May 4th is Remembrance Day in the Netherlands, when those who lost their lives in WWII and subsequent battles fought in the name of keeping peace are honored with a universal two minutes of silence. Liberation Day, which follows on the 5th and marks the country’s independence from German forces in 1945, is a festive celebration commemorated with concerts, parties, and, this year, a massive meal in Amsterdam’s Dam Square. The National Committee of May 4 & 5 invited Dutch design star Maarten Baas to create something to help promote the concept of a citywide supper; 780.559 is a 60-meter-long cotton tablecloth--with “a little bit of glitter thread”--named for the number of residents in Amsterdam. A closer look reveals the unbelievable ingenuity of the project; the names of each of those 780,559 residents is woven into the material.
“It’s symbolic,” Baas says of the epic textile. After coming up with the concept, it was a feat of engineering by fellow Dutchman Bertjan Pot that allowed his idea to be fully realized. Intrigued by the concept that he could control and program every single thread, Pot devised Font of the Loom, an incredibly tiny typeface that can be "written" into the warp and weft of fabric made on a computer-controlled Jacquard loom. Check out the machine in action below:
Those who weren’t among the “guests, representatives, ambassadors and organizers” invited to kick off the custom by breaking bread in Dam Square were still encouraged to indulge. “The idea is that everybody will organize their own meal--to eat with friends, neighbors, family, colleagues, and more--and this will become a new tradition to be held every year,” Baas explains to Co.Design. Commemorative handkerchiefs were also produced, to be bought and used as small-scale keepsakes.
Restaurants all over town also participated by offering their own unique “freedom” menus. “You can imagine this is very interesting,” Baas says. “What would the difference be between a freedom meal from a Chinese restaurant, a French, an Argentinean or a Indian restaurant? Everybody has another background, which gives a wide interpretation of freedom.” This variety manages to perfectly sum up the spirit of 780.559 itself, as a celebration of the people of all nationalities, from all over the world, who live and thrive in the Netherlands’ capital city.
780.559's new home will be in the Amsterdam Museum to serve as a beautiful reminder that, in the end, we’re all cut from the same cloth.