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Over 500 residents ‘rob’ greenery from the Circl pavilion

Last weekend, the Circl pavilion gardens at Gustav Mahlerplein in the Zuidas area were ‘robbed’. During a so-called ‘bush robbery’ event, everyone in the area was invited to dig up plants and take them home for free, thus giving them a second life. As of 13 May, the Circl Pavilion is being dismantled to make way for a new, sustainable office building.

Saturday morning at 10:00, an uncharacteristic scene unfolds on the Gustav Mahlerplein at the Zuidas in Amsterdam. Where normally people in business attire and students move between the buildings, now children and adults with buckets, shovels, cargo bikes and wheelbarrows gather at the temporarily erected Hoodlab where teas, coffees and food is being served for free. Here they are greeted by Stichting Struikroven (Bush Robbery Foundation), a charity that is dedicated to saving greenery during demolition and renovation projects. It is their mission to make it an universally accepted norm that existing greenery is not destroyed.

On 13 May, the dismantling of the Circl pavilion started. The pavilion’s building materials will be carefully taken apart and stored for reuse. This marks the beginning of the redevelopment of the ABN AMRO complex by Icon Real Estate, part of new owner Victory Group. The dismantling will make way for a new and sustainable office building. Ben Cooper, managing director of Icon Real Estate said: ‘The Circl pavilion was designed with the idea that it could be dismantled and reused. That’s why it was only logical to find a new home for the plants too, so we asked Stichting Struikroven to help us. The trees and bigger plants from the gardens of the Circl pavilion will go to a ‘tree campsite’ and return to the site when the development is finished.’

Stichting Struikroven is building a community where businesses, governments and residents work together to preserve existing greenery by saving and replanting it. Across the Netherlands, they train and deploy bush robbers to contribute to this cause. Ferdinand Ploegman is one of them, situated in Amsterdam. He said: ‘For me the magic of Struikroven is in the way the circular and social aspect come together. During this specific event, this connection was enhanced via Hoodlab.’

At the Hoodlab, residents received information about the different plants, where to dig them up, and how to care for them properly at home. Plants were taken back to different neighborhoods, to be placed on their balconies, and in other gardens. These small actions help boost biodiversity in the area. In total, over 500 visitors came to the event, making it the most successful edition ever held. Most of the visitors re residents of the Zuidas or work in the area. Furthermore, there were residents from other parts of Amsterdam too, as well as people from outside the city. Kitty de Hek, one of Stichting Struikroven’s bush robbers, is enthusiastic: ‘It was a radiant event in every respect: the people, the greenery, the enthusiasm and, of course, the weather!’

The plants were excavated systematically. Visitors dug up the plants area by area. One of them said: ‘Everyone comes in stressed but leaves with a smile: that’s what greenery does to people!’ Some took a single plant, others filled buckets and wheelbarrows. There was a lot of creativity in how people without cars packed the greenery and took it home. This made for some very nice pictures and humorous situations. It was also possible to have the plants delivered at home by Hoodlab’s cargo bikes. On Sunday, the residents could not dig up plants themselves, but a drive-through was organised so larger bushes and other plants could be taken away by car.

Two days and around 500 visitors later, 98% of the greenery has been given a second life and the Circle Pavilion is ready for the next step in the dismantling process.