Jump on your bike and ride towards the Westelijk Havengebied. Cycle down Nieuwe Hemweg until you reach the ferry crossing. From here, the ferry takes you straight to the grounds of Het HEM in Zaandam – would you have known it was this close?
As you walk in, you can already see them, hovering all the way to the back: four colossal brass panels, moving through space. This is Still Life, an artwork by RAAAF and the only permanent piece in Het HEM's collection. In the Cold War, when the building was still a munitions factory, millions of bullets were made here for NATO soldiers. Materials used for the production of these bullets have been melted down to create these four heavy plates, which now hang from the ceiling in the place where they came from. The circle has been completed.
Time for lunch! The Het HEM café and restaurant serves a changing all-day menu of small plates. After lunch, catch some fresh air at the Costa del Zaano (aka the North Sea Canal). If it’s raining, climb up the rungs of the lifeguard chairs, from where you can watch the passing boats in high-and-dry comfort. If you ask nicely, the waitress (who, incidentally, is a dead ringer for Penelope Cruz) may even let you drink your cappuccino up there.
In the upcoming weeks, DJ, musician and sound artist Nicolas Jaar is Het HEM’s artist in residence. He’s transformed the building into an interdisciplinary, experimental research centre. Working with archaeologists, sociologists, historians and biologists, he collects data from Het HEM’s grounds, which he and a group of musicians will then turn into a music composition. In the following weeks you can watch the man himself at work, and, if you’re lucky, catch a few snippets of the work in progress. Jaar has also built a sound and light installation in the building’s underground shooting range. Visitors get to experience this installation virtually on their own… standing in the dark, it feels like a solo trip through the universe.
Take a break with a cup of tea and a book in the house library. Every season, curators select a special collection of books, magazines, documentaries, arthouse films and podcasts, often serving as an extension to the current chapter.
The restaurant Europa is run by five friends who know each other from previous gigs at BAK, Hotel de Goudfazant and FC Hyena. There is no menu – no choice. For €60, diners are presented with an eight-course menu. You sit at high tables that offer a perfect view of the large open kitchen, where the chefs cook dishes on an open fire. The wine cooler is filled with natural wines and there are fermented beers by Nevel, an artisan brewery in Nijmegen.
In the lobby of the former shooting range, you will find the Dynamic Range Music Bar – the Netherlands’ first ‘listening bar for audiophiles’. It’s the ideal place to take that one friend who always complains about poor sound quality in clubs. DJs and music collectors from home and abroad bring music from various eras and genres to be played here. Sink into a chair, cocktail in hand, or step on the dance floor to dance off those eight courses.
Those Amsterdammers that get a bit twitchy when considering transport outside of the confines of the A10 ring road should take note: there is a new ferry route between Het HEM and Amsterdam Central Station. It runs from Thursday until Sunday between 17:30 and midnight. Grab your bike, board the last ferry and you’re back in the city in no time.