands

You won't find this monument in most of the tour guides. Like gay people in society, the monument is easy to miss... but it is there... so make sure you stop by on your way to the Anne Frank House.
The monument's design simultaneously looks back on gay and lesbian histories as it also looks toward the future. Designed by Karin Daan, the monument consists of three triangles of pinkish granite that together compose one giant triangle. In the picture above you see the first triangle close to a canal. This triangle points to the National War Memorial on the Dam in the centre of Amsterdam. The three triangles are linked by a stripe of pink bricks that are connectted across a road and into a church's backyard. (See map below).

With the triangle on the water as its central point, Karin Daan expanded the design to make her work as monumental as possible without disrupting the surroundings.
As well as the triangle on the water, there is a podium triangle on land 60 cm high and a memorial triangle at street level. All the triangles measure 10 x 10 x 10 meters, creating one large triangle with sides of 36 meters.

The second triangle is a polished triangle most people walk over without even realizing that is even there. It bears the Dutch inscription "Naar vriendschap zulk een mateloos verlangen" ("Such an immense longing for friendship") a line from the Dutch gay poet Jacob Israël De Haan. This 'memorial triangle' points to the nearby Anne Frank House, the center for the struggle against fascism, antisemitism and racism.

The third triangle is raised as a sort of podium and is used mainly as a gathering spot and can be used as a bank to sit on and contemplate. This triangle points to the nearby center for the struggle for lesbian and gay liberation, the COC.

Why this momument was raised

At many times in history, gays and lesbians were persecuted. This happened in The Netherlands from the 1730's. In 1933 the Nazis came to power in Germany. In their ideal of a pan-Germanic Reich populated by 'noble Germans', Jewish, Roma / Sinti and homosexual women and men were seen to be a danger to the 'vigour of the German people'. About 50,000 people were sentenced because of their homosexuality and several thousands of them died in concentration camps. Outside of the gay community, this persecution of homosexuals is usually ignored. That is why this momument was raised on September 5th 1987.
This Homomonument has become one of the world's foremost public memorials of the lesbians and gay men who were harassed, imprisoned, or executed. Every 4th of May -during the annual national memorial service- gays and lesbian gather arround this monument in the evening to remember all the victims of gay hate.

The design of the Homomonument

An important aspect of the monument was that it should address both men and women. It was also not meant to be a traditional monument tucked away in some dark corner, but a living monument in the center of the city. It was also not intended to be a monument only to those who suffered under the Nazi regime. Oppression of homosexuality existed long before the Nazis and continues up to the present day.
Therefore the Homomonument has three dimensions: a warning from the past, a recognition and confrontation with the present, and an inspiration for the future.

The basis of Karin Daan's design is the situation at the site: a bend in the quay-wall of the canal. Here she designed a triangle out of pink granite. The pink triangle was the sign homosexuals had to wear in the Nazi concentration camps. During the 1970's it became fashionable for gays and lesbians to wear a pink triangle to confront others with their sexual orientation.
Between the triangles, daily life carries on undisturbed (including the busy taxi stand). Together, the three triangles effectively articulate the Homomonument's mediation between past, present, and future. Its solemn symbolic recognition of war and persecution is balanced by its function as a lively venue for social and political gatherings.

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