Architectural intervention, 2023
IJsselbiënnale, Deventer, The Netherlands
Photography by Niels Albers

The Elevator Building is part of a grain silo complex in Deventer’s old harbour. Fragile and worn, it stands orphaned in time and space on the waterfront. It looks vulnerable. Way past the shelf life of its functionality. The harbour area, once among the four largest inland ports in the Netherlands, is rapidly transforming into a sought-after commuter district. The little building is protected industrial heritage that should not be lost. The last, remaining industrial relics keep port history alive and help define the identity and unique atmosphere of ‘Het Havenkwartier’.

Entering the Elevator Building is out of the question, but embracing it is allowed, Niels Albers must have thought when he chose it as the location for his work. With a clever, walkable sculpture, Albers makes the Elevator Building temporarily accessible to the public. A robust wooden sculptural bypass clamped to the existing building with surgical precision. Like an ‘epiphyte’ that finds a hold on its host. Building and artwork reinforce each other. The sculpture cannot exist without the building. The building comes to life through the sculpture. The shape refers to industrial exhaust systems, smoke ducts, climate control installations and transport pipes in the interior. The structure resembles that of a climbing plant that embraces the building and uses it as a climbing aid. But perhaps it is the roots, whose soil has been washed away? At the two points, you can enter the structure via a staircase. Through the artwork, we can look inside through the different windows and on different floors. As if in a peep-show, in which Albers stimulates our senses and makes the past briefly alive again. Yet it is difficult to see what is inside. There seems to be flour and grain dust bouncing around in the building; is flour and grain being skipped again? Vaguely, we see the remains of the machinery that used to suck up the grain from the ships, weigh it, strip it of metal residues and prepare it for transport to the silo. The dust simultaneously represents the effects of industry: pollution, smog and drought. Occasionally, the sculpture turns into a balustrade or balcony and Albers turns our gaze from inside to outside. He entices us with wide, breathtaking views of the harbour. As if he wants to show us how beautiful the world can be if we broaden our blurred vision and focus all our attention on what we are in danger of losing.

This work was commissioned by the IJsselbiënnale and on view from June till September 2023 in Deventer.