Masterplan Mirages of Easy Virtue, clearly visible are the 5 'courtyards' surrounding the oval shaped 'Parthenion'.
INSPIRED BY LITERATURE ON PROSTITUTION, ELBERT ARENS CONCEIVED A PLACE WHERE THE OLDEST PROFESSION MAY BE PRACTICED BOTH IN STYLE AND IN CONTROL.
BY ELBERT ARENS Not many things stir up controversy as much as prostitution. What happens in this part of society is intriguing and frightening at the same time. Although we as a society, and some societies more than others, try to ignore the existence of this part of our world, we ask our elected officials to find appropriate solutions. In Amsterdam the city officials try to trim down the prostitution sector in the oldest part of the city: De Wallen. In spite of all the good intentions, the cleansing of all that is ‘raunchy’ and vulgar in this red light district makes way for the artificial gentrification of the area. It presumes that the prostitutes and brothels will disappear. If history has shown us anything, it is that eradication of prostitution has always been a populist but useless venture. There will always be prostitution, no matter what opinions we have on its morality. In fact all legislation of prostitution, whether
it’s 19th century hygienic measures or the legalization of prostitution in the year 2000, is about control. Control over a part of society that is obscured with lies, misunderstandings, crime and taboos. In line with this assumption, the best way to curtail crime or disease in this sector could be to concentrate all prostitution in one complex where everything is monitored. A prisonlike setting, where the romance of the red lights is replaced by the clinical light of oversight and health inspections. Besides the prison typology, the museum offers possibilities to exhibit and therefore monitor the prostitutes by showcasing their bodies of work. In this project both the romantic idea of the prostitute as a courtisane and the practices of the modern prostitute are represented. For my romantic views I turned to my first love: literature. What if I could make architecture
out of literature? My thoughts wandered and convened at a place where characters from 18th, 19th and 20th century courtesan novels could coexist with the harsh world of the modern prostitute. To begin with I selected five characters: Nana (Emile Zola - 1880), Justine (D.A.F. de Sade - 1791), Madame Doom (Ferdinand Bordewijk - 1936), Corry (Simon Vestdijk - 1957) and the historic but especially symbolic character of Mary Magdalene. These characters became the leading figures in the design of an open-air museum dedicated to these fictional women. My project is situated on the naval base at the Oosterdok in the centre of Amsterdam. Besides the historical references of sailors and prostitutes, the fact that the Royal Navy plans to leave this base seemed fitting for my utopian design. The site is considered as a tabula rasa, with the exception of the Scheepvaartmuseum, and is attached to the