• Post CS Club 11

    Post CS: Restaurant/Bar/Club 11

    Located close to Amsterdam’s Central Station, the Post CS building—the former headquarters of the Dutch postal services—had been empty for some 10 years and was in terrible condition. In 2003, the City of Amsterdam was in need of a temporary location for its Stedelijk Museum (for modern and contemporary art) due to the complete refurbishment of the museum’s permanent location on Museumplein. One bright young soul at the project development agency of the Amsterdam City Council thought the Post CS building was just the place to go. The building was then scheduled for redevelopment as part of a new block of centrally located high-rise buildings for commercial and cultural purposes: Oosterdokseiland. Naturally, the museum would need a restaurant facility for its visitors, and this was planned in the former Post CS canteen on the 11th—and highest—floor.

    In February 2004, after lengthy negotiations, a lease proposal was given to the same people who initiated Interdit (described above). They received the keys to the space just six weeks prior to its opening. Before this time, the initiators had only been allowed to visit the 11th floor once, dressed in specially developed astronaut-like suits that protected them from any possible asbestos contamination.

    All their plans, sketches and concepts were based on this one 30-minute visit.

    Six weeks is a short time to totally refurbish a 1900m2 canteen into a multipurpose restaurant, bar and club. But what they discovered during this period was that such a time limitation could bring out the best in people. Somehow, all parties drew together in a communal spirit, and they managed to open their doors to the public on 13 May 2004.

    At first, the Post CS building had just four main tenants, including the Stedelijk Museum and restaurant/bar/club 11 on the 11th floor. Other tenants arrived later, including the artists’ collective W139, Mediamatic and about 90 smaller creative companies, all on a temporary basis. The Post CS building currently consists of a very unusual mix of established, not-so-established start-ups and other cultural organisations. W139, an experimental community of contemporary artists, is situated in the basement. BG (the Dutch abbreviation for ‘ground-floor’) is a joint venture of 11 and Bruut. Its mission is to provide temporary and inexpensive exposition space for young creative individuals and companies. The operation of the building combines cultural events with commercial leases. One of key elements of 11 is that the restaurant/bar/club is clearly temporary. The Post CS building has been condemned and was set to be demolished in the summer of 2006. Now their contract has been extended to 2008.

    The restaurant/bar/club 11 is the dynamic heart of the building. 11 functions as a lunch restaurant for the museum’s visitors and as an auditorium for special events. In the evenings there is a large cocktail bar and dining facilities offering an attractive dinner. The walls have large video screens where artists show their latest works. During the weekend, dining pleasure turns into club life with special line-ups of up-and-coming DJs from around the world.

    Visitors naturally start or end their visit here. And getting there is a unique experience in itself. You have to work hard to find your way through dodgy building sites, corridors and freight elevators before you actually get to 11, but the effort is more than worth it and contributes to the special experience this place offers.

                The largely cultural identity of the Post CS building has proved to be a commercial success. In the first two years, more than 600,000 people visited the building. Thanks to the great cultural variety within the building, many people tend to visit more than one company. W139, the Museum and 11 seem to be a popular combination. The blend of high and low culture, avant-garde and mainstream, makes the Post CS building truly unique. There is simply no other centre in Amsterdam that is remotely like it. The Post CS building literally supplies inspiration on many levels, which makes every visit worthwhile. The extremely positive response from visitors and press also attest to its success.

    11’s role as a catalyst

    11 turned out to be a catalyst for several activities in the building. For the first time in years, the number of visitors to the Stedelijk Museum began to rise, reversing a downward trend. “Embrace youth and you shall have a future. That turned out to be a good idea, as it generated an immense new, youthful flair for the museum’s image.

                After its introduction as a cultural hotspot, with 11 as its central meeting place, the building became popular. 11 was soon filled with early adopters and creative entrepreneurs. People soon realised the potential and cultural spirit of the building, and the remaining floors were quickly filled with numerous other, smaller creative tenants.

    Temporary projects

    One of the most interesting aspects of temporary projects is their peaking character and the excitement that goes along with that. Amsterdam has witnessed several temporary projects over the past years, and they all seem to have similar characteristics. Unlike permanent projects, these are exciting and surprising in the sense of “here today, gone tomorrow”. This excitement seems to be shared by organisers and visitors alike. There is a very physical sense of time running out.

