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OOSTERHEEM CRANE OPERATOR  /

A city without cranes is like a tree with no leaves.
Construction Worker, Zoetermeer, 2011

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As a new town the growth of the population in Zoetermeer has always been a subject close to people and their hearts.  The figures surrounding whom moved in, where and when always being both a tool for the city and development and a topic of conversation for everyone.  Closely measured and monitored - plotted on graphs, charts and maps, the data behind the growth of the town plays an important role that both tells the story of the past and dictates the unfolding of the future.

In many ways these plans seek to achieve a top down view, taking it all in with a single glance to ensure that everything is balanced and running to order.  Yet, somehow the figures alone erase the emotional resonance of a place, leaving only numbers rather than stories that allow the city to grow into a character in its own right.

However, there does exist an ever-present culture within the modern city - hidden away yet always in plain sight - that in some way achieves this privileged view hidden in the peripheral vision of our lives-as-lived. In their tiny cabs, high above the city, the tower crane operators occupy a remarkable position in the landscape they help create.

Though always engaged in the complex ballet of constructing the new city they exist just out of people\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s minds, able to watch the drama of the every-day played out below without impacting upon it.  Getting to their level it becomes easy to spot the habits, routines and unconsciously enacted patterns that people fall into, thanks to the spaces they occupy.

At the top of these giant machines it is perhaps fitting that the enormous movement of the structures creates a constant sensation of being at sea.  Somehow the operators are travelling with the city into unknown waters, yet physically detached from the spaces below.  As a result they forge relationships over radio with other operators throughout the country, some visible on the horizon, who understand their peculiar heavenly viewpoint - being at once integral to the creation of the places they work, intimately attached to the communities they oversee, and yet powerless to intervene.

Made in collaboration with producer Andy Brydon from Curated Place, for the Stadsmuseum Zoetermeer.

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