Maurik Stomps

Bend the rules, stretch the norm

Maurik Stomps (1989) is een Rotterdamse ontwerper. Hij studeerde Grafisch Ontwerp aan de Willem de Kooning Academy (Rotterdam) en de Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten (Antwerpen) en rondde dit jaar de master Contextual Design af aan de Design Academy Eindhoven. In zijn werk is de esthetiek ondergeschikt aan de sociale impact. Het gaat niet om het object maar om het gebruik ervan.

Voor zijn afstudeerproject “Bend the rules, stretch the norm” aan de Design Academy onderzocht hij met een serie interventies de wrijving tussen de wet en individuele vrijheid in de openbare ruimte. Iedere centimeter in de stad lijkt een bestemming te hebben, maar wie bepaalt die bestemming? Van wie is de openbare ruimte eigenlijk? Deze zoektocht kreeg een onverwachte wending.

How many laws define the extent of our actions in public space? With a range of surprising interventions, Maurik Stomps shows the frictions between the rules of municipalities and the relative freedom of individuals. One of the most striking ones: as there is an official law that permits vehicles to remain on the street, he expanded a bicycle into a tiny house. He placed it against the wall opposite his own house, so he could photograph what happened. The door of the vehicle was open and thus it attracted a few homeless people from Poland, who started to sleep in it. Eventually the Dutch rainy weather forced them to put some plastic over the roof. At that point, the police started to notice the strange vehicle and its inhabitants. They arrested them, removed the vehicle, and an intense correspondence ensued between Maurik and the authorities.

Masters graduation publication

One day I build a house on a bike, just to see if I could. As long as something is on a bike you are allowed to park it in public space. But when I found out three people had started to live in this structure, the story changed. They appropriated my attempt to appropriate public space.

For two weeks we corresponded and everything seemed fine. With every letter, I also tried to improve the bike, one element at a time. But the moment my new neighbors started changing the bike to their own taste, the authorities became involved. The users’ taste and their practical solutions for problems such as rainproofing, did not fit with the spatial policy of the municipality. Within a day the municipality found out about the three inhabitants and the system of normalization was set into motion. The people were arrested, a company was hired to get rid of the bike-house and everything was back to “normal”.

            This story is exemplary for how city planning works. It seems that everything needs to happen as planned, according to the norm. With this project I try to stretch the norm in a rather playful way, searching for free zones and possibilities the municipality rules have not (yet) foreseen.

Bend the rules, stretch the norm