By Abbie Gentry
The area beneath bridges has always had a bad reputation. In children’s fairytale stories, it is where dark creatures lurk and wait to snatch up some unfortunate soul. In large cities, it is the location where the homeless population congregates and suspicious transactions occur. The region beneath a highway in Pijnacker-Nootdorp in the Netherlands attempts to remedy this ill-fated status. However, while this particular project may not have an actual troll like the one under the Fremont Bridge in Seattle, it does have a ‘Touch of Evil’ …which also happens to literally be the name of the project.
The ‘Touch of Evil’ takes up a 2000 square-metered stretch of land beneath highways and train tracks. It appears to be an ordinary passageway where walkers, runners, and bikers are free to go about their business. The difference between this underpass and other tunnels lays, however, in the huge splashes of red upon the concrete walls. These vibrant, splattered splotches liven up the atmosphere to create a fun and whimsical environment. There is fluidity and motion in the red forms. It has been described as such: “In front of us a big red stain etches concrete surfaces. The smooth gray walls twist, bend, as when a finger touches the surface of the water and a series of waves begin to come alive” (Nio Architecten). There is even a level of third dimensionality to the ribbons of red. In some places the red wrinkles and bulges to give the area not only a brilliant color but also texture.
Maurice Nio, founder of NIO Architecten, aimed to create an environment that is safe and comfortable; though perhaps not too comfortable. There is a sense of childlike wonder and untamed energy associated with this passageway. Within this space there is even a sign that reads “Touch of Evil is a tunnel that you will never understand, even if you follow every day of your life” (Nio Architecten). Moreover, there is the nature of the materiality and color that creates quite the paradox. Red is a warm color; the color of life, passion, and energy. It is “bold, strong, and demands a response… It’s all about movement and flow and making a statement” (Munoz). Concrete, on the other hand, is more often than not linked with the feeling of coldness and harsh, industrial environments. It seems ironic that the two extremes are paired. However, this is not done by accident. In response to its seemingly conflicting nature, Nio says, “This is my dream. Infect the soft with the hard. Limit the lens. The virtual with the real. Intelligence with stupidity” (Nio Architecten). Furthermore, “the project was conceived by the thought about filling the “technical spaces” of our cities with life and expression, the “soulless with a soul” (Gianotti). He takes an ordinary, emotionless, utilitarian space and transforms it into an energetic, personable space. He, in effect, “transforms an out-of-the-way and apparently insignificant place into an experience capable of redeeming a desolate, anonymous location, formerly soulless and slovenly (Touch of Evil).
It is interesting to think that merely adding color to something as bland as an underpass can cause such a stir. It does not change the reality that it is still simply a passageway under a busy highway. However, it completely changes its perception and the over-all experience.
Gianotti, Andrea. “AD Interviews: Maurice Nio.” ArchDaily. 26 May 2010. Web. 31 September 2012. < http://www.archdaily.com/61429/ad-interviews-maurice-nio/
Munoz, Frances. “Color Theory Series: Red.” SW Creatives, LLC. 18 February 2010. Web. 1 October 2012. < http://www.swcreatives.com/_blog/SWC_Blog/post/color-theory-series-red/>
“Nio Architecten. Touch of Evil.” Arch’It. 1 June 2005. Web. 31 September 2012. <http://architettura.it/architetture/20050601/index.htm>
“Touch of Evil – Nio Architecten. Pinacker, 2004.” Floornature. 18 September 2007. Web. 31 September 2012. <http://www.floornature.com/projects-housing/project-touch-of-evil-nio-architecten-pijnacker-2004-4922/>