Vulture Island

The Amsterdam Westhaven dates back to the reconstruction period after WW2 in the last century. The era of endless progress belongs to recent history and the harbour needs to be reviewed. The Maatschappij Noordzeekanaal was founded specifically to explore new opportunities. In July 2009 the landscape exhibition Harbour Safari was organised.

The functional landscape is outdated and here and there buildings and factories are losing their function. In the spirit of functional thinking, these relics were cleared away to make way for something new. By always cleaning up the old, the harbour resides in the permanent now. Acknowledging that we stand on the shoulders of our forefathers, knowing our environment is a sum of activities of the generations before us, underlies the intervention of Melle Smets. In order to make the cultural heritage visible, Smets made designs for the useless buildings. One of the designs, titled ‘The Vulture Island’ was deemed feasible, and was executed on a former yoke as a breeding ground for griffon vultures.

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Location Westelijke IJhaven, Amsterdam

Period 2009

Commisioned by Maatschappij Noordzeekanaal
Sponsor Granuband B.V.
In collaboration with Sculpture team: Jeroen Kuster, Eva van Ginhoven, Elske Revelman de Vries, Josefa de Jong, Marcus Rummens, Jorn de Vries, Daan den Houter, Jaap Nab
Special thanks to
Henke Baars, Marjolein Hessing, Jeroen Everaert

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Action research

Every project starts with a location exploration with an artistic intervention. Actions are an effective method to reveal complex relations within communities and their habitat. Claim a land and you’ll know who is who.

Design and prototype

Learning from actions shape ideas for more precise interventions with prototypes. The prototypes are tools to practice new idea’s in shaping a new narrative to understand the habitat.


Artistic practice can bring awareness, implement new ideas, and provide hands on solutions to spark change. To make an new idea thrive a project has to be embraced by the community, and has to be grounded in the commons. This approach demands a long time commitment.


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