There was a time when the ‘Groot Lab’ was out of bounds for ordinary folk. You would have only entered the big laboratory in a white coat and goggles, as it was where Royal Dutch Shell experimented with its distillation processes. But Shell has moved upstream, leaving this characteristic 1920s red brick building in full glory with its Amsterdam School staircase and stained glass windows. Next door A-Lab has turned the space into offices for start-ups, app-sters, gamers and new media.Clink Noord has made the back of the building into a youth hostel.
Bearded hipster Bas Ruis shows me round the Lab. Clink always picks buildings with a history. Hence the name, the first hostel in London’s King’s Cross is located in an old prison. In North, the laboratory theme can be seen throughout the building. Take the Catalyst Café or the Zinc Bar in the basement. The lockers each bear a chemistry element symbol . There is also a Dutch touch to the signage with modernist artist Rietveld’s ‘De Stijl’ letters, rental bikes on show from the two rental bike shops round the corner TIP and Velox and a pair of CLINK clogs.
When you walk into the hallway, backpackers are greeted with the text: May the Clink be with you. The reception is in the café, which is kind of welcoming – come in and sit down, have a drink first. Bas shows me the impressive stained glass window which spans three floors in the stairwell. The images are full of symbolism. Dragons for evil, horoscope symbols, distillation flasks and colours before and after the separation process. Art students and their tutors are regular visitors. In fact, it could get busy as a new art academy is due to open next door soon.
Artists are very welcome. With support from Amsterdam’s Arts Council, Clink has rooms for two artists in residence who can stay for up to a year as part of the ClinkAIR project. Altogether the hostel has nine ClinkCreative programmes so that temporary and permanent art is given not only given a place in the hostel, but its production and performance is actively encouraged. The C-Lab programme is for pop up projects in which experimentation and research showcase creative processes. Basically the hostel’s grey walls are still a blank canvas waiting to be filled.
There is a small expo space where local artists can exhibit their work. The painters of North’s Zamenhofstraat XYZ Studios are already hanging on the café walls. In the Stay & Play concept, bands can stay for free in exchange for a concert, as can Stay & Scribe bloggers and Stay and Create artists. Imagine working your way around Europe on a low budget when Clink has realised its dream to open in more European cities.
In the basement’s soundproof Box, Clink has a small disco with a stage for bands or a DJ. If you are looking for rehearsal space in exchange for a free concert, just let them know. In fact anyone with a good idea is welcome to call. Maybe, I’ll set up an Ilovenoord tour of North Amsterdam – what do you think?
In the airy atrium, there are plans to hold film nights, spoken word or acoustic performances. In fact it is the use of space that is most intriguing. The café, bar and canteen are in one space, but located on different levels with entresols around the connecting stairs which create snug sitting areas. Twenty percent of the hostel is actually communal space, giving backpackers plenty of opportunity to mingle.
There is also an international staff, out of the 15 employees there are 12 nationalities. But don’t worry, Clink uses North’s temping agency Bring@work to find suitable staff- so if you want to practice your languages and meet people from other parts of the world, sign up. It’s about being open and social – having a click.
World, city, neighbourhood, building that is the credo at Clink. The hostel wants to draw in international guests, show them Amsterdam, but at the same time give them a little of North Amsterdam’s coleur locale all in one building.
1031 KV Amsterdam
Catch the Buiksloterweg ferry behind central station – runs day and night.