Transparent Square

2020
I had the idea to design a public square with grey and white checkered paving stones. So, when viewed from above via offices, flats, or in Google Maps the paving stone design would give the impression of the transparent background in Photoshop. Meaning people walking, trees, dogs, bicycles, benches, cars etc. would all appear as cut out Photoshop elements being positioned or dragged across the transparent square as they moved.

A few weeks later, after having had lunch with a friend in the Wijnhaven district in Rotterdam, I walked out of the restaurant and noticed a grey and white checkered pavement. I immediately went to Google Maps to see if the paving stones would actually create the effect I imagined, and they did!

Wishing to know the reason for the pavements checkered design, I looked up the designer and contacted him. Chris van Langen replied and shed some light on the unusual story of how his pavement came to be. Van Langen told of how although he was the designer for much of the Wijnhaven developments in the mid 90s. The checkered pavement was actually not a design at all. At the time of its construction, Van Langen worked as an urban development planner for the city of Rotterdam. They we’re working on a plan for the Inner City, part of which focussed on the Wijnhaven area. Van Langen submitted his drawings for the district, which were largely complete, apart from one area where a design solution had not yet been decided. On his plans for this area Van Langen filled the unplanned space with a black and white check pattern so as to draw attention to the fact that nothing yet had been decided for this area, and would need to be resolved in the future. However, the entrepreneurs involved in the execution of the developments misinterpreted the checkered pattern as a design and had it incorporated into the plans to be constructed. Thus, this checkered space, not designed or even meant to exist, came to be.

Still here today 25 years later Van Langen’s unintentional pavement continues to exist. However with time brings change, new ideas, new contexts, and new meanings. What was not a design but a plea for design can now be viewed in a new conceptual light. Because of Photoshop a grey and white checked area today, is largely understood within the creative community as a symbol of emptiness. When viewed from above the pavement perfectly depicts this image of emptiness I was hoping to make and unintentionally communicates Van Langen’s original meaning in his drawing. In a perfect circle which took many years to complete.

Link to Transparent Square in Google Maps
https://www.google.com/maps/place/Rotterdam/@51.9172229,4.4841336,222a,35y,71.65h/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x47c5b7605f54c47d:0x5229bbac955e4b85!8m2!3d51.9244201!4d4.4777326