    Downsides of temporary projects include uncertainties in terms of turnout, turnover and impact. But pioneering entrepreneurs and pioneering visitors are attracted to temporary projects. The main attraction for pioneering entrepreneurs is that they can be part of something that can potentially create a lot of goodwill and positive thoughts among early adopters, which is the best PR you can wish for and is therefore profitable. But of course there is also the fact that these projects often have lower rents, and investments can be kept to a minimum since most visitors won’t be expecting comfort. Pioneering visitors (usually early adopters) are drawn towards temporary projects because they wish to be in touch with the frontiers of contemporary culture and its inherent community.

    This combination of factors creates an interesting environment. Pioneering entrepreneurs can now be part of relatively inexpensive new cultural business enterprises that can offer new and fresh experiences to the pioneering (daring) visitor. It is a very fertile ground for creative development before it reaches the mainstream.

    The benefits of blending nightlife and culture: ArtBeat

    ArtBeat is something that transforms this set of ideas into an event lasting an entire evening. In collaboration with the financially strong partner Red Bull, 11 is capable of showcasing an extraordinary amount of talent on one evening, talent for which the means and the venues are usually lacking. ArtBeat presents a crossover of street art, electronic music and gastronomy in a single event. Thanks to the framework of Museumnacht (an annual event during which 40 museums in Amsterdam are open until late at night with performances and DJs), with thousands of people touring the city, the underground street art gets an opportunity to present itself as a mature form to a broader audience.

    This is an important event for 11 in terms of spreading its creative ambitions to a broader spectrum, and the involvement of Red Bull ensures that 11 is able to do more than usual. No wonder that the preparations for this, the busiest night of the year, start nine months in advance...

                In Amsterdam—like most metropolises, a city with a lot of diversity and a varied supply of culture and art—most people seem to have become rather blasé or uninspired. Consumerism and entertainment have gained more importance than inspiration and culture. Between busy careers, studies, kids and one’s social life there seems to be little time left for cultural inspiration.

    What does 11 have to offer its guests?

    11 is all about innovative creativity. That is expressed in the ambiance, the food, the music and the culture. 11 doesn’t just want to present its guests with a product, but also to inspire them. That is why creativity and art are interwoven in every facet of 11: it is the highest goal of 11 to make visitors active participants in that creativity, for example through our[E.P.2] menu books, in which everyone is invited to express themselves freely. Every corner of 11 has been considered, literally and figuratively, from a creative vision, with the result that people experience 11 as a creative hotbed, and this forms a self-reinforcing spiral.

    Why does 11 do this? Simply because the people behind 11 consider it fun and important. They experience a lot of enjoyment from this art and they sense a major need among people within their network to be able to express themselves on an appropriate platform. 11 provides that platform in terms of contact with both the established order of for example the Stedelijk Museum and with the culture of the underground nightlife. And that is of course an important element for contemporary creative types; their art is hard to place within the existing compartments since it mainly consists of crossovers from street art, video, electronic music, fashion and photography.

    What does this mean for the people who work at 11?

    The employees at 11 were hired not on the basis of their professionalism, but for the way they express themselves, their attitude towards life, their creativity and their general state of mind. Employees are involved in monthly discussions about 11 and their work, and each quarter they are given a dining voucher including wine so that they can experience 11 as a visitor and give feedback to the staff.

    How is money being made?

    11 earns its money as a lunch restaurant for visitors to the museum (about 200 lunches each day), as a “place to be”, as an inspiring cultural restaurant for new creative types and entrepreneurs (average 150-200 seats), and as one of the leading music clubs in Europe. Between 1000 and 1500 people visit the club each weekend. The lease and maintenance form a considerable portion of the costs. The lease is not cheap, but still less expensive than ‘A’ locations would be. Moreover, only a small part of the available square metres is used efficiently. This is partly because safety regulations allow fewer people on the 11th floor than could gather in any other place of the same size, but also because 11 has opted for quality/creativity rather than quantity (McDonalds or any other restaurantcould handle many more times the number of visitors that 11 can). Moreover, the maintenance costs are much higher than normal due to the current state of the building.

    While 11 breaks even, it is not very profitable. This is due to the complexity of the building, the organisation and the expenses for creativity—all three of which are pillars for success, but you pay a price for it. And that means less profit. 11 has proved to be a cultural and commercial success